HuffPost writer Kiki Von Glinow recently posted an image sequence on moving to Hawaii that received a good number of negative comments. While I believe it was intended to be a lighthearted take on the fact that many people fantasize about leaving their work-a-day lives to escape to the islands, several readers jumped in with reasons NOT to relocate to "paradise." I wanted to address one particular reader's input:
No don't do it!!! Hawaii is too crowded already. Hong Kong crowded in some areas. A one bedroom costs $1100 and a gallon of milk is $7. The pay scale is 15 % less than any job on the continent. If you are a mainlander, you will be too far away from your friends and you will experience cultural shock because living in Hawaii will give you the experience of being part of a small minority. The humidity is extremely high and the temperature will enable you to fry eggs on the hood of your car.
While I agree that Hawaii is misinterpreted as a utopia of sorts by many mainlanders, and that the tourist experience is completely different from the resident experience, these simplified criticisms are exactly what make the island communities so special. People from all over the world have transplanted here, but only a small percentage of them have stayed put. As a result, Hawaii is full of intrepid, hearty souls who are committed to this challenging lifestyle in spite of the traffic, isolation, high cost of living, lack of parking spaces, etc. Hawaii, in essence, succeeds in weeding out the ones who are just in it for the thrill -- those souls who just want to get their jollies by using her for her sunshine and sand -- as well as the ones who just don't care enough about her to stick it out.
The omnipresent difficulties of "making it" in Hawaii force you to get creative. You find roommates, sublet when you're away, shop at Costco for the basics, host potlucks instead of dinner parties, ride a bike to save gas, grow some of your own food if you have the space, and watch the sunset off your lanai instead of going out to dinner. You live life differently because you have to, and because the payoff is worth it a million times over. You do it because you get to wear slippers everywhere and eat mangoes right off the tree. While some may see these lifestyle adjustments as sacrifices, I view them as opportunities for growth. Hawaii asks a lot of you, but she makes you stronger, more resourceful, more adaptable, and more grateful.
The cynic's mention of "experiencing cultural shock" is precisely one of the things that has kept me here. Nowhere on earth can you find such a uniquely diverse mix of ethnic backgrounds, with indigenous events occurring on any given day of the week. I've been to a Japanese Bon Dance, celebrated the Chinese New Year, attended Polynesian kava ceremonies, danced at Filipino food festivals, and witnessed some of the most profound and conscious art forms in the world. I'm constantly learning from Hawaii's people, and I've been forever changed by the ancient traditions that endure here.
In response to the comment about being part of a small minority, for me living amongst an amalgam of ethnicities (and often being outnumbered) has blurred the lines of race and color, with the wonderful side effect of instilling a sense of reverence for the minority experience. Because I don't just live in Hawaii, but also sit down and talk story with amazing people who are different than me whenever I get the chance, I am a more mindful, patient, and empathetic person. Despite the fact that my family is an ocean away, these enlightened connections have helped to fill the distance void.
Just as Von Glinow describes, I quit my ad agency job, sold most of my material possessions and bought a one-way ticket to Oahu. I loved her from the moment I stepped off the plane in 2002, and the process of getting to know her has only served to deepen my adoration. Like any young girl with a crush, I followed her with naïve optimism. I had to bump into many towering walls over the years to get to a place of total commitment, but I have effectively earned her respect. Hawaii and I, we have an understanding. I accept her for who she is. I don't judge her for her shortcomings, and she lets me live out my dream of being a freelance writer with the most beautiful and enviable backdrop in the world.