I recently came home from a vacation to the mainland where I traveled through Carmel, Santa Cruz, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Bend, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
After living on the Big Island for four years I realize I have transitioned to small town life so much that I was aghast at some of the unpleasantries of visiting big cities on the mainland. I literally counted my blessings that I live in a place I can find myself ALONE on a beach, or get a table at a restaurant without a reservation, etc.
So, I created this list for mainland visitors who travel to the Big Island to give them a heads up about life here:
1. When you land at Kona International Airport, you will be at the gate within 60 seconds. So, slow leisurely texts to your waiting loved ones or telling people where you are on your Foursquare or Facebook accounts need to be sped up.
2. You will most likely have to walk down a staircase to the tarmac from the plane so be careful of those carry ons! Some planes have ramps..but be prepared to meet the tropical air as soon as they fling the door of the plane wide open.
3. The warmth and humidity will instantly start its work on erasing fine lines from your face and worry from your bones. Bring a pair of shorts to change in the bathroom and go ahead and put your flip flops on, too. Your feet will thank you for releasing them from those crampy closed toed shoes.
4. Go ahead and swing into the parking lot at a beachside restaurant and enjoy a mai tai within minutes. To get into Beacon's at Lake Tahoe they were charging $8 to park and they were full by the time I got there at 4 pm. After walking 1/2 mile to enjoy a Rum Runner, I had to wait at the bar for 20 minutes to get a drink and then when I got out to see the lake, I had to look over hundreds of people first. I can assure you, you won't have that happen to you anywhere on the Big Island.
5. Open your windows and breathe the air! We don't have stinky landfills that waft their stench onto our roads and into our neighborhoods like what we experienced on the 680 freeway coming into Silicon Valley from the Central Valley. (Or the oil refineries in Benicia near the Bay Bridge.) Yuck.
6. Leave the sweaters/light jackets in your room if you are going out in the evening in West Hawaii. Everywhere we went on the mainland, it got cold at night! Cold at night here is 70 and that's in the dead of winter. You will be tempted to pack warm clothes because you can not imagine what 79 at night feels like, just like we did not pack ENOUGH warm clothes because we could not imagine what 59 degrees (in JULY!) felt like when we were packing and it was 85 degrees in our house!
7. Put your elbows away. You won't need to push, shove, elbow your way into space on the beach, in the water, for a restaurant table, a movie seat, the golf courses, a sunset or star gazing. Use your elbows instead for paddle boarding alone in a bay.
8. Your children do not need leashes. Since we don't have crowded beaches, sidewalks, shopping malls, or movie theaters, you can pretty much see your kids at all times. Let the kids RUN at the beaches! Just watch the lava...kids don't fare so good there.
9. Take it easy on shopping at Costco and Safeway. You can get some great deals on Mauna Loa Mac Nuts and Mountain Thunder Kona coffee at Costco, but why not try some locally grown mac nuts and small farm Kona coffee at our local KTA grocery stores? You can also pick up some tropical fruits and farm fresh KuaiwiFarmspicveggies there or at the farmers markets and help our local economy when you step away from buying your usual items and try something fresh and locally produced. This is your chance to give our mangos, papayas, avocados, tomatoes, lettuce, dragon fruit, lychee, daikon, bok choy, grass fed beef, milk and eggs a chance to add to your experience of our island. I can 100 percent guarantee that you have NEVER tasted the flavors of Hawaii from your local Trader Joe's.
10. Be prepared for haters on social media. Your friends will kick your butt on your comment stream on Facebook, Instagram and GooglePlus. They may also give you hell in 140 characters on Twitter, too. Your posts of your feet on a beach, or in a hammock, or your selfies with a mai tai will drive them nuts. They will ask if you ever work, why couldn't you stuff them in your suit case, or use words like "jelly." Go ahead and ignore them, keep taking and posting your photos of sunsets, blue water, turtles, and that big fat smile you have plastered all over your face without anyone photo bombing you from a nearby crowd.