THE BLOG
04/07/2016 10:28 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Living in Hawai'i Changed My Life

Lately, I have been feeling very reflective. Perhaps it is because I have been organizing my green card renewal so I have had to document the last two and a half years of living in Hawai'i. As I looked back over all the photos I printed to submit to the Immigration Department, I was overwhelmed by a plethora of good memories. I kept thinking about how much my life has changed since moving here and how much I have grown as a person. Naturally, there are some obvious changes like the fact that I got a tan and use the shaka symbol a whole lot more but I wanted to share some of the other ways in which living in Hawai'i changed my life.

I learned to appreciate sunrise.
I've always been an early riser, but until I moved to Hawai'i I didn't realize that I never actually stopped to appreciate the sunrise. Before moving here, I would wake up in the dark hours of the early mornings and go to the gym. By the time I got out the sun had risen and I would have missed the whole thing. And to be honest it never mattered to me. Since moving to Hawai'i, I find watching sunrise to be an experience in and of itself and it's one I am quite addicted to. With some of the most beautiful backdrops and breathtaking landscapes, it's easy to get addicted to the early morning starts and the chase of finding new places to watch the sun greet the day.

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I stopped judging Spam.
It may seem crazy to those who haven't been here but Spam is actually a popular food here in Hawai'i. There are so many different flavors sold in the stores, there are Spam options on the menu at McDonalds and you can even get Spam flavored macadamia nuts! Now, I don't eat much meat because of my Endometriosis, but when I moved here I tried a few of the Spam specialities and I can vouch for them being much better than I would have thought. Ok, a lot better than I thought because I was so skeptical and judgmental at first. In the end I even made Spam Musubi at home once!

I developed a newfound appreciation for adventure.
Living in Hawai'i definitely made me appreciate outdoor adventures so much more than I ever had before. It was as if living here pulled back a set of curtains to reveal a lifestyle of outdoor adventures that don't have to be saved for special occasions. In Hawai'i I could adventure all the time, on my own or with friends, and as time went on I found that not only did I have fun on each adventure but it became a very necessary part of my life. Now I could not imagine living life with fun outdoor adventures saved only for now and then. I have learned that life is to be enjoyed instead of going through the motions for the majority of the time and only actually enjoying a small percentage of the time we have.

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I improved my photography skills.
If you are into photography then Hawai'i is a great place to improve your skills. Maybe it is because of the stunning landscapes that become your subject matter or maybe it is because there is a strong photography community here so it's very easy to get out there and learn from each other. For me, I think it has been a bit of both. Living in Hawai'i has enhanced my interest in photography and taken it to a whole new level as well as allowing me to spend time behind the lens with fellow photography enthusiasts who have been generous with their tips to help me learn and improve.

I was inspired by the simple things.
If it wasn't for Hawai'i I am certain that I would be wasting away in an office cubicle somewhere, probably very comfortable and making money but married to my job and not able to enjoy my life. This is what my life was before I moved to Hawai'i. Ever since I left high school I was on a mission to work hard and, though I enjoyed life because I enjoyed working hard and achieving success, I didn't fully realize that there was another side of life to be enjoyed as well. In Hawai'i I began to see the simple things of families spending time together at the beach, camping trips on weekends or friends getting together to watch the sunrise. In these moments while I was out and about, I didn't see the rushed, work-a-holic pace. I saw enjoyment. It was here that I realized that this balance is needed on the work-life scales, that maybe life isn't all about work. It inspired me to quit a job I had in a toxic environment that was draining me more and more each day and instead delve right into my blog and enjoy the simple things.

I became connected with my surroundings.
Hawai'i gave me a sense of connectedness with my surroundings that I don't think I had experienced before. I'm not sure how to explain it but this island really made me feel at home and 'one' with the world. I am not the type of person to be settled or stay in one place -- I moved around a lot in Australia, both intra and interstate before moving to the States. I can't say I have ever really been connected with one spot. While I have been in Hawai'i I have felt an overwhelming sense of home, like I am actually connected to my surroundings instead of just passing through. It's a difficult thing for me to explain, but I just feel very connected to nature and for a hippie at heart, that is a wonderful feeling to have. Perhaps this developed from being surrounded by people who are very connected with the island they call home.

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I was reminded of the good in people.
The Aloha spirit is alive and well here in Hawai'i. I know 'the locals' get a bad wrap sometimes, but I really think that if you put positive out and then you get it back. Personally, I have been so lucky to have experienced meeting a whole bunch of people who have shown me kindness, help, hospitality and friendship time and time again. From the time a stranger invited me to her family's Christmas lunch because she knew I had just moved here and was alone, to the friendly camping neighbors who watched my friends child so she could go diving with us, to the team at Venture Hawai'i who gave my blog a shoutout on their website or even to the countless supportive people I meet at the beach or on the trails who I end up chatting up a storm with, there is a lot of good energy here and I am so lucky to have experienced it.

I ate raw fish and liked it
I never would have thought that I would enjoy eating a bowl of raw fish. Ever. The first time I ordered Poke was a total accident while I was having lunch at a beachfront resort on the Big Island. I simply saw Ahi on the menu and assumed it would be grilled to perfection. I couldn't even pronounce it, instead I looked at the waiter and then just pointed to it on the menu. When the plate of raw fish was placed in front of me I stared at it for a little while with a hint of sadness and a whole lot of 'what on Earth is this creation?' I don't like to waste food, so I gave it a go and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be delicious. Nowadays, I still enjoy it now and then and can even order it without having to point at it on the menu!

I learned that even paradise can't keep everyone happy
It was a huge shock to me because I was narrow minded and just thought that Hawai'i was a tropical paradise, but I have talked with many people here who don't particularly like living in Hawai'i. Some people I spoke with were in the military circuit and not open to experiencing a lifestyle different to the one they had moved from and others were people who had lived here their whole lives and were ready to move on and explore the world. I was in these conversations where people were focusing on the bugs, the traffic and the cost of living and forgetting all about the beautiful marine wildlife, the turquoise water and those stunning mountains. These conversations puzzled me at first, but in the end really taught me that paradise doesn't mean the same thing to everyone -- one man's paradise is another mans nightmare.

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If you have lived in Hawai'i how did the experience change you?

Maybe you experienced similar changes or maybe I am a slow learner and you already knew those things, maybe you experienced totally different changes. Whatever it is, I'd love to hear your story!