As I’m jetting off to my next destination, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about my last one.
For years Hawaii has played an important role in who I am. Did I ever actually live there? No….it was more of a pipe dream, a fantasy that always lay just around some bend in my future. From the first time I visited there in 2008, multiple trips to the islands ensued; I was completely entranced, struck by the natural beauty and majesty of the place.
But the thing about majesty is, the moment it shifts to the mundane, the magic is lost.
That was the difference in my most recent journey into the lonely string of islands amidst the vast Pacific….I went there with the intention of gaining a feel for life as a local, even if only for a couple of weeks.
I can certainly say mission accomplished. With somewhat unexpected results.
While I definitely did gain a feeling for what life on the islands would be like, I also realized once and for all that it was not for me.
Why would I turn down paradise? Some of my reasons are more specific to the highly developed islands of Oahu and Maui, while others apply to the entire Hawaiian locality.
1. The (un)friendliness of neighbors.
I’d always heard second-hand of the problems with unpleasant dispositions and racism on the islands. And, while I didn’t directly experience anything truly nasty against me, I did get the cold shoulder quite frequently.
Why? Because I’m a mainlander, plain and simple.
Despite the fact that tourism does so much to drive the economy on the islands, mainlanders themselves are still very much treated as outsiders unless someone is directly benefitting, such as employees in the service business.
Are there exceptions to this? Sure, there are always exceptions. But for the most part, if you’re hailing from the mainland, people have very little interest in speaking or socializing with you.
Of the people I know who have moved to Hawaii, many found it took a considerable amount of time before they could garner any friendliness or acceptance from the local population. And really, that’s just not for me. With my roots in the friendly midwest, I have no interest in residing in a place where goodwill is so hard to come by.
2. Everything corrodes & deteriorates at record speed.
Hawaii was an excellent choice in Lost filming locations for the depiction of 30-year old deteriorating Dharma buildings. Why? Because they didn’t even need sets for many of those buildings, as the Hawaiian atmosphere effectively wore down its own buildings to the desired appearance in half the time.
Due to the high levels of salt and humidity constantly in the air, everything there decays at an incredible rate. Just looking around the home I stayed in, which was well-cared for - the refrigerator, dishwasher, stainless steel appliances, the exterior of the house - it all looked like some creature had been slowly eating away at it.
Not to mention the mold factor. That loaf of bread you like keep on top of your fridge at home? Yeah, you can completely forget about that past a couple days.
3. Island fever.
Don’t get me wrong, the islands are beautiful places. But over a longer period, after you’ve driven around whichever island you’re on oh, about ten or twenty times, that island all of a sudden becomes a very small place, especially when you’re spoiled like I am from living in the middle of a very large continent.
Those of us who live on the mainland take for granted the ability to hop in our cars and drive to pretty much anywhere in the continuous 48 that we wish (or Mexico/Canada if you’re feeling particularly adventurous). It’s not until that option is removed that you really start to feel the squeeze of living in such a small place.
I only spent a week on Oahu, and certainly by the end of that time I was already beginning to tire of visiting the same locations around the island over and over. Add to that the fact that the closest part of the mainland requires around a 5 hour flight (one-way), and you quickly start to understand the threat island fever can pose to sanity.
4. Mad traffic.
Not only is Oahu a small island, but one which requires an inordinate amount of time to get just about anywhere on it.
Certainly, as another big and busy city, traffic is an expectation within Honolulu. But the ever increasing number of people on the island, from true locals to mainland movers to American, Australian, and Asian tourists, is rapidly clogging up all of Oahu’s roadways.
The majority of Oahu is accessible only by two-lane roads, mostly constructed during the considerably lesser-populated mid-twentieth century. They offer lovely scenic views along the coasts and inside the valleys, yes, but lack turning lanes or passing opportunities and bottleneck at every spot that semi resembles a town.
From the “country,” the local description of the less densely populated northeastern part of Oahu where I stayed, it was a solid hour to either Haleiwa on the north shore or Kailua on the east, the two closest spots within which you could accomplish any real errand-running. Honolulu was at least an hour and a half (if not longer) and don’t even get me started on the kind of time investment that’s required to make it to the west coast.
5. No major seasonal changes.
Ok ok I know…this is where everyone is going to disagree with me. I mean, 70’s or 80’s year round? Constant access to the beach & ocean? Who wouldn’t love that?!
This girl, that’s who.
I am one of the rare people who truly enjoys every season that comes and goes in the midlatitudes. I mean, could I do without the subzero temperatures that descend on Chicagoland every winter? For sure.
But as much as I enjoy Chicago’s summertime every year, I also look forward to the spring, with it’s rebirth of bright flowers and brilliant greens, and the autumn, when the crisp air returns and the leaves begin to change. Even winter, with its quiet and stark beauty, repeatedly has the power to enchant me.
Personally, living somewhere that had little or no real seasonal change would be like wearing the same outfit everyday or eating at the same restaurant for the rest of my life. I crave the variability and change of the seasons; anything else simply bores me too quickly.
Hawaii is certainly still an amazing place and will always hold a special spot in my heart. But all of these realizations on Hawaiian life have have shown me that the time has finally come to release that particular pipe dream and move on to develop some new aspects of my personality.
And while it is sad to release something that has so long been a part of me, watching it slowly float away into the sunset, it also brings a sense of anticipation.
I have no doubt the universe will rush in to fill the empty space that particular dream is leaving within me, as has been the way with much of my life. Many dreams and possibilities are constantly swirling within me, so it always feels good when I can narrow the field a little further by eliminating those ideas which are no longer viable for me.
My destination is still far from known, but every day the images of my future come just a little further into focus.
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