Before we moved to Hawai‘i, I tried to imagine what it would be like to live here. I had never been, and although both Hong Kong and O‘ahu are technically islands, you couldn’t pick two places more different than the jump I was about to make.
When my fiancé was offered a job as an ocean engineer in Hawaii, we took a look at his office — a pier in the middle of the most beautiful ocean we’d ever seen — and said yes. Of course we said yes. He quit his consulting job, I quit my public relations job, and a few short weeks later we had packed our belongings and hopped on the long flight from Hong Kong to Honolulu. I will never forget how I felt when the island appeared in the distance. Can you imagine seeing a place for the very first time, and knowing that that little dot, surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean, was going to be home?
The question I have been asked the most since we moved here is, of course, about what it is like to live where most people only vacation. Now that we’ve lived on O‘ahu for over a year, I feel like we’re past the ‘honeymoon’ period, and that I’m qualified to answer. So here we are: in many ways, life here is strikingly comparable to life anywhere else. I wake up, walk my dog, take the bus to and from work, make dinner, work out, and settle into my skincare routine before starting again, Monday-Friday.
But there are differences.
I wake up to the sound of roosters, because we sleep with our windows open year-round and they run wild all over Kailua, the sleepy beach town where we live. I walk Navy down plumeria-scented roads, with tropical flowers littering the sidewalks. My bus, called ‘Da Bus’ in Hawai‘i, winds its way through sheer-faced mountains before entering the 70’s time-warp that is Honolulu. Dinner is almost always made up of the green things I find at the farmer’s market next to my office — usually a salad with local avocado, grains and crunchy nuts, with whatever fruit happens to be in season for dessert.
My favourite part of the day? Instead of running on a treadmill, I run the short mile to the beach, and then along the oceanfront. Sometimes I bring Navy with me, and we play tag with the waves, a game that we invariably lose. Her puppy shampoo smells like coconuts, so after we’re home and showered, she does too.
The weekends are when life is as magical as I dreamed it would be. We surf, we hike through the jungle to hidden waterfalls, we play polo. We take drives up to the North Shore to watch the real surfers surf and visit our favourite shops for an açai bowl or a sandwich. Sometimes we head to Waikiki and weave through the crowds of tourists to grab fish tacos at Dukes. (The tourists are plentiful, but kind of charming. They’re a constant reminder of how it felt to be experiencing this special place for the first time).
Notably, the things we do the most involve being on or in or surrounded by nature. Hawaii is expensive — prohibitively so — and so we’ve swapped restaurant dates for brown bag picnics and nights out for free afternoons in the ocean on our beginner boards. In all, it’s a fair trade, and while Hawaii is too expensive to be our forever place, we’re doing our best to drink in everything this island has to offer.
PS, a caption — if you smile underwater, it fogs your goggles, especially if you have prominent cheekbones. Mine look like this picture 98% of the time.