Jen Yih1 Comment

6 Things Living in Hawaii Teaches You

Jen Yih1 Comment
6 Things Living in Hawaii Teaches You

Mahalo Hawaii

I dug deep into my Tumblr archives to find a quite memorable post written the month I moved away from Hawai'i. Here are a few things I learned from living in Hawai'i & things you don't need to go far and wide to remember. 


1. Appreciate Nature.

Did you know that in Hawaii it’s a $10,000 fine if you touch a green sea turtle? That’s right and with good reason! The first time I ever saw one of these majestic creatures, I was taking my first surf session since moving to the island. As I’m paddling out, I saw a very large creature underwater out of my peripheral vision, of course my initial shoobie thought was “shark!” but then a sleepy-eyed sea turtle poked its’ head out of the turquoise waters and winked at me. There I was coexisting with one of the most beautiful animals I’d ever seen & I’d do anything to protect his beauty. Another sunny day, it took me an hour and a half to reach the summit of Kuliouou Ridge Hike. The hike takes you up through four different climates and sceneries, by the time you’ve reached the top you’re standing in the clouds looking out at a 360 degree view of O'ahu. If you’ve ever wanted to feel on top of the world, this is where you need to stand. In the few moments, you’re humbled by the breathtaking views feeling like an ant on the top of its’ sandhill–for a moment, life’s petty issues feel distant and insignificant. 

2. The Ocean. 

I used to look out at the ocean and think, “Wow so vast, larger than life,” take a deep breath to smell the salty air, “how cleansing.” But after spending countless nights sitting alone at the beach, I realized that the ocean is exactly like life. If you’ve ever spent time on O'ahu you’ll find out that in the summer the South side of the island experiences larger swells and the North side is as calm as a pond at dawn, and in the winter months the South side dies down and the North side experience epic waves as large as 40 feet high. The ocean, isn’t so “larger than life”, it’s powerful, calm, has its’ highs and lows, and most of all, unpredictable. One day, the ocean’s beauty and serenity can steal your heart and the next it can be raging with rip-tides and powerful swells. Only over time with experiences and the courage to wade or paddle out can you learn to understand and predict what’s out there. Even when that one big wave sucks you up and throws you down on the ocean floor, you get up and keep swimming. 

3. Health is Wealth. 

There’s a saying I heard a few times around the island, “In Hawai'i you can’t get wealthy but you can get healthy.” With constant sunny weather that varies from 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, it’s hard to spend a day on the couch and not feel guilty about it. Some of my favorite days were the mornings before work, I’d run down to the beach around 6:30am to find dozens of elderly people no younger than 70 years old swimming laps and jogging the beach. They’d bring their shampoo and soap, rinse off in the outdoor showers and start their day – trust me, they all looked spectacular & more importantly, happy. After awhile I realized that with weather as reliable as Honolulu’s I should make a few changes – so, I sold my car, bought a road bike and decided to bike to and from work every single day. I racked up about 10 miles per day just getting around, not counting the days I’d bike up Diamond Head volcanic crater, stop at the top to take in the view, and bike downhill to yoga (who doesn’t practice yoga in Hawai'i?). By the time I’d hit the sack I’d biked an effortless 20 miles in one day. Now, I’ve been practicing yoga since I was about 13 years old and have always loved it, but it was different in Hawai'i. My yoga teachers were of all ages, sexes, and ethnicities. They focused on our standard breathing, technique, and meditative qualities but they never forgot to emphasize their gratitude about living in paradise & to never lose sight of being alive and well in this moment. 

4. Ohana.

“Ohana” in Hawaiian means “family.” On the weekends in Hawai'i you’ll find most beaches occupied with big Hawaiian families pitching tents, setting up barbecues, and cooking out all day long. The beach smells like seasoned Kailua pig, pineapple, and Heinekens. You’d see multiple generations gathered together laughing and joking, keiki (kids) running in and out of the water. If I’m not painting a clear picture, it’s family that appeared to be the most treasured thing to these Hawaiian natives. It made me realize that living in “paradise” really is subjective, although the beach, crystal clear waters, lush green mountains look like something literally out of Jurassic Park, what’s a place when you can’t share it with the people you love and matter the most? Being an ocean away from mainland USA and even further from true family and friends makes it difficult to appreciate the fruits of your surroundings. Life is its’ most fulfilling when you’re sharing its beauty with the people you love. 

5. Simplicity.

If your house took fire in the middle of the night, what and who would you save before everything turns to ash? I moved out to Hawai'i with one suitcase, a backpack, and a carry-on. When I moved off island, I had one suitcase, shipped two small boxes, and a purse. Although it’s summer all year round, a bikini, summer dress, and some flip-flops was really all you need. It’s too hot to wear make-up, and unless you work in hospitality, your dress up days at work really means “wear pants not shorts, shoes not slippers/flip-flops.” But life in Hawai'i goes beyond your material possessions, not many people care what you do, what you make, and what your future plans are. Most people are concerned about what hikes they haven’t done, which beaches they have yet to discover, and what they can do simply to make rent. It’s absolutely not about “living for your work” but “working to live”. Your needs and life necessities are minimal, there’s no need to impress anyone with what you own or being defined by your social status. Recreation is free, it doesn’t cost anything to hike a mountain or swim in the ocean, and that’s plenty to keep you happy for some time. 

6. Following Dreams.

I’d always dreamt of living in Hawai'i, you know the typical image of driving around a Volkswagon Westfalia Van with a bunch of surfboards on top, galavanting in my bikini all day long, and sitting on the beach watching countless sunsets. I came pretty close, I bought a Volkwagon Jetta (at least it was German), had a surfboard (bought the wrong one) and ended up being a lot worse at surfing than I’d like to be, and saw the most breathtaking sunsets on beaches some can only dream of stepping foot on. Following this dream took me far from where I was, giving me the distance, time, and experiences to think about who I was and who I wanted to be. As I sat on the beach, soaking in yet another sunset, I started to realize I had more dreams and this wasn’t the end but just the beginning. At 22 years old, an entire world awaits and what happens next is just another adventure. (I also dream of returning to Hawaii)

- Journaled Spring 2014