My Farewell to Hawaii! Plus: Things That Surprised Me About Living in Hawaii

So….. I have some pretty big news. My husband and I just got orders to relocate from Hawaii to San Diego, California in August. Yep, you heard that right. I’m leaving Hawaii.

San Diego is one of my favorite U.S. cities and will definitely be a great place to live. But at the same time, I become very emotional at the thought of leaving Hawaii and the “HI life”. Due to all of this, lately I have been doing a lot of reflecting about the two and a half years I have spent here.

Moving to Hawaii has been an amazing experience and will always remain as one of the best decisions I have ever made. Here I found and married the love of my life, traveled throughout Asia to places like Japan (not once, but twice), KoreaChina, and Indonesia, learned the meaning of alohavolunteered, got to island hop to places like Big Island and Moloka’i; and most of all, learned many lessons. Along the way, I fell in love with myself in the process. I even got to witness an epic surf competition. So yes, I guess you could say Hawaii has been good to me, and will always be near and dear to my heart. This has been a priceless experience that has made me who I am today and left quite an imprint on my soul.

At the same time, Hawaii faces its share of problems. Homelessness is HUGE here. The cost of housing is completely unaffordable for most local families. Overdevelopment plagues the island of Oahu. Public transportation is virtually non-existent and traffic is horrific, yet attempts to build a rail system have been a failure thus far. The environment is at risk due to pollution and rising sea levels. This is just to name a few. It’s been a true eye opener for me to realize that nothing in life is perfect, even paradise.

Looking back, sometimes I am surprised at how different the reality of HI life actually is compared to my expectations before I moved here. There were a LOT of things that were new to me or that I did not realize until I actually called this home. Since people from the mainland generally know very little about Hawaii, they tend to think life is all rainbows and sunshine here. So it may surprise you just like it surprised me to learn many of these things about how it actually is to live here…

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Finding Bliss in Bali

            

When one thinks of exotic places in the world worthy of a top bucket list spot, Bali often comes to mind for many people. This tropical island in Indonesia is unlike any other place in the world, with an extremely unique culture and geography. Here you can find dreamy beaches, jungles, volcanoes, bustling urban life, and rural farming villages that seem to be stuck in an older time. It became a trendy destination due to Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ book/movie. But for me, it has always been at the top of my “places my soul needs to visit” list because this is without a doubt one of the best places on earth for those looking for a spiritual awakening or renewal.

After visiting this past November with my perfect travel buddy, I found Bali to be a paradox in many ways. Known as an intensely spiritual and scared place, many go to Bali seeking peace and the answers to questions they’ve asked their whole lives. It is famous for a plethora of spas, yoga centers, and new age retreats. However, there are also starkly contrasting aspects, such as a crazy Vegas-esque nightlife area, extremely hectic driving, overwhelming strips lined with endless boutiques and restaurants, and a completely oversaturated market for souvenir shopping and tourist activities. Some go here for luxury and pampering, while others go for the exact opposite – to be completely humbled. It is truly a place that can offer something to anyone. Personally, I found the mix to be delightful. If I wanted to relax and connect with nature, I could. If I wanted to party, shop, or go on an adventure, I could too. And I did a little bit of everything. The options available were limitless.

The Balinese claim that Bali is the center of the universe, and therefore, extremely sacred land. The energy found here is said to be cleansing and rejuvenating for the spirit. So in many ways, this trip was a pilgrimage for me to find out for myself if this was true.

Well, I can report that all the fuss is for good reason. Bali not only earned a new fan in me, but it quickly became one of my favorite places. If you’re thinking of visiting someday, here’s some information and details on the ups and downs of my overall amazing experience and one of the best trips in my life.

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What is Aloha, Anyway?

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Even those who have never visited Hawaii have probably heard the word “aloha” before. It is commonly known as a Hawaiian greeting (both hello and goodbye) and is also used as the word for love. But it goes much deeper than that and is actually a quite powerful concept. So what does it actually mean?

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8 Things I Learned While Traveling that Totally Surprised Me

8 Things I Learned from Traveling

Anyone who knows me knows how obsessed I am with travel. Over the years, it has been the greatest teacher I could ever ask for. I not only learned about the world and other cultures, but I learned a ton about myself along the way (especially via solo travel). However, I will admit that many of these lessons were pretty surprising and even life changing. Here is a list of the eight most important and surprising things travel taught me over the years. Enjoy!

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Seoul Searching in Korea

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Many may not think of South Korea as one of the top tourist destinations in Asia. Since it’s typically so overlooked, it surprised even me to learn that it ranks as the 7th most popular country on the continent, with about 15 million visitors each year. But one visit here and it will be apparent to anyone just why that is. This small country is packed with so much to offer, from futuristic urban settings to charming countryside villages; jaw-dropping mountain peaks and natural wonders to majestic palaces and temples dating back centuries ago. Having a fascinating history of over 5,000 years, plus a colorful and unique culture, does not hurt either. There was so much to see and do that I found it quite overwhelming trying to fit it all in my short 5 day trip and on my flight back home, I was already plotting on how to go back and visit again soon.

This is one of the many places I’ve dreamed of visiting since I was just a little girl. Except, not just for reasons like history, culture and food, as it typically is for most other destinations I long to see. This one is for very personal reasons. Korea is the homeland of my grandma. Back when she was growing up there in the early 1950’s, much of the country was war-torn and poverty stricken. In other words, it was completely different than how it is today, as the nation experienced miraculous growth and now continually tops listings of the world’s strongest economies and most technologically advanced countries. So when I finally got to visit a few weeks ago, I was in awe. Not just at how modern and beautiful Korea surprised me to be, but also because I couldn’t help but think about how different it must be than what my grandma experienced before she fled to the U.S. many decades ago.

I was extremely close with my grandma, so when she passed away in 2013, it made my desire to finally journey to see her homeland even stronger. When I recently found out that I still have relatives living in Korea, I became determined to plan a trip and go. Even still, I did not have expectations beyond being able to go sight-seeing and hopefully meet them over lunch or dinner. What ensued completely blew my mind and changed me in ways I never imagined.

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Cherry Blossom Dreamin’ in Tokyo

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It has always been a dream and bucket list item of mine to visit Japan during cherry blossom season, when the whimsical pink flowers bloom and captivate admirers from across the world. Last week, I had the pleasure of doing this while on my way to Korea.

Since this was my second time visiting Tokyo (info on my first trip can be found here), I knew my way around pretty well and mostly found it a breeze to get around the bustling city. However, the city was especially busy since April is one of the best times of year to visit. It’s still quite chilly but there is definitely an air of excitement as their famous spring season begins.

Cherry blossom season only lasts for two brief weeks out of the year. It is very hard to predict exactly when they’ll be peaking and the blossom forecast creates much buzz each year, but generally it falls around the first week in April for the Tokyo area. However, it is not limited to just the capital city. Cherry blossom trees can be found all throughout the country. In fact, many argue that other areas, such as Kyoto, are far better spots to view and enjoy cherry blossoms than in a hectic urban environment. Despite this, it’s estimated that 2 million visitors flock to Tokyo around this timeframe to witness the beloved flowers in full bloom.

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Giving Back, Aloha Style

Hawaiian culture is absolutely fascinating. One of my favorite things about it is that it revolves around a deep respect for and connection with the aina (land). This belief is prevalent across all indigenous cultures of the world and although most of these people have been robbed of their heritage, the concept is still sacred to them to this day. ‘O ka ha o ka ‘aina ke ola o ka po’e translates to “the breath of the land is the life of the people”. This simply means that when you take care of the land, the land takes care of you. Sustainability.

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Giving back to the aina is important, especially for me, since this aina has been so good to me. Moving to Hawaii 14 months ago has been the best thing for me and my spirit, and allowed me to truly thrive in ways I never imagined were possible. I attribute this to the mana (power) that exists here, which is known to be healing for all who encounter it.

So I was definitely excited when a friend invited me to experience a lᾱ hana (work day). For Hawaiians, this is not only an opportunity to help out the community, but it “strengthens the connection between people and land”. I was completely honored to partake and this ended up being one of the greatest experiences I’ve had here in Hawaii to date.

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Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio, Costa RicaDuring a visit to Costa Rica, you will hear and see the Spanish phrase “pura vida” everywhere you go. It’s all over t-shirts and souvenirs, and is even used as a greeting by the locals. It translates to “pure life” in English and after a 6 day visit in this beautiful country, I can truly understand why this it is the official motto. Costa Rica is a place where once can truly experience PURE life in every form. Whether you’re looking for thrilling adventures, wildlife encounters, a busy city setting, or a relaxing beach getaway, here you can find it all. Two years ago, I was blessed enough to spend my 27th birthday on a fantastic vacation in Costa Rica and it was a trip I will never forget.

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