aloha hawai’i

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I left Hawai’i a week ago, but that my next flight will not be bringing me back is just sinking in. I spent my last month driving unnecessary roads just to see the mountains and the beach. Having all the good-bye beach days, dinners, and hikes that I could manage. Memorizing the memories I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned in two and a half years of living on the island, in the way you only can when you know you are leaving.

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In Hawai’i, I learned about gratitude. I have never lived in a place where people told each other every single day, multiple times a day, how lucky we are to live there. ‘Lucky to live Hawai’i’ is on billboards, t-shirts, trucker hats, and hashtags. Gratitude is a way of life.

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I learned about simplicity- running into a sunrise, taking a boat to a sandbar in the middle of the ocean for an afternoon, hiking at full moon. That the best days involve a lot of fresh air, family, and friends. Even the busiest people in Hawai’i seem to build their lives around these things, because some things matter, some things really don’t, and I got a little closer to learning how to prioritize both.

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I learned Spam is a food group, and it includes popsicles. I also learned to not break the speed limit, because people drive slow in Hawai’i for reasons that often involve speed traps.

IMG_0782I learned about embracing your body, no matter how it looks, no matter what your age. I went to paddle regattas where grandparents and their grandchildren both raced. I went to beaches full of people of all shapes and sizes enjoying the beauty and themselves. I basically lived in a swim suit, and where that used to sound terrifying, it became liberating.

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I learned about making friends with everyone. On a small island far away from everywhere, you learn friendship in a new way. Hawai’i is full of travelers and locals, and everyone has a story to share if they grew up on Big Island or just flew in from Canada. Something about the warm air, very quickly, makes everyone family, because we are all on this rock, in this adventure, together.

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I learned about the effort {and necessity} to stay connected with family, friends, B, and worldwide news- through the time zones, through the weather differences, through the sometimes-loneliness that you can feel living in the middle of the ocean. I also learned about sun-guilt, when your House of Cards marathon is a little ruined by your guilt for staying inside on a beautiful day in paradise.IMG_9026

I learned about kindness. People in Hawai’i will stop in the middle of the highway to let a car in {safety be damned}, talk story with a stranger, or insist on feeding you if you even appear peckish. Smiles and waves are returned with abandon.

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I learned about Hawai’i. I learned about the beautiful and proud people, the importance of O’hana, the deliciousness of a trade wind, and a respect for nature I have never witnessed and profoundly respect. When I first got to the island, I was told ‘the islands will take you in if they like you.’ I hope they liked me. I know there is a magic in Hawai’i that I will never forget.

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Most importantly, upon leaving {and telling everyone I was, from the local cashier to the sweet man who does bag inspections at the airport}, I learned that you always come back.

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Until then, mahalo Hawai’i.

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