From my apartment, I watch the rich amber clouds of dawn paint across walk-ups and low-rise condos that hug each other along the cramped streets of Makiki. I’m half-asleep, yawning, and pulled in haphazard circles by my rescue pup Sterling, yet always I try to take a moment, put down my phone, and glance up at the spectacular sights that surround me.
As someone born and raised in Hawaii, I’ve fostered both a genuine appreciation for the place I live, as well as a deep understanding of the many things here I’ve taken for granted. The beautiful rainbows shrouded by clouds, the rich cuisine that spans countries and cultures—it all tends to get shoved aside by the congested streets, tight budgets and busy life schedules. Like everyone else, I’m often so preoccupied by my roles and responsibilities that I let the simple, everyday gifts that living in Hawaii presents, pass me by.
Yet there’s something to be said about spending your life in a gorgeous, welcoming environment where the “Aloha spirit” is the norm, not the exception. Where we live, the landscape can change in mere seconds, with each lush mountain range and sandy beach more breathtaking than the next. And while there’s no such thing as a perfect destination, Hawaii certainly comes close.
I know very well how fortunate I am. As a Hawaii native, I grew up within a tight family unit, surrounded by supportive parents and loving grandparents. We said hi to our neighbors, walked to the neighboring grocery stores, and enjoyed beach barbecues on the weekends. It was easy to dismiss these little joys without giving them a second thought, especially at a young age. The mountains around me were simply mountains; the beach was just another beach.
Of course, it took leaving the island to appreciate it. After four years on the east coast with various trips to North Carolina, Texas, California, and the faraway land of Dublin, Ireland, I returned home with more than just stirred cravings for shaved ice and kalua pig. I felt it with every drive across the Koolau mountain range and sight of the sprawling shower trees in my district park—this truly is the best place. Call me biased, or sentimental, but I love my hometown, and feel truly humbled to be here.
I’m not saying every day is (literally) a walk in the park. Paying mounting bills, enduring stifling, mind-numbing traffic—of course it gets to me. And sure, I still spend lots of my time in cramped corners of coffee shops reading fiction rather than tackling a new hiking trail. But I’m slowly relearning gratitude, and let me tell you, it makes a difference.
Following years on the Mainland, I’ve returned home with a richer appreciation for the things that make us one of the most diverse cultures in existence. I make it a point to explore more, travel beyond the confines of my comfort zone, and challenge myself to be present with the people around me. I’m ready to re-experience Hawaii, and I hope you’ll follow the journey!