More specifically: what is it like to live on O’ahu, the island where Honolulu and famous Waikiki beach are located. Well, it might be a bit different than you expect!
I would like to start off with saying that this is just my perspective on what life is like on this beautiful island. And from what I have seen, there are mainly two things that stand out to me that I did not expect when I arrived on O’ahu. But first of all: The island is absolutely stunning. And the feeling that you get, knowing that you are enjoying life at the most isolated place on planet earth with only miles and miles of ocean around you is just amazing and provides an interesting and incredible feeling of freedom. However, apparently there is another side to the coin as well that I learned during the time I was fortunate enough to be on the island.
Before I came to O’ahu I had no idea about the amount of people that are not able to sustain themselves in terms of food and shelter. After spending some time with both locals and volunteers I was told that the island has about 100 food distribution programs. I don’t know about the size of the programs but I do know that Surfing the Nations, the organization I was a part of, provides food to 500 to 700 people in Honolulu EVERY Thursday. The numbers still surprise me!
Another number that shocked me was that 60% of the homeless people (and I have seen many, unfortunately) do have a job, but still are not able to provide themselves with a roof above their head and do their weekly grocery shoppings. This was shocking to me, I must say. Especially when I think about the way that I have always looked at Hawaii: An amazing palmtree-whitesand-blueocean vacation paradise, that once had to deal with Pearl Harbour.
Luckily though, this flower necklace, surfing, high waves, hiking ready Hawaii also exists. These features of O’ahu makes it an attractive spot for vacation for as well foreigners as people from USA mainland. Once arriving, you won’t be bored for a day – if you have access to a car! Looking at the distance between Hawaii and the rest of the USA we might even say that everyone but original Hawaiians are ‘foreign’. Anyway, the (multi)million dollar beach homes are mainly owned by non-locals, from what I’ve heard. I was shocked by some of the prices of the houses I have seen, but the fact that they are near an Hawaiian beach makes them attractive for a lot of surf and sunset lovers. A small double bed, tiny kitchen, and 3 m2 bathroom about 15 minutes away from the beach also goes for 1000 dollars a month (note: no living room). People sure love the island!
Okay so we have identified the two most contrasting groups I have seen on Hawaii. Now: what’s life in Hawaii? Life is generally goo. The availability of nature makes people happy, the busses greet you by saying ‘aloha’ and the car number plates all have a rainbow on them. Groceries, however, are very expensive. A pack of milk can go for 6 dollars and an average sized pumpkin for at least 10$. Apples are about 3 times as expensive as on the mainland and a bag of lettuce goes for 5$. As a Dutchie these prices shocked me (and I have to admit that for a Western country, groceries in The Netherlands are pretty cheap). There was also less local fruit than I expected with the Hawaiian climate. Oahu grows banana’s and pineapples, but that’s about it. For a fruit haul you should definitely visit one of the other islands. The reason is that O’ahu does not really have much farmland, however it has the largest population density of the Hawaiian islands.
A last thing that I found interesting was that you see a lot of people that work for the army, navy, marine corps & air force, as the headquarters of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) are based on O’ahu. And the USA apparently has something like an army discount of 15%. I forgot that many many times during my shifts in the vintage shop haha, luckily they know it very well themselves ;).
All in all, Hawaii was very different than I expected both the good and the less wonderful sides of the story. I’m lucky enough that I’ve also seen a side of life there that many people don’t know about. The contrast maybe brings the island some extra beauty, more charm, but it is the people that make this place extra special. So lovely, so smiley and so happy. If you can: visit Hawaii. You’ll fall in love with it, just like me.