Try not to get sand in your rice.
Ever since leaving home at 18, the one question I always get after telling people I’m from Hawaii is, “Why would you leave?!”
I smile politely as I prepare to repeat, for the thousandth time, my reasoning. The same reasoning that many other Hawaii residents spew when they decide to move away from home.
That’s the thing, too: Hawaii will always be home. No matter how long I’ve been away, albeit seven years or 20 years, I will always say “I’m going home!” whenever I visit.
So, reasons why I (personally) left Hawai’i.
- I wanted more for myself.
When I was 18, I was at the top of my game (oh gosh, here’s me realizing I peaked in high school! Aack!) being President of the school, sporting a novel of an extracurricular resume, and one of maybe five kids of my 650-student graduating class going to college on the East Coast. I worked hard my four years of high school — nay, my entire grade school career, and in the end, I believed I could do better than staying at home for college, or staying in the same environment I grew up in. I wanted a challenge.
- I wanted to experience something new.
Living in Hawaii means living in a slow-paced and consistent world. Our weather is the same all year round, rain comes and goes in minutes, no such thing as Fall or Winter. The island is so small that it’s impossible to not run into someone you know, even when you’re on the other side of the island. I’ve even run into people I met from Maui and Big Island hanging out in Oahu for a weekend. For once, I wanted something different. I wanted to know no one, to experience seasons, and to live in a city and walk or take cabs and trains wherever I needed to.
- I wanted to be different.
People from Hawaii tended to stay home. It was safe, familiar, full of family. The culture in Hawaii is so different from the mainland, and I loved how I grew up as it shaped who I am today, but it there’s so much of the world I would’ve never known about if I never left. A lot of my graduating class stayed in Hawaii for college, and if you don’t take advantage of it right, they say it ends up feeling like extended high school. I wanted to separate myself from my life in Hawaii (it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to, but I really did become a different person).
- I wanted to travel.
Of course, you can travel from wherever you are, but it’s easier in the mainland. In college, I went to New York, Massachusets, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington DC with no issue. Through my college’s study abroad program, I got to travel to England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, and Holland. Since being here in California, we’ve done road trips to Arizona, Nevada, and so many places around California in general (it’s a big state). Flying to Colorado was cheaper from San Diego than it would be from Hawaii. It’s just so much easier to get around. In Hawaii, you’re stuck on an island. The closest place you can travel to is another island, which is a 20-minute plane ride. Otherwise, a trip to the West Coast takes at least 5 hours. Nothing shorter.
- I always knew Hawaii would be there if anything went wrong.
Leaving is easy when you know you have a fallback. The challenge is committing to the idea. My Sophomore year of college, I wanted to transfer to a school back in Hawaii. I ended up hating my college (maybe a post on that later) and didn’t want to deal with the people, the cold, and who I became after transferring to my school. I got through it though, and I’m thankful I did. It was comforting to know that if all else failed, I could be back home. In some weird way it helped me to push through the days I hated in college. Now that I’m in California, although I’m lonely and lacking friends, being able to visit Hawaii at least once or twice a year since moving here makes it easier to be here. I am considering moving back, but for now, being here is worth it.
In the end, my reasons for leaving all came down to a craving for something different. Some people are happy staying in the same place, and in a way, I understand that. As a person who’s had to move every year the past seven years (either to a new dorm, a new apartment, or a new state) staying in the same place to finally put down some roots sounds like a dream.
I always tell the people who fight my reasonings that they don’t know what it’s like to be from Hawaii, to be from a place you simultaneously love and dread at the same time. A lot of people back home know the feeling. It’s always “I want to get off this rock” only to find that there’s no place like the rock, no place at all.