Living far from home, I’ve connected with a lot of expat bloggers. Even though I’m not an expat and I know it would be much harder to move to a new country than to a new state, they have graciously adopted me as a part of their club. One of my favorite expat bloggers, Sarah from Endless Distances, recently tagged me in An Expat Chat, where bloggers take turns answering some questions about what it’s like to live far from home:
1. Where were you born, where did you grow up, and where do you currently live?
I was born and raised in New York. I went to college less than two miles from my high school. Now, I live in Hawaii.
I moved here in August 2013 with my husband, 5 days after our wedding. Last year, we moved to Connecticut for 6 months before the military decided to send us back to Hawaii.
So in less than 3 years of marriage, we moved 3 times.
2. What made you leave your home state?
The most cliche reason in the world… I fell in love.
Yup. I left home to be with a boy.
When I met Nick, he was already in the military and was planning to stay in for a few more years. After he graduated from school, we spent 5 years long distance while he went to a bunch of submarine schools and eventually worked on a submarine. During that time, I finished up school and started to work on building up my resume. When we were ready to get married, we decided I would move with him to his next duty station. Never did I expect that move to be such a life-changing one to Hawaii.
3. What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from?
I am proud to be from New York so I probably talk about it way too much. When I tell people I’m from New York, they automatically assume I’m from New York City. Once I clear up that I’m from the suburbs, they ask me about bagels, pizza, and New York City. The last time I went home, I brought back New York bagels and cookies from my favorite New York bakery to give to a couple of my friends. New York = good food.
4. What was the easiest/hardest part in adjusting to your new state?
The easiest part is the great weather and having so many outdoor things to do. I never get island fever because there is so much to do here. I don’t think I can ever get sick of the beach, and I’ll never run out of hikes to try. In New York there are tons of things to do, but they are very different kinds of things.
It’s been so long since I moved here that I’m having trouble remembering how I adjusted. Coming from New York where everything is fast-paced and we are always rushing from one thing to the next, I had to get used to slower paced “island time.” Now I am very used to it and find it difficult to go back to the pace of the mainland.
A few months ago when Nick and I were home visiting, my dad joked to me, “You and Nick don’t rush to do anything, do you?” I think that he’s right, and I think that that is in large part to all the time we’ve lived here. I like taking things slow.
It’s been hard to be so far from home and to deal with the time difference. It’s not easy to get home for anything so I usually plan my trips home months in advance. It can be difficult to talk to friends and family back home because of the time difference, but I love when people text me at all hours and I wake up to messages from home. It takes more of an effort to maintain friendships, but the time we have together becomes more special.
5. Images, words or sounds that sum up the experience you’ve had so far.
the sounds of the ocean, waterfalls, and rain
sunrise and sunsets
lots of wine
every day is an adventure
6. Your favorite food or drink item in your new state?
Favorite foods: poke bowls, which is raw tuna in a soy sauce dressing. It usually also is served with rice.
I also love acai bowls.
As for drinks, I love the coffee here. Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee and coffee is taken very seriously here. Local coffee shops are everywhere.
And beer. There are so many craft breweries here, and I love the challenge of trying them all.
7. What’s the one thing you said “yes” to in your new city that you wouldn’t say “yes” to, back home?
Since moving back to Hawaii, I’ve put myself out there by actively trying to meet new people. When I lived in New York, I had friends from high school, college, and my job who I would hang out with all the time. I never felt a need to expand my social circle. Here, when I meet someone I like, I am more inclined to “ask them out” to get coffee or dinner.
When you are in school, your friendships naturally develop. My best friends from college are the people who were in the same program as me. When you move somewhere new as an adult, you don’t always have built in ways to make friends. You have to work to find friends and develop friendships, which is a very different way of making friends than I ever experienced.
I now know what it’s like to not know anyone, to be somewhere and feel totally out of place because you don’t know a single person there. I try to reach out to new people and make them feel welcome because I know how it feels to be in a new city. I never expected to be that kind of outgoing person, making meals for a meal train for someone I don’t know or meeting someone I’ve never met before to welcome them to Hawaii.
8. Are there any cultural norms/phrases in your new state which you cannot stand?
There is nothing cultural here that I can’t stand. It’s so interesting to get to experience a different culture.
Living in Hawaii as someone who is not Hawaiian, I will always feel like an outsider. It’s very different from living on the mainland. Even though Hawaii feels like home to me and I am 100% comfortable and safe here, I don’t think I will ever really feel like I belong here. People are nice to me, much nicer than New Yorkers are, but when you aren’t Hawaiian or haven’t grown up here, I don’t think you will ever truly belong. I’m okay with that, because I have created my own feeling of home here.
9. What are the cultural norms/phrases in your new state which you enjoy?
I love the way people care about the environment. I love the way they care about local products and locally grown food. I love the way they support local businesses. I love the way they support farmers and that you can buy so many products straight from them at farmers markets. I love that people are always outside.
I love that so many businesses here exist to do good for other people, not just to make money. Two great examples of this are Surfers Coffee Bar and Grace in Growlers – both of which give back their profits to the community. Surfers Coffee Bar has only volunteers working in it.
Fun fact: When the big banks came into Hawaii and set up shop, none of the locals used them. They all had to shut down their Hawaii locations. There are only Hawaiian banks here now, making Hawaii the only state to not have big banks. You can’t even find a Bank of America ATM.
10. What do you enjoy most doing in your new state?
#1: Watching the sunrise.
Also, being outside. I love going to the beach, going on hikes, and driving along Oahu’s north shore. I also love trying all kinds of new foods. When you know you are only going to live somewhere for a short period of time, there is a sense of urgency to everything you do. I have to go check out this new restaurant or this hike I heard about, because if I don’t do it now, I might not get a chance later. I like being in a place for a short amount of time because it forces me to get out and explore.
I also love when my friends and family come to visit. I love being able to share paradise with them, especially because so many of them never would have come to Hawaii otherwise.
I mean, what’s not to love?
If you are an expat, military spouse, or just someone who lives far from home, I encourage you to answer these questions on your blog! If you do, let me know! Or, just answer some in the comments below.
And thank you to everyone who has answered my reader survey so far! The results are awesome and surprising, and I will share them on here. The survey will be open for another full week, so if you haven’t taken the survey please click here to take it.