March 10, 2017

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

the beach


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.

places to eat oahu hawaii (2 of 2)

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?

Weekend at Turtle Bay. The Two Year Honeymoon (29 of 38)

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.

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29 responses to “On living far from home”

  1. Sarah says:

    Yay!!! Loved reading this Carolann 🙂 You make Hawaii sound lovely, though I can definitely see what you mean about not belonging. That’s often how I feel in the UK to an extent. But I’m okay with it because I like my identity as an American, the same as you as a New Yorker! In fact, the more I think about it, you probably had more culture shock in Hawaii haha, and I’m preeetty sure it’s like WAY further from NY than the UK is from MI!

    Also, after reading this I think I could definitely do with some island time. The UK is an island but they haven’t quiiiiiite caught on yet…

    • Carolann says:

      Thank you for thinking of me and tagging me! I loved reading your post and thinking about these questions for myself. Nick and I wanted to go to Italy for his tour a few years ago. We ended up in Hawaii, which is easier in many ways but also way further. It’s kinda crazy to think that Europe would have been closer than Hawaii.
      There are a lot of things I do love about Hawaii. I am okay not really feeling like I belong, and it’s honestly a good reason why I don’t want to stay here forever. There needs to be something to bring me back to the mainland!
      I think you need to come to Hawaii and bring back some island time for the UK! It is the best kind of time.

  2. Hawaii looks so beautiful. I really want to go one day. We looked into it for our honeymoon but it was too expensive. Do you guys know how long you’ll be there? Are you looking forward to eventually leaving?

    Yes, New York has the best food and pizza. My husband has been amazed at our food and pizza since he moved here from CA!

    • Carolann says:

      We are going to be here for 3 years total, so a little less than 2.5 years left. It’s going way too fast! I love it so much and I don’t want to leave yet. But I think that in 2.5 years, I will be ready to get back to the mainland. I love living here now, but it’s not the place I want to be forever. It’s just too far from my family and I want to be able to raise my kids in a place where they can be exposed to more different kinds of things. Although I may have to bring them here and show them all of my favorite places at some point.

      It’s crazy expensive here. There is no way I could ever live have moved here without the military’s help. They pay for most of the move and give Nick an increase in his salary to cover the extra costs.

  3. Jen says:

    I really love this! The questions are just fluff but they have a true purpose behind them. I love learning more about you!

  4. Julie says:

    Getting out of your comfort zone is never easy – even if HI is still part of the US it’s a big change from NY so good on you for doing it, no shame in following your man to wherever!!!! I’ve seen a couple other people do this, so I think I’ll hop in on the fun! 😉

    • Carolann says:

      I’m really glad that we got the chance to move here instead of somewhere that is just like where I’m from. It’s an awesome adventure that we wouldn’t have had without the military. I think you should answer these questions too! I would love to read your responses.

  5. This is so much fun, and I totally agree with you that even though it’s not out of the country, Hawaii is very different than mainland US. I think that the slow pace is what struck my friend the most when she moved to Italy, it almost seems like Americans are the most fast paced culture there is. And being outside has got to be the best thing about Hawaii! It’s just so beautiful!

    • Carolann says:

      That’s so interesting about Italy! It must be an American thing. I am not sure how I turned into an island-time loving girl after I lived in New York for 26 years, but I guess Hawaii will do that to you. Hope you get back here soon!

  6. Emma says:

    New York food is my favorite food. I miss a good egg bagel and as close as I’ve gotten to making a good pizza I think I need the NY water to make it legit.

    I love that fun fact about banks in HI! I also love how much more laid back it seems to be.

    • Carolann says:

      New York definitely has the best food. In New York there are bagel shops on every corner and getting a bagel is one of the first things I always do whenever I go home. Hawaii has awesome food too, but it’s very different and there isn’t as much awesome pizza, bagels, or Italian food! Ok now I’m hungry!

  7. Audrey says:

    Is it weird that now I want to move to Hawaii and be your next door neighbor? Haha! I think I’d like the slow pace island life. It’s like you’re constantly on vacation 😉 lol
    I’ve living in my hometown almost my entire life… I spent 3 and a half year an hour away at college and one month in India, but other than that, I’ve always been here.

    • Carolann says:

      Please do! I think we would be awesome neighbors!! It really does feel like you’re always on vacation. Nick’s job is crazy stressful but when we go to the beach or go to the north shore where it’s much more rural, he says it feels like he’s on vacation. I think it’s a perfect place for us to live right now because it gives him an awesome break whenever he’s not working. And it gives me plenty to do when he’s working on the weekend or something.

      A month in India?! I didn’t know that! What was that like?

  8. I loved reading this so much!! And Poke bowls are my favorite!

  9. Laura says:

    What an adventure you’ve been on! Hawaii sounds like a really amazing place. I love that they only have local banks! That’s really neat to me!

    • Carolann says:

      I think it really shows a lot about the attitude people have towards keeping things local. It’s such a unique place, I’m so glad we get to live here for a few years!

  10. Emma says:

    I hear ya – and it’s harder to make friends as an adult, trying to break into those close-knit friendship groups!

    • Carolann says:

      It’s so hard! Luckily military spouses are very welcoming since they all know what it’s like, but it can still be hard to break into groups!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I loved reading through this–you’re definitely making me miss Hawaii, Carolann!

  12. Jennab says:

    YAY for a fellow NYer! When I moved to be with my now husband I went from NY to Alabama. It was an adjustment for sure. Learning to slow down was by far the hardest thing for me when we moved to the south. Now in Maryland I miss the deep south. Great post!

    • Carolann says:

      I don’t meet many New Yorkers here in Hawaii so thanks for coming by and saying hi! The things that I miss from different places always surprise me. I’m planning a trip home to New York soon and i can’t wait to eat pizza, bagels, and Italian food, and go to Dunkin Donuts.

  13. […] far from home around blogland lately and couldn’t not participate!  Thank you, Carolann from Finding Ithaka for the inspiration. Though I know that Jen and Mili Wifey have also piped in on the fun. Where […]

  14. Your posts always make me miss Hawaii so much! Next year I’m going to come out for my birthday, which is still a long ways off, but if you’re still there we should grab a drink!

    • Carolann says:

      I’m totally down for that! I will be here for the next 2 years at least. I would love to meet you and get a drink!

  15. Rachel G says:

    This was really cool to read! The USA is so big that honestly, moving from state to state can be a big change! My family moved from MI to KY when I was nine, and my parents have always called that our first “cross-cultural” move–there were so many differences–and people could tell we were outsiders the minute we opened our mouths! 😛 I loved the warm, welcoming culture of Kentucky–so much that I took Angel there for our honeymoon.
    I think the coolest thing about living on Hawaii would be having the chance to explore so much more of it. The hard part, I imagine, would be the cost of living. We shopped in grocery stores when we visited and cooked food in our room and the prices were definitely not Michigan prices!

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