I knew prices in Hawaii are high--very high--in Hawaii, but I had no idea how high. I've traveled to expensive cities--New York, San Francisco, London--but the cost of living in Hawaii, our 50th state, takes expensive to a stratospheric level.
Sticker shock to the extent I saw it in Hawaii is only one of the many things I didn't expect from my Hawaii vacation. Some of the things I experienced are unique to Hawaii while others are observations I made as a tourist observing other tourists.
- I didn't expect to observe so much poverty in Honolulu. We saw many homeless individuals, and the housing we saw in many neighborhoods reminded me more of Mexico than of the United States of America. I've been in poor areas of the country and lived in poverty as a child, but the poverty I observed walking around Honolulu looked more like what I've seen in third-world countries than in the U.S.A.
- Flying into Honolulu I initially noticed that the landscape looked much dryer than I expected. Yes, Oahu's north shore harbors lush mountains and jungles, but Diamond Head looks brown, and once away from the touristy area of Waikiki Beach, the lawns sport brown grass. One of our tour guides told us that the island suffers from a drought. Of course, that evoked California's drought in my mind.
- I didn't expect to share a pizza with a dog our last night in Hawaii. We met Arrow and his owner at Harbor Pub and Pizza. Arrow is a service dog who saved his owner during a heart attack. He's a friendly fellow and came to visit us at our booth. The waiter even brought him a drink.
- I didn't expect to be offered a job while in Hawaii. After all, I wasn't there to job hunt. I was there for vacation. However, I was offered a job while on our Atlantis submarine adventure while purchasing a jacket for my husband. The woman who assisted me asked me if I'd like to work on the tourist boat and told me they're hiring.
- I didn't expect to see a woman wrestling with her baby to get the little girl into a stroller while traveling on a full elevator with eight adults and two strollers and two toddlers. The child began screaming and would not stop. "Why don't you hold her until you get to the lobby," I suggested. The woman became unhinged, and in no uncertain terms told me I know nothing about parenting and obviously have no children and "it's okay" that the child was screaming. Well, it's not okay for a parent to provoke a child to scream and to continue doing so in a confined space.
- Many people I know who have visited Hawaii talk about longing to live there. I fell in love with Hawaii the way many do. It is paradise, beautiful, comforting, but even though I want to return to Hawaii and travel to the other islands, I have no desire to live there. After a few months on an island, I think I'd feel claustrophobic. I didn't expect not to want to move to Hawaii.
- I didn't expect to hear so much of the Hawaiian language. Clearly Hawaiian's haven't gotten the "English Only" memo. I loved hearing Hawaiian and love the Hawaiian words and names.
- I didn't expect to meet a bus driver our first day who attended ISU and lived a couple of years in Pocatello. We do live in a small world.
- I didn't expect to find our hotel room with its double balconies such a perfect spot for watching Friday fireworks over Waikiki beach. I could look down from the 27th floor and observe the fireworks from their launch pads soar into the sky, passing by our room.