My brother and sister-in-law also wanted some help with the rent here, and really thought it would be way more fun to have me here instead of just getting a random person. Before I decided to come, people of course warned me about the well-known high cost of living here, but I also got a lot of the "Oh, that would be such a great learning experience!" comments too, both of which are very true and valid points.
Enough of my backstory though, what is it like living here in Hawaii? Especially being non-military (people will ask you that all the time if you're white or black, or they'll just assume you are). Here's some of the things I've noticed, and just to clarify I live on Oahu, and have yet to visit any of the neighboring islands:
- It is hot here. Often times I've actually found myself thinking, "Man, this reminds me of Texas." - and it really does, especially during summer. I lived in and near the D/FW metroplex in Texas. It's hot and humid, and when you first get into a car in the middle of the day during summer, you cannot believe the heat. I've driven cars with no A/C in the middle of summer in Texas, and I can tell you it may not be as bad here, but I am really glad the A/C works in my Mazda. Outside, the sun beats down on you and is relentless. If you're not used to tropical weather, you can tell you are closer to the Equator.
- Speaking of weather, it does not rain here as much as I expected and the way my brother made it sound. Bear in mind, I live in Central Oahu, which is basically between two mountains, so some parts of the island will get more rain. I love the rain though, so it was a big part of my decision to come here! Haha. The reality though is that it's overcast a lot, and it does start to sprinkle often, but that's about it. It sprinkles a lot, and only for short periods of time. Occasionally you'll get a good soaking rain, but not as much as I'd like. Also, it very rarely ever has thunderstorms here. If you happen to live in Tornado Alley or areas where thunderstorms are common, you know those powerful storms with the crazy lightning and booming thunder, and drenching, heavy rains. I love those, and I miss them because you never see it here. No thunder, no lightning. Sometimes heavy rain, and high winds to be sure, but nothing like Texas storms.
- It is expensive here. Not only milk and gas, and rent and electricity, but things you maybe wouldn't think about. Especially if you plan to have a car: Car insurance here is costing me about 25% more than Texas, for the same coverage. Vehicle registration is costing me about five times as much per year, and "inspections" or "safety checks" as it's known here is a bit more than rural Texas areas. Oil changes seem to be about the same, but the cheapest set of four new tires I could find were pretty ridiculous. Not to mention the fact it cost over $2000 just to have the car shipped here all the way from Texas!
- The traffic here can be worse than Dallas. Honolulu alone has close to 400,000 residents, and there's close to one million people living on Oahu. Combine that with relatively few roads, and you've got a lot of people all trying to go one way at one time. In the past, it has taken me close to two and a half hours just to travel seven miles to get home! That's less than 3mph on average! Honestly though, it hasn't been nearly that bad in awhile. There seems to be a lot of construction going on to improve roads (many roads here are horrible by the way), but the roads that have been redone are really nice, very wide and smooth and many even offering bicycle lanes.
- Skateboards are super common here.
- The ocean, mountains, and beaches are nothing short of incredible. Anything negative mentioned above is wiped away by the beauty of this place. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting on a beach watching the waves come and go. It is surprisingly easy to get caught up in a "normal life" here of going to work, sitting in traffic, eating and staying alive. But then you go to the beach, or perhaps hike up a mountain, or see some other really cool scenery, and it's all worthwhile.
- Live Aloha. I'm a pretty firm believer that you will find good and bad people no matter where you go, but in general people here are very friendly and kind. There is a spirit and mentality about this place that I really love. People seem to be more open-minded, "live and let live" types which really meshes with my personality. Sure, there's the fair amount who are clearly sucked in to the day to day grind like everywhere else, which again can be easy to do, but in general there's a laid back, take it easy vibe. People are definitely more friendly in traffic, for example, and NEVER use their horns. It's all very nice.