Share Your Favorite Memories of Hawaii!

I have been feeling nostalgic over the past couple weeks, longing to go back to Hawaii for an extended vacation at least – or moving there – at best! I was thinking about some of the times I realized I was living in Paradise, and I thought I’d write them down.

Share Yours at the End of this Article!

Favorite Hawaii Memory #1 – Arrival!

You may have read my book, or one of the articles where I talk about my first few moments in Hawaii. I’ll recap here a bit. If you’re interested in a full article about it – you can read one here.

Just landing to cheers from everyone in the plane was a very weird experience. If I close my eyes, I can picture where I was seated – middle seat (ugh) on the left side of the plane. My neck hurt because for the last fifteen minutes I was straining to look out the left and right windows – depending which other passengers weren’t looking at me doing so. You know that weird feeling? I could see white clouds, then dark green hills of the various islands. Not sure what I was looking at, but I was 18 yrs old and I’d never been anywhere more than 700 miles away from my family back in Pennsylvania. Now they were 5,000 miles away from where I was about to land at Honolulu International Airport.

So yes, we landed with cheers from the passengers and everyone erupted into a good mood. Smiles all over the place. I’d never see smiles like that again until coming to Thailand where it’s the norm – everyday.

Waiting in line on the plane to exit felt like an eternity. Were they checking for bugs on the plane? Plants? Contraband? Drugs? I don’t know why it took 20-minutes for the flight stewards to open the door. When they did, we all breathed a sigh of relief and started moving toward the exit. When I hit the door, I saw just the tunnel and yet the sun was gleaming through some side windows. As I entered the airport I remember there being so many people standing there handing out Hawaiian leis. The air smelled so fragrant. It was as if I’d died and gone to heaven right there at the airport. There were tropical plants all over the waiting area. Everyone was dressed differently – aloha casual attire mostly. It was surreal as a dream.

I met Bob Gallagher, the guy who would be my supervisor over me at my Air Force position and we road slowly back to the Air Force base while he asked me questions and I asked him twice as many. I couldn’t wrap my head around the beauty of the place as we drove on. I had the feeling that it couldn’t last. I couldn’t possibly be staying in this wonderland for four years. I thought the AF would find a mistake and tell me tomorrow that a mistake had been made and that I was needed in Pakistan or somewhere else I couldn’t point to on a map.

But it lasted… and I was introduced to a place where I’ve had more smiles, laughs, and fun than anywhere else in my life.

When you first arrive on one of the Hawaiian Islands, you may have a similar feeling – that it’s too good to be true, and that it will all end shortly. Maybe you’ll start thinking about whether it’s possible for you to stay and live there for a while. Many people think about it, but few go ahead and make it happen. I wrote a book to help you decide – Is It Possible to Move To Hawaii? <- click for info.

Favorite Hawaii Memory #2 – Makapu’u Beach Park

This next memory is from my second day on the island of Oahu. I was lucky to land on a Friday around 11 am., so I was able to meet the twenty or so people who worked in my office and as culture dictated, they were all having a get together at one of the Filipino guy’s (a sergeant) homes and then heading toward the beach later in the day.

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The get together with my co-workers wasn’t all that amazing, I barely remember them because there were another thirty people there who I wouldn’t be working with and I was a bit lost. I do remember having lumpia for the first time, and a number of Hawaiian or local foods that were completely alien to me. They were all delicious though. It was strange to eat food in Hawaii that I’d never seen or heard of back at home in Pennsylvania. I remember realizing that “I don’t really know anything about the world.” That was a very strong feeling for the next ten years of my life as I moved around quite a bit. It’s a great thing when you start to acquire a bigger world-view. I love finding new ways people do things, new things to eat, and experiencing new culture. Hawaii offered that in abundance.

So we ate and had a beer or two and eventually headed down to the beach. The beach was “Makapu’u Beach Park” and my buddy Bob and Gary were talking about how the waves were supposed to be about 3 foot on the Hawaiian scale. I had no idea what that meant, but I was eager to see it – maybe a bit afraid to actually ride a board on them though.

When we arrived my mind was blown. It was a brilliant sunny day, the water was deep blue, and so clean looking from the highway where we stopped to get photos before going down to the beach. There were a couple of dozen people in the water riding bodyboards – surfboards cannot be used at this spot, or at least that was the ‘rule’ some people didn’t pay attention to. It was about 90°F and a light breeze. It was already the best beach, the best weather, the best view I could have ever imagined. Postcards didn’t do it justice. What really got me was the smell of saltwater in the air. When the wind blew the top of a wave, and when a wave crashed down at the shore-break, there is a release of a very fine mist into the air. I love that smell, and to this day that is one of my favorite memories of the beaches in Hawaii.

So, in the photo above you can see one wave almost read to break at the shore. The day I was there, there were waves breaking 100 yards out , and in a couple of different places. The waves were over my head in height, and I learned that 3 feet Hawaiian scale means around 5-6 feet in reality. I had a cheap $10 bodyboard and no fins and paddled out through the breaking waves to reach the ones I could ride. It took me about 20 minutes to get past the breaking waves because I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was doing. I watched some of the locals and tried to duplicate what they were doing, but it was more just a learning experience. Until I caught my first wave!

The first wave I ever caught on a bodyboard was about 5 feet high (3′ Hawaiian) and I slid down the face of it and the wave crashed behind me and pushed me forward really fast. It then re-formed and I slid down it again – just going straight ahead. I didn’t know how to turn or do anything but hold on really. The wave took me in about 150 yards, all the way to the beach where some of the people we came with were yelling cheers at me. It was a really cool experience and I looked back and saw where some guys still were waiting for a wave where I started and I was amazed I had gone 150 yards! I immediately turned around and charged back in for more.

It was a perfect day for me, this second day in Hawaii. There were a hundred or more of awesome days like this over the next four years at different beaches. Some of my favorites on Oahu are Waikiki, Ala Moana and Magic Island, Bellows, Waimanalo, and just about anywhere on the North Shore and west over by Dillingham Air Field.

I was going to keep going and list some more, but I’ll stop and let you tell me your favorite memories of Hawaii. I’d love to hear them!