I live in one of the most expensive places in the country. Most may think of Hawaii as warm sands, beautiful beaches and good vibes, but those that live here know the truth: Hawaii is pretty damn expensive. Forbes rated Honolulu, Hawaii as a direct tie with New York, New York for America’s #1 most overpriced city in 2014.
Let that sink in: the cost of living here, relative to economic opportunity, is just as redic as living in Manhattan. To be fair, we do have a lot in common with our bustling counterpart: it’s crowded, traffic is terrible, we hate tourists, and we’re both islands.
However, there’s a stark difference in the metaphorical bang we’re getting for our bucks. Living in New York brings a seemingly endless breadth of economic opportunities for nearly every niche. Everyone from writers, actors, models and musicians to computer programmers, accountants, and entrepreneurs can carve out a world-class career here. In Hawaii, we put up with a glaring lack of economic opportunity and limited jobs/careers for our own piece of paradise.
As a twenty-something slugging out her early (and poorly paid) years of post-grad life, Hawaii’s price tag is a hefty one. Since we’re an island in the middle of the ocean, we have to ship everything to us – which, naturally, drives up the price. The islands are all about high demand and poor supply, and paying almost $5 for a gallon of gas when the price is around 2$ everywhere else.
Food? Expensive. Gas? Expensive. Housing? Limited, and therefore expensive. I’ll give it to you straight: every single thing you need for survival is insanely expensive. On the flip side, though, the equally indescribable beauty and happiness of the island life is free.
The beach is free. Surfing, fishing, snorkeling, diving, swimming, relaxing, camping, and bbqing at the beach is always free. And we do it so often – in fact, every single chance we can – that it’s normal to get off work early on a Tuesday and head to the beach to surf and bbq with some friends until the sun goes down. I work a full time, 40 hour a week job and still make it to the beach four or five times a week.
Despite the heavy price tag, Hawaii is a place that speaks to my higher, truer self. The people here are full of warmth and love; I’ve easily found family here everywhere I turn. The lifestyle is simple but joyous, with a general focus on happiness and relaxation above the normal stress of careers, money, and perfection. Instead of seeking economic success, I’m chasing happiness. And finding it, each and every day, in the beautiful place I call home.
It’s tough not to move back to the mainland, especially when I’m out of money or food or gas or all three at once. But, I’ve found a place that makes my soul happy. I’ve fallen deeply in love with the turquoise waters and breezy weather and fantastic people. Hawaii may not be for everyone, but it certainly is right for me.