Hawaii: A Place That Feels Like its Own Country With U.S. Rights and Privileges

When going on a trip to the mainland, you might hear someone say, “I’m going to America!” This always makes me giggle because living in Hawaii feels decidedly like being in another country. To some, Hawaii is the 50th state, but it’s not “America.”

No, Hawaii is not a part of the U.K. It was at one time, but not now

Common Misconceptions About Hawaii

I’m reminded of this every time I leave the islands on vacation. Here are a few things I heard in New York recently.(And I don’t mean overheard):

  • You have to have a certain amount of money, a good job, be able to prove that you will hire x number of people and not be a drain on the society. (Nope – sounds like New Zealand)
  • Do you have to change currency? You have different money, right? (Nope. $USD)
  • Oh, you’re a state? I thought you were some sort of province, like Puerto Rico (Nope. #50)

I’m not bagging on New York, we get these sorts of questions wherever we travel.

Eating fresh lobster and fries on the side of the road is a Montauk, NY tradition

Vacationing Around the World

It’s amazing how many people all over the world have said to me, “Oh, you’re from Hawaii? I’m so sorry it’s raining, the weather is terrible, what a bummer you’re here right now.” Or, “You live in Hawaii, what are you doing here on vacation?” While it’s true I tend to plan my vacations around nice weather when possible, it’s never the reason I choose the destination.

Modern house in the Hamptons – on Beach Plum Road. Yes, I was on vacation. No comment.

While it’s true the weather in Hawaii is gorgeous most of the time, we also live and work here, which means all the same things in terms of stress that everyone experiences across the nation (perhaps at a slightly slower rate). We work hard, we play hard, and we also need to get away – get off the rock.


At the end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Long Beach. It’s definitely a long beach. With soft, sugary sand.

These past few years we’ve spent the Labor Day weekend in Long Beach, NY. on Long Island. This part of New York is incredibly patriotic. Every house has an American Flag flying, the walking/bike path has a memorial in the middle of it dedicated to Sept. 11th, and the boardwalk is lined with flags.

See all those white stars? Hawaii is #50

Until this year, I’d never heard anyone compare Sept. 11th with Pearl Harbor. Perhaps I wasn’t listening before, but it made me pause. Hawaii is the 50th state, and I’m proud to be an American.

I’m thrilled to live and work in a place that feels like another country, with all the benefits and rights and privileges of living in the U.S. Perhaps most of all, I’m grateful for the continued right to travel freely within my own country, and into and out of most countries around the world.

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7 Responses to “Hawaii: A Place That Feels Like its Own Country With U.S. Rights and Privileges”

  1. James Faretta
    September 14, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    It may sound strange, but I feel a little sorry for people who live in Hawaii, and here’s why; I live in Chicago. It’s a great city, I’m proud of it. People come here from all over the world and are amazed by my city. But all of my stress is here! All of my worries are here! When I want to get away, my favorite place in the world to visit is, what I believe is the most wonderful place in the world: Hawaii! I get to go (not frequently enough) to a dream…and visit, and fall in love all over again with such beauty!

    Hawaiians live in the place where THEIR stress and worries are, and no matter where they go, it’s just not as beautiful or dreamlike or wonderful as where they are from.

    …on the other hand…THEY ALL GET TO LIVE IN HAWAII AND I DON’T!!!

    • Katie Minkus, R(BIC)
      September 15, 2012 at 7:13 am #

      Aloha James, you are absolutely right – Chicago is one of my favorite cities as well! One of the best things about living in Hawaii and going on vacation is coming HOME to Hawaii! I never get on the plane to go home bummed my vacation is over because as you said, I’m lucky to live in one of the most wonderful places in the world!! Mahalo for your comment and hope you’re able to come visit us again soon!

  2. Cate McCann Fleming
    September 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    I too have logged endless hours around the globe, and yes, there ARE some incredible natural beauties in many other countries. But I have never found another place like here that I would permanently want to plant roots and raise a family…we have more than everything we need. Every time the plane touches ground in Lihue, Kauai, my heart gets butterflies. I am so thankful to call this place home. :)

    • Katie Minkus, R(B)
      September 27, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

      Totally with you on that, @Cate!! The way the air feels and smells when that airplane door opens in Hawaii.. ahhh… nothing like it! Puts a huge smile on my face every time!! Lucky we live Hawaii, indeed!

  3. Ben
    October 14, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    Hi Katie:-)

    I really relate to a lot of the points you made in your blog article. I’m originally from NYC (born and bred in Brooklyn), and so, I kind of grew up in a city that was it’s own “country” within the U.S. as well (in a way that MANY other US cities are NOT, because Manhattan inarguably is a global place). I’m privileged and fortunate enough to have visited Hawaii twice thus far (and now that I live in California (also a global state within the US), I can get there MUCH more conveniently! :-), and I REALLY respect the fact that historically and culturally, it IS another country.
    Yes, it’s convenient while travelling there because you don’t need your passport, nor to worry about currency exchange rates or a language barrier (but Hawaiian is definitely a native Polynesian language, and most ha’oles take that COMPLETELY for granted) BUT, Hawaii has a separate culturally rich history that is VERY different than that of the mainland US. Events like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are events that unite us all as “Americans” regardless of where we make our home.
    That’s why it’s so fascinating to me. Unlike Puerto Rico (or the Virgin Islands for example), Hawaii is MUCH less mainland influenced, which makes me love it all the more so. And, just because you get to live in paradise, doesn’t mean you don’t put up with the SAME exact stresses and pressures of everyday life that we ALL do. However, what I will say is that Hawaii residents have WAY healthier lifestyles and can enjoy unrivaled scenic beauty that we just don’t have on the mainland. I love Hawaii because it reminds me that we are a truly multi-cultural world, and we need to embrace and remember that when we visit places as special and unique as Hawaii is. At least that’s how I see it. I think people who merely see it as another state, undervalue its cultural significance and cultural legacy. Mahalo nui for allowing me to express these thoughts. I hope to return soon. Aloha.

    • Katie Minkus
      October 29, 2015 at 8:06 am #

      Aloha, Ben… Mahalo nui loa for your thoughtful comments!!! I couldn’t agree more!!

      ps – I’m on vacation in Cabo San Lucas right now – sometimes I call it “LA Lite” but that really doesn’t do justice to the Mexican culture and the incredibly wonderful, kind and generous people who live and work here!

      Ole and A hui hou!!

      • Ben
        October 29, 2015 at 10:43 am #

        Aloha Katie! Or should I say Hola!? I ❤ Baja immensely! I spend 2-3 weeks every year in Baja doing Sea Kayaking trips. It’s COMPLETELY different than mainland Mexico, and the people are AMAZINGLY nice, warm & welcoming. Mexico is amazing! I love being so close to it living in California. My next travel adventures are an upcoming European jaunt to Spain, Italy & France, followed by a trip to Cuba in the Spring. Enjoy your adventures, and Mahalo for your kind response.

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