It’s All About Mother Nature

Being born and raised in Hawaii, there are a lot of things I took for granted. The list is especially long because I was conveniently located in downtown Honolulu, but here are a few of the biggies:

  • The beaches. Specifically, beaches next to the ocean. I found an article about sandy beaches in Colorado that are “pure paradise,” but if you’re from Hawaii and you look at the photos of said beaches—which are next to lakes—there’s a good chance you’ll feel nothing but pure depression.
  • The food. I don’t cook very often—OK… I actually don’t cook at all—so living down the street from Liliha Bakery was like being in heaven. And, just about anything and everything else I craved was no more than a ten-minute drive away. Even if I went to a fast food joint, I could count on everything tasting fairly decent. This brings me to the next thing on my list…
  • The water. Everyone knows the tap water in Hawaii is among the cleanest around, so I certainly didn’t expect to find the same quality of water in Colorado. However, I also didn’t expect to learn that the water here may be unsafe for drinking because it contains abnormal amounts of a chemical found in Teflon and Scotchgard. I should’ve known something was up, though, because I purchased fountain drinks from three different places here and they ALL tasted funky. Needless to say, both Koa and I are now strictly bottled-water drinkers. (Can you believe I have a dog who drinks SmartWater?!)

Today, as we walked to the dog park in 32-degree weather, I thought about these things. I looked down at the dirty, slushy snow beneath our feet and wondered why I left the warm beaches, the delicious and diverse food, and the drinkable water. But then, I looked up. I looked up and saw what I think was the first real photo-worthy thing I’ve seen since I got here. I saw how beautiful a barren tree looked with the bright blue sky in the background and I remembered one of the big reasons I came here: To experience mother nature as I’ve never done before. I want to play in the snow, climb up the mountains, and yes, swim in the lakes.


There are things I miss, but there are so many new things I’ll be able to experience. Now that the snowstorm is over, it’s time to get out and start doing just that.

The Meaning of Dog Friendly

In addition to the low cost of living and the change of scenery, another reason I chose Colorado as my next home is because it’s known as being very dog friendly. In fact, ranked Colorado Springs #3 on its “2015’s Best and Worst Cities for Pet Lovers” list. Honolulu came in 70 spots later. As far as I can tell, there are indeed lots of dog friendly places to go here: restaurants, hotels, parks, hikes and even random dog friendly attractions, such as the Ghost Town Wild West museum. Most apartment buildings and homes for rent are also pet friendly.

This brings me to the conclusion that pet friendly means exactly that: pets (presumably dogs) are allowed in many more places here than they are in other cities. That’s it—nothing more, nothing less. Here are some specific lessons I’ve learned:

  • Just because a place is dog friendly does not mean the dogs themselves—or their owners—are friendly. It is unwise to allow your dog to greet (a.k.a. sniff) other dogs unless their owners are clearly OK with it. In Hawaii, most people want their dog to meet yours; few pull their pets back. Here, it’s the opposite.
  • Though dog parks may be abundant, it doesn’t mean they’re safe. Thanks to a couple of locals I’ve spoken with, I now know that Palmer Dog Park is OK, but it’s best to avoid Bear Creek Dog Park, since “dogs get bit by rattlesnakes there all the time.” There’s even a Rattlesnake Avoidance Clinic sponsored by a local dog trainer—for $60, they’ll teach you how to keep your dog safe from rattlers while on the trails of Colorado.
  • Hypothermia in dogs is very real and sounds incredibly scary—especially since I’ve seen Koa shiver when we were outdoors. The best way to prevent it is to “avoid extreme cold for extended periods,” but he has shivered after only a few minutes. I guess the cold may be too much for my Hawaiian pooch.
  • Your dogs’ paws should be “winter proofed.” After seeing Koa excessively lick his paw following a walk in the snow, I did a quick Google search and Cesar Milan taught me that salt and deicers can be toxic to man’s best friend. Feeling like a terrible pet parent, I cleaned Koa’s paws then went out and spent $50 on boots that he hates but will be forced to wear.


This brings me to my final lesson:

  • Dog friendly definitely does not equal wallet friendly. After spending $134 on food, treats and yes, those dang boots, I can safely say that dog goods cost just as much here as it did in Hawaii.

Well, at least I know my spoiled little mutt is happy and safe.



Shoveling Away

In the past few days I haven’t seen much of the outside world, with the exception of a quick Walmart run for dog treats and a stop at Culver’s for a butterburger and frozen custard. (To all the Hawaii natives: Culver’s is a chain that serves delicious, made-to-order burgers between buns that are apparently cooked in butter. And the best part? No calories! Wink, wink.)

I think being cooped up is prolonging my jet lag. I’m still sleeping at 2 a.m. and waking up around 10 a.m. It’s not helping my appetite, either—for some reason, I don’t feel hungry and have to remind myself to eat. Back home, if I was stuck inside all day, I’d take Koa for a walk or run just to get out. Unfortunately, he’s still in the “do my business and run back into the house” mode; I can’t get him to stay out in the snow for more than five minutes.


So, when my friend told me she was going outside to get the snow off and away from her car, I said I’d help her. After being indoors for several days and not really engaging in any physical activity, I figured I could use some exercise—even if shoveling snow in the freezing cold wouldn’t exactly be my activity of choice. But after about an hour of talking story, scooping and scraping, the ice and snow were off her car and the driveway was cleared. And you know what? It wasn’t that hard.


I don’t understand women who refuse to do it, insisting their fathers or husbands do it for them. True, people have dropped dead doing this winter chore (as with any physical activity, older or out-of-shape people should be cautious…), but I agree with Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist. We need to close up the snow-shoveling gender gap, people! If this snow newbie from Hawaii can shovel a driveway full of snow, anyone can. So to all the healthy, able-bodied, non-pregnant women out there in this white winter: Get a grip, get out, and grab a damn shovel!

I Wanted to Build a Snowman

When I decided to leave Hawaii, one of the determining factors in choosing Colorado Springs as my new residence was the cost of living. According to CNN’s cost of living calculator, you’d only have to bring in roughly half of your Honolulu income to make a living in the Springs. To put this in perspective: If you’re raking in $100,000 annually in Hawaii, you’d only have to earn $51,620 in Colorado Springs to maintain the same lifestyle. Housing costs—which are 66 percent less in the Springs—obviously have a huge impact. But, why? What could possibly justify such a disparity? On day three of this adventure I call moving, I believe I’ve found the answer: The cold! The freakish, ridiculous, heart-stopping cold!


I made the discovery this morning. As forecasted, the snow began to fall in the early hours and when I awoke, I looked out the window to see every roof, every driveway and every backyard covered in glorious white. I dressed myself and Koa, then headed out the door. It was time to build a snowman! Or so I thought…

The fun stopped about 30 seconds into it. I wasn’t just cold; I was freezing—and Koa was shivering. I quickly realized I was the only person outside on the entire street. How can this be? I thought. This isn’t like the movies! Where are all the kids running outside, sledding and making snow angels? There wasn’t a single child in sightIn fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were watching the crazy brown woman from their windows, in the comfort of their heated homes.

I was determined to make a snowman of some sort, albeit a small one. But once I touched the snow with my bare hands (I know…  I need gloves), I stopped to reevaluate the situation. I could either (a) continue to attempt the snowman construction and possibly freeze to death or (b) go back into the house like a sane, normal person would. After thinking about how tragically embarrassing being found frozen on the front lawn would be, I retreated back into the house like a sad, defeated child. And now I sit in front of my laptop, typing this story while donning fleece-lined leggings, jeans, fleece-lined socks, Ugg boots, a long-sleeve thermal shirt, a fleece jacket and a hat, while Koa has burrowed himself under the blanket. (We’re hiding in my room so my housemates, who are walking around in T-shirts, can’t see how insane I look.)


So, this is why I suspect homes are so much cheaper here: You’re constantly forced to stay inside of them. There’s no running off to the beach or the mall or the park anytime you feel like it. According to my housemates, it can take three to four hours for the roads to be cleared after heavy snow—on a good day. On a bad day, schools close down and companies tell their employees to work from home. That means you can be stuck in the house for days on end with kids, dogs and work you need to get done. So of course you need a big, (cheap) house. Doing all that in an average Hawaii-sized home would feel even more like imprisonment than it does now. On the bright side, I’m all caught up on my emails.


An Uber Experience

Since I’m anticipating being holed up for the next few days (there’s 22 inches of snow coming and I don’t even own snow boots), I decided to get out and visit Garden of the Gods while the weather allowed. A national natural landmark, the park boasts 300-foot sandstone rock formations that are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There are also multiple trails that Koa and I took advantage of, as well as a nature & visitor center that I will have to see another time, because the park closes at 5 p.m. in the winter.


It’s just as well, because my trip there and back were actually the more memorable parts of the day. Since I’m currently carless, I figured I’d just request a Lyft or an Uber for my little field trip. I also may or may not have considered calling the sketchy person on Craigslist offering $10 rides anywhere in Colorado Springs… Anyway, I ended up going with Uber, because the Lyft driver I got paired with refused to transport Koa unless I put him in a carrier. I didn’t know it at the time, but that Saab-driving Lyft fellow was doing me a favor.

My Uber driver turned out to be a former Olympic wrestler from Armenia who now coaches the U.S. team. (Colorado Springs is home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center.) He was a very interesting person to chat with for the 25-minute ride to Garden of the Gods. I listened to him speak passionately in his Armenian accent about the corruption and deceit going on everywhere. He said all would be right in the world if people knew Vedic knowledge and followed one simple rule: “Do not harm anyone or anything.” I concur.

He also got very excited when I told him I was a writer—he said he wants me to help him write a book he’s sure will be a bestseller. When I laughed, he looked at me in the rear-view mirror and said sternly, “I’m serious.” So serious, in fact, that he told me to call him personally for my return ride. I did, and he showed up with his wife, who was also a pleasure to speak with. They pointed out different parts of the city, such as the new developments, Old Colorado City and the “farm” area where the houses look the same as everywhere else, but there are dirt roads and people own horses. Since they live just a couple of streets away from where I’m staying, they also showed me their house—where the rest of the family came out to say “Hi.”

Thanks to an Uber ride, I saw amazing sights, met fascinating people, received an invitation to visit the Olympic Training Center and possibly walked away with a new work project. I’d say day two of Springs living was a success.




The Journey to Colorado Springs

With the exception of individuals in the military, I’ve never had someone tell me they are leaving Hawaii to move to Colorado Springs—it’s the equivalent of saying you’re choosing to leave a tropical paradise to live your life in the cold rain and snow. Still, I made the decision to pack up and drag my dog along with me to journey to the Springs in January—the coldest month of the year.


For the most part, I got a lot of encouragement. After all, I’m 30 years old and have only lived in Hawaii. What’s more, I’ve never seen snow. Never been able to ski or snowboard or build a snowman. I’ve never been to Disneyland, either, but that’s another story for another day…

Just about everyone thought the move would be great for me. They’d talk about how it was going to be a good experience, a way to broaden my horizons, etc. Everyone, that is, except the woman two seats away from me, sitting next to the window on Alaska Airlines flight 852. When she asked if I was going to Colorado to ski, I said, “No, I’m moving there.” Her jaw dropped and she looked completely mortified. “WHY?” she asked. “Why would you leave Hawaii?”

At first, I was speechless. I looked down at Koa, my dachshund mix, who was now whining. Why WAS I leaving Hawaii? Will I freeze to death? Will Koa freeze to death? Has the plane started taxing yet? Maybe I still have time to grab my stuff and get out of here! But, after a few seconds, I gathered my wits and gave her the same answer I’ve been giving people for months: “I need a change.” And I truly do—I need a change of scenery to shake up my daily life. There’s a lot to do in the Islands and Hawaii will always be home, but there are certain things you will never be able to experience unless you fly away for a bit.

In fact, as I type this a mere eight hours after landing, I’ve already experienced a whole lot of change:

  • First of all, altitude sickness is real. Fortunately, I have yet to experience any extremely adverse reactions, but I could definitely feel the difference the moment I stepped off the plane. I have both a hard time and an easy time breathing all at once. It feels like the air is cleaner and crisper, but my body is having a more difficult time processing it. Needless to say, I’ll take my friend Jess’s advice: “Don’t go running a 5k as soon as you get there.”
  • The static electricity is crazy. I have to tie my hair back because it keeps sticking to my face, and I get shocked touching car doors nine out of ten times. Poor Koa got shocked, too.
  • Speaking of hair, the low humidity has been working magic on my tresses. Sure, it constantly sticks to my face, but it’s like the texture of my hair has completely changed. It feels light and fine, not heavy and thick like it used to. I bet people here don’t even know what a Brazilian Blowout is!
  • Unfortunately, though my hair looks great, my skin does not. It’s now so dry it almost hurts. Moisturizer is a must. By the looks of it, probably multiple times a day.
  • This list would not be complete without mention of the cold. Oh, the cold! The sun is shining, but the wind is like ice! And today was a “good” day, with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s. I used to keep a space heater under my desk at work, so temperatures in the 50s are already borderline freezing to me. I don’t know what I’ll do next week, when the highs are in the 20s.

On the upside, though, Koa and I saw and touched snow for the first time today. That’s one check off my list! Who knows what tomorrow will bring?