I was 21 years old when I stood atop the famous Waimea Bay rock preparing to leap into the sea. As I waited my turn to jump off from the 35-foot cliff, the North Shore sunset transformed the sky into a thousand shades of pink, orange and purple. My first jump was amazing: exhilaration, fear and joy! It was then I promised myself, “I am going to live here.” Less than a year later, my dream became a reality.

With only three suitcases and a plane ticket for a six-hour flight, I was about to embark on an incredible adventure to the Aloha State.

When I first arrived, everything was new to me. I clearly was not in Scottsdale anymore. All I once knew had instantly changed, from the increased price of daily necessities to the significance of everyday words used in my new home.

My “flip flops” were now “slippas.”

A gallon of milk costs $5.60 instead of $1.79.

North, east, south and west morphed into mauka, makai, Diamond Head and Ewa.

And loyalty to your high school in Hawaii is as intense as the rivalry between Arizona State and University of Arizona.

It was terrifying and exciting to be in a brand new environment with so much to learn and see. The beach was just three blocks away from my Waikiki apartment and the daily temperature never exceeded 85 degrees. Everywhere I went, people were sincere and seemed to have an intangible glow about them as they smiled and greeted strangers.

Although adjusting to life in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has not always been easy, I believe without fear there would be no bravery. I am 2,911 miles away from friends, family and the familiarity of home and I absolutely love it. Every day is a new day that presents new challenges, from paying my own rent for the first time to finding cheap (or at least cheaper) groceries.

Since I first arrived in Honolulu, I believe I have learned quite a bit but there is still so much left to discover. One thing is certain: Hawaii is unlike anywhere else in the country. A newcomer who wants to thrive in the Islands is introduced to a unique set of principles. I have found the most important to be:

  1. It’s not just a virtue, but a necessity. Sometimes the easiest and quickest way is not always the best way to foster quality relationships and conduct your life.
  2. Sincerity and respect. Be sincere and respectful to all you meet. It takes time to be kind and you will be more successful once you learn to care for others.

When I look out of my apartment window every morning and see the sun rise behind the green mountains and valleys, I feel blessed to have the privilege to live in paradise. Arizona will always be my home, but I am proud to call Hawaii the place I truly want to be.