Ten Ways I’ve Learned to Hawaii-ify My Life

…and this is just the beginning, my loves. Look out for a bit of aloha every month from here on out – it’s about time this blog includes some sunshine!

Here we go!

Number 10: The minute I stopped wearing a bra, my boobs stood at attention again. (Don’t skip this one boys, you might need this one day when you’re much, much, much older.)

Somewhere in October, I looked in the mirror and noticed my nipples were staring right back at me – challenging me to a duel in the mirror. I haven’t seen my nipples since about 2008, so this is clearly a fabulous side effect of living in the rainforest.

Living in the jungle, we literally don’t want to be touched between the hours of 8am-4pm. The humidity makes everything cling to us, meaning if we could do all of our work naked all day long, we would (which is actually perfectly acceptable). However, our bodies would then become a feeding ground for fire ants, so, let’s just say, we’re all better off wearing minimal clothing to at least protect our most precious bits.

But somewhere around September, I started wearing all my tank tops sans a bra. I mean, I even cut out the sensible half-demi lace cami thing from Urban that I wore every day of the summer. And my boobs aren’t saggy anymore. Apparently, I’m told that when we cease to wear a Vicky’s Secret, our chest muscles engage and our boobies pop up to the surface for air… and don’t really go back! I assure you that whatever the science is behind it, it works. I have never loved my boobs more than I do since nixing the encasements and the underwires.

If the weight of your boobs won’t pull you face-first onto the kitchen floor if you let them hang free, then I really encourage you to try nixing the tittie cages. Whenever you can. Let the girls fly free – especially in the winter under those bulky scarves, sweaters, and hoodies! You’ll be amazed at the difference.

Bottom line: boobs love freedom. They will reward you if you let them free.

Number 9: Coconut oil cures everything.

Have a zit? Baby bit of coconut oil overnight. Dry hair? Coconut oil dousing pre-shampoo. Cold sore? Skip the Abreva, sub coconut oil. Add it to smoothies for a healthy dose of fat. Cook your eggs in it to eliminate any acid reflux or heartburn. Sub it for butter in baking. More uses here: Coconut Oil Tips. Bye.

Number 8: Fancy shit doesn’t make anyone look cool.

 If you saw the pieces of shit cars people drive around here, you’d think we live in some sort of Breaking Bad marathon. If you followed that same car home to the house where it resides, you’d think you walked into an episode of Hoarders. Then you’d meet the pitbull that lives there and wonder if you’re about to be lunch for him and his buddy. But if you stayed a minute, a Hawaiian dude covered in tattoos would probably come out and ask if you’re hungry for lunch. Not only are Hawaiians nice, they have different priorities than the rest of the country.

Hawaiians don’t spend a shit ton of money on shit that doesn’t matter. They spend their Sunday’s at the local beaches grilling burgers with their kids and their friends, they hit the surf right after work and live for the days that the swell is borderline tsunami warning, and they spread aloha all over town. They wear t-shirts to dinner, they wear one pair of slippas (flip-flops) until they wear them out, and their big shopping sprees only happen at Oshima Surf and Skate when they need a new bathing suit. And they’re like, the happiest fucking people I’ve ever met.

We can learn a lesson from them all. We don’t need fancy shit to be happy.

Number 7: Where your food comes from, actually matters.

The Big Island of Hawaii recently banned GMO’s – meaning that even though we can still find imported apples and lettuce in the stores, none of our farmers have to use any genetically modified organisms to grow their crops. The papayas here, on the Big island, are just Papayas. No mutations, no pesticides. There’s a passion fruit tree outside my front door and I guarantee you it’s been there since the beginning of time. Monsanto didn’t come in and put it there to please my nostrils with it’s sweet scent.

To learn more about GMO’s, read this: What are GMO’s?

At the end of the day, I understand if you could care less about GMO’s, because sometimes, ignorance is bliss. It gets overwhelming to think about how fucked up all the food is that we put in our bellies – especially if you’re anything like me and have spent years putting things into your body that could probably destroy a small vehicle with the chemicals and artificial colors inside. In my first blog post, I was nowhere near the point where caring about GMO’s was within my reach. I was just happy to keep a half-gallon of ice cream in the freezer for more than 24 hours.

But the point is, because I have the privilege of living in a place in a place that uses GMO-free products, I just wanted to share with you how I’ve noticed that I feel better. My two and a half week visit to NYC destroyed my stomach. I had heartburn every day – and I realized it’s because I’m not used to eating mutated food and non-organic produce.

Yes, I sound spoiled. Yes, organic costs more. But I’m just putting it simply, and telling you that I feel better. Everyone feels better here. Zantac doesn’t leave the shelves as fast as it does anywhere else. That’s gotta be saying something.

Number 6: Hitch-hiking can restore your faith in humanity. (Thanks for reminding me, Rachel.)

Not only can you leave your Macbook on the front seat of your (piece of shit) car with the doors unlocked and come back and find it untouched after a long stint of (GMO-free) grocery shopping here, but you can also pick up hitchhikers and ask them to hold the computer on their lap during the ride.

I’ve met amazing people by putting out my thumb and hopping in backseats, including my dear friend Matthew, and no one’s ever made me feel uncomfortable or unsafe. They’ve offered me fresh avocados from their house that they were taking to the market, a hit of their pipe (tobacco…of course), and advice on how to find the best beaches that aren’t in the guidebooks.

My point? Maybe you can’t hitchhike in Philly or Detroit, but I share this in hopes that you find a tiny bit of hope in the fact that there still are places in the world where people are good, honest, and generous. Each time we get overwhelmed by the news and the shitstorm we call the media, we can all try to remember that the spirit of aloha is being transported all over the islands, and beyond. Please be assured that the entire population of the planet isn’t going to hell.

Number 5: E ho mai, bitches. (Ay-hoe-my, bitch-izz.)

The simplest meaning of “e ho mai” is “let it come, let it flow.” Hawaiian wisdom that is ancient, valuable, and downright necessary in this day and age.

It teaches us to let the wave crash, and watch it roll away. Let the rain come, and watch the rainbow after the storm. Observe the hardship, and celebrate the lesson afterwards.

Sounds like hippie shit, I know, but like, c’mon, you know me. I’m a skeptic with a cynical tongue designed by the likes of Chelsea Handler herself. When I say some Hawaiian hippie shit saves me daily, I beg you to consider listening.

When I get overwhelmed, or pissed, or just inappropriately whiny, I have to take responsibility for myself. It’s better for everyone if I can get back to a place where I can reason with the universe, or my ego, or the driver going ten miles under the speed limit in front of me. I could flip Mr. Tourist Car off, or I could breathe the Hawaiian version of “woo-sah”: E ho mai.

Let it come, let it flow.

Just try throwing it into your vocab this week a few times, or Googling it’s origins on your lunch break. See how you feel. It’s tattoo-worthy, vision-board gold, and greeting card advice that could save the next five generations.

We chanted this every single Monday morning at Kalani (the yoga retreat I lived at for 3.5 months):

E ho mai i ka ‘ike mai luna mai e
O na mea huna no’eau o na mele e
E ho mai, e ho mai, e ho mai
Give forth knowledge from above
Every little bit of wisdom contained in song
Give forth, give forth, oh give forth

Number 4: Sleep is not just for pussies.

Sleep is the fourth thing on every Hawaiian’s list of “Awesome Things”. It goes:

1. Surfing

2. Loco Moco

3. Aloha Friday

4. Sleeping

They call 10pm here “Puna midnight.” Puna is a section of the island where a lot of kambucha lovers, feather jewelry designers, and ecstatic dance (aka hippie church) adorers reside. That’s where I lived for the first three and a half months on the island. People go to bed at ten and get up with the sun. That means we are getting anywhere from 8-10 hours of sleep every night.

Sometimes, Johnny and I would pass out at 8:30pm and sleep til 7am the next morning. It’s just, a thing here. People sleep. And they are fucking chipper as fuck the next morning and don’t need coffee to say “aloha”. Oh, and everyone is healthy. Like, the most healthy. Women don’t need concealer under their eyes. Men do still like naps here. but I think that’s just a thing that men will never get over.

I have never felt more rested and more “with it” than I do while I am here. I am also obsessed with my mornings. Not only do I need less coffee to come to life, but I am awake early enough to FaceTime or Skype with my peeps on the East coast since I’m five hours behind. I realize that it’s mean to keep going on and on about the sunshine at 7am when the winters on the east coast are…the tiniest bit different, so I just want to say, that more sleep equals better quality of life.

Look, I know audition season is coming. Sleep is a distant dream during the upcoming months. But I just wanted to give a gentle reminder that it does help with health, metabolism, and keeping depression at bay – more so than martinis, even though we don’t want to face the facts. Every once and a while, it’s okay to fake a cough and stay home for an early bedtime. The worst thing you’ll get called is an old fart, and like, it could be worse. (This advice could have saved me a lot of grief the past five years.)

Number 3: Enough with the fucking chemicals.

Lysol and Windex are things of the past, people. Get on board with the natural disinfectant – white vinegar. That’s right. That shit we use to make Easter egg dye actually disinfects the toilet, too. Everyone here uses a 50/50 blend of white vinegar and water and rags, honey. Enough with the wasteful paper towels. Reuse all your holy jeans and ugly tees and wash ’em in hot, reserve ’em for cleaning. Bada bing. Bada boom.

Number 2: All bodies are awesome (the best one).

A year ago, I would have NEVER, EVER agreed to a photo shoot on the beach – even at thirty-five pounds lighter than I am right now. My body wasn’t “perfect” enough to blast all over the net. So imagine my old self’s surprise at this series of pictures:


The reason these snapshots are okay with my new self? I’m a recovering binge-eater and I live in Hawaii. Do you think Hawaiians give a shit about their bellies hanging over their swimming trunks? They live in Hawaii. They don’t care. They don’t buy Self and Glamour so they don’t know what they’re “supposed” to look like. They live, in Hawaii. Having a few extra things jiggle while they’re teaching their kids how to surf isn’t making or breaking their week.

I have never seen sexier men and women than I have since moving to Hawaii and I have seen all kinds of body shapes. These women don’t CARE that there’s more skin hanging out than Cosmo would allow. Their bikini bottoms cover the bare minimum and they walk around proud, loud, and sexy as fuck. They inspire me. I am learning to continuously love what I have, and in turn, I feel sexy as fuck, even though I have some jiggle-worthy parts in between bikini top and bottom. These Hawaiian women know what’s up. I wish I could take their confidence and spread it all over the world to women and men in need of a dose. Until I learn how to do that, all I can continue to share what I keep learning here in this always-inspiring culture.

Which brings me to number 1 on the list…

Number 1: Ohana. (This is actually the best one. I lied about number 2. Because I didn’t write this one. My ohana – my Hawaiian sister, Rachel did. From the heart, she tells it like it is. Remind you of someone?)

Ohana = Family

Ohana is the Hawaiian word for “family”. But the concept of family in Hawaii is much different than that on the mainland. You see, in Hawaii, family is not solely based on your bloodline or marriage certificate. Here, everyone is family.

There’s a lesson I learned during the opening remarks of ecstatic dance one week (again with the hippie church, don’t worry, we’ll explain it to you soon). The facilitator, Lino, spoke about dolphins. He pointed out that we love dolphins for no reason at all. Think about it. They aren’t really that cute with all that gray blubber… they don’t do anything for us… we can’t eat them… but everyone loves dolphins. Like, everyone. FOR NO REASON AT ALL. He then asked, why can’t we do that with people? Why can’t we look at a stranger, and, just, love them? Instead of judging them and focusing on their flaws, just love them. Like family. Like our ohana.

After that lesson from Lino, I started to look at everyone at the yoga retreat like they were family. Even the ones who irritated me and cut in front of me in the lunch line. Even the ones I didn’t think liked me. I walked around like I had 150 brothers, sisters, cousins & crazy uncles. And it totally changed my perspective.

Think about it like this. We all have have “that relative” right? Aunt Oh-Jesus-what’s-going-to-come-out-of-her-mouth-at-the-Thanksgiving-dinner-table and Uncle If-I-have-to-hear-the-story-about-your-gall-bladder-surgery-one-more-time and don’t forget Grandma-Guilt-Trip.

But we excuse them AND their flaws. We don’t write them off. We show them patience. We don’t stress as much about they’re imperfections. We give them the benefit of the doubt. Because they’re family. They’re our ohana.

I dare you to try to look at strangers in the same light. Focus on their good. Love them for no reason at all. Carry the ohana attitude with you. Like Lilo says in Lilo & Stitch (ugh, such a good movie don’t even try to argue):


“Ohana means family. And family means no one ever gets left behind. Or forgotten.”

With love from the Big Island (and beyond),
Amanda, and newest addition to the blog fam, Rachel Brannen
Rachel Brannen has been called the funniest woman in the state of Ohio (by her mother). Her strengths include creating envy-worthy Pinterest boards and utilizing social media for stalking purposes. She can also juggle. Stay tuned for her monthly guest blog post on how to incorporate more aloha into YOUR life. If anyone knows how to do it, it’s Rachel – the girl who took Hawaii home with her to Ohio. This is gonna be good, y’all.


  1. love you’re take on life will try my best to find a little Hawaii in Ohio. even if its cold enough to freeze you free boobs off. love ya

  2. Trusty,
    Rachel has taught me all she learned there and your blog re-enforces it:) Although as a mom I can’t say hitch-hiking is good. But I understand it is not like that there. You have brought out all the highlights of Hawaii life and I am so glad that Rachel got to experience it and meet you. And Rachel, I am so proud of your part of the blog. It does describe hippie lifestyle and since I have an inner hippie..I like it..or most of it. I think I will take your challenge and try to love people just for no reason. I do think that is what God wants me to do also. Not as easy as it sounds..but I will try. I missed you while you were in Hawaii, but was so happy to hear so much joy in your voice when we talked. I am thankful for all the “family” you met there and know they will be in your life always. I do think you are such a funny girl and you make me laugh and I need that. You will always be my little princess (who sometimes wears a lei instead of a crown.)

  3. AMAZING, DOLL!! unfortunately many of the papayas are GMO and will stay that way due to the bugs that think they are just as yummy as we do. buy organic, save your gut 😉

  4. Love it and so get it! Mahalo for the inspiring reminders of the Aloha spirit. Were you @Kalani?

  5. I just finished reading every post on your blog and wow. I have never read anything that I could relate too this much. As a musical theatre student and long time history of binge eating and restrictive behaviors I REALLY needed to read your blog. I am so glad I clicked on your roar video, I listen to that song every morning now. I was so inspired by this blog. I could relate to it so much I felt like I could have written most of it. Hopefully one day I can fess up and get help. I’m hoping to volunteer at Kalani after I graduate from college.
    Thank you so much.

  6. Pingback: With Aloha: Not Your Average Audition Advice | Trust Me, I've Been There

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