Don't forget to smile

Both Hawaii and Alaska are a lot alike, while being so different at the same time. Both places are surrounded by nature. But different kinds of nature. Fishing for tuna or fishing for salmon. Drinking mai tais or beer from the local brewery. They say “The Mainland” and we say “The Lower 48.” Same, but different. We have a lot in common with this place. When I say “this” place, it’s because I’m writing this article on the island of Oahu on my lanai. Lanai is really just a fancy word for patio, but I think it’s one of those rare Hawaiian words that is easy enough for us haole’s to pronounce (so we seize the opportunity every chance we get to sound local). But yeah. I’m on the patio.


One thing I’ve noticed here is everyone smiles. You might be thinking, of course they smile, you’re in Hawaii. That place isn’t a Dumpster. But honestly, I’ve been to other warm, beautiful places (this year even) and nobody is as friendly as they are here. I do this dorky test when I visit a new place outside of Alaska. I smile at 10 people and see who smiles back and then say, “3 out of 10 people smile here.” It’s like my own personal rating of how I feel about an area, but to be fair I do this daily, not just one day as I understand averages and hypothesis, which means a lot of testing. Anyways. This place is scoring across the boards and I’m about to just start handing out hugs soon. And will probably get a coconut thrown straight at my head.

Speaking of being a total nerd, I met a friend online that lives here in Waikiki, so we met up here on the island. Yes. I know. That is pretty crazy for the average person to fathom with all the Dateline horror stories. However, her draenai death knight and my worgen warrior just hit it off one night in guild chat and every since then we’ve really gotten to know each other. If that sentence made no sense to you, consider yourself blessed with a healthy reality and sense of self. I am talking about an online video game that lends a hand at escapism when I don’t feel very social “in real life.” I’m in pretty deep.

But anyways, over pina coladas and whatever blue fruity drink my husband had (he had three), we talked a lot about how similar Hawaii and Alaska are to each other. We are disconnected in the sense that if you turn off the TV or computer you will literally not know anything. In Hawaii you can’t drive too far. Well. Into the ocean. And in Alaska we have one highway getting us anywhere. If you had no idea how many mountains we had, you’d think a crazy person created the route. “OK, you go pretty far north, then hang a right and go back down.” What?

So basically, besides being engrossed in the media or traffic commuting, we are more concerned about terrible shipping and all the cute baby contests we can’t enter our kids into, because we’re not part of the continental United States. (Obviously that last one really hit home with me.) They’re like, “You’re a state and part of the nation. .. but not really.” Lame. Hawaii is the cute girl that everyone keeps around, because they genuinely like her and she has juicy pineapples. Alaska is the big tough guy that everyone keeps around, because he’s handsome with nice mountains.

Yes, that was all kinds of wrong, but just go with it.

So while sitting in this karaoke bar with my new friend, only locals and one group of sober, jolly people were singing. We joked how this group might possibly be from the midwest. They were just real friendly and happy to be there. But they were actually from Fairbanks.

Here’s the thing: near the end of the night my new friend was impressed by how friendly these people were. She asked, “Are all Alaskans like this?” No. Nowhere is everyone happy and friendly (Dog heaven? No? Too soon?). But a couple days into my trip it feels like our common denominators with Hawaii have been pleasant. If friendly people is one of them, that is good news. We are all a people that understand independence and appreciate being unique. There are probably a few other states that feel that way (Texas, anyone?), but basically relating over terrible shipping is my favorite gripe with locals, so Hawaii is my numero uno.

There are many places to visit and continue my “smile testing,” but who knows. Maybe I will end up in the Bayou with no smilers, but still the best people I’ve ever met. But until then, mahalo!

Kasi McClure enjoys being a wife and mother of two in Kenai. She can be reached at


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