For the last two weeks my wife and I, and most of our family, have been enjoying the warmth and beauty of Hawaii. After spending four days on the big island, staying at the Marriott, we moved into the house at Kailua, Oahu which we rented two years ago, and it’s still our favourite place on earth. It’s 30 minutes by car from Waikiki, and light years away in ambience. The house we rent is surrounded by lawn and sits right on a magnificent beach, where the sand is pure white and feels like talcum powder.
America has become much more expensive, with the US dollar at 74 cents, which makes the conversion rate 1.35. Therefore, if you go to dinner and the bill for six people is US$400, it is then inflated by a tip of 20%, which is $80, and you find yourselves paying AU$648. As always, I use my 28 Degrees MasterCard, which has the best conversion rates available and no commission, but was careful not to ever use it for hotel confirmations. I always kept my trusty Amex card for that. This is because the hotels put a notional amount of $1000 or more as a guarantee when you check in, and it seems to stay there for a long time.
We went to the fabulous discount shopping mall, where the family had a great time – my only expense was a bottle of water because I thought everything else was too dear. However, I did spend an hour trying to help a woman from Sydney who had used her NAB card when checking into her hotel, and now found herself without funds. She spent at least 30 minutes on the phone to the bank in Australia trying to get a temporary limit for the day. The time difference made matters worse, as 10.00am in Hawaii is 6.00am in Sydney. I would hate to think what the phone bill was.
Actually, as long as you’ve got WiFi, the phone is cheap. I normally use Skype, which lets me call any Australian number at minimal cost, but have also started using RingCredible, which is slightly dearer. However, it’s a bit more convenient than Skype because you can access all your contacts very easily. Thanks to email, Skype and RingCredible, you can do all your business offshore with minimum fuss.
When I was there I had to execute an important legal document and that was so easy through UPS. The document was emailed to me and I emailed it to their Kailua office. We then went to the office, executed the document in front of their notary, after which they scanned the document in colour and emailed it back to the solicitors in Sydney. The original was then sent by UPS Express, with a guaranteed delivery time of 48 hours.
And one of the greatest tools when you’re travelling, and need to keep in touch with what is going on in the world, is PressReader. For $30 a month, or $1 a copy (you can choose) you have access to almost every newspaper in the world. This enabled me to read the Australian papers every day, and also to pick up international papers when I wanted to find out the details of the latest UK budget. It’s one of those tools that I couldn’t do without.
Of course, being in Hawaii means you’re in the USA, a nation which in my view is eating themselves to death. All the serves are supersized, and full of sugar and syrup. A major advantage about being in a rented house was we could go to the markets, buy good food, and prepare our own meals. At least there was plenty of great Californian wine.