I’ve been thinking a lot about how to introduce you on my blog. I’ve only been away from you for a week but I still feel fireworks when I think of you. I want my readers to know — I want the world to know — all the ways in which you are a magical place, all the ways in which you surprised me, all the ways in which you blew my mind.
So I decided to write you this love letter.
I know people will think it’s just hyperbole if I say it was all shaved ice and double rainbows, all shakas and surf breaks all the time — but can we help it if we are just a match made in heaven? Okay, we had one bad day out of forty. One bad day in six weeks across five islands has to be some kind of record, I think.
I admit, we kind of got off to a rough start as well, what with me almost missing my Hawaiian Airlines flight and all. That was a pretty dramatic story, it’s true. But all the stress of the man having a heart attack on the Airtran, and my subsequent 9:20am arrival at JFK for a 10:00am flight, and the airline representatives escorting me through security, and the mad sprints through the gates, and my sweaty arrival as the very last person in the door of the aircraft — all that stress just melted away the moment I breathed that Oahu air and Wim greeted me at baggage, lei in hand.
We drove right to her house and I remember thinking, this is what the suburbs look like in paradise. And she laughed when I took pictures of everything, from the houses to the license plates to the clouds — but I really did feel like I was in a foreign land, despite never having my passport stamped. Isn’t that weird, Hawaii, how I can get in a plane in New York, fly for eleven hours to reach you, and still be in the same country?
We didn’t stay long at Wim’s house, because I was about to learn the first lesson of Hawaii — life is lived outdoors. So an hour after landing I was winding around beautiful curving roads, taking photos of stunning beaches, and hiking to a picturesque coastal lighthouse. I thought, well, day one and this is it — how can it get any better?
Little did I know what was to come — the adventures and discoveries and happiness that lay ahead of me. I didn’t know yet how orange the bubbling lava would be from a helicopter on the Big Island, or how my legs would burn after a twelve-mile hike through a crater on Maui, or how sweet the island reggae music would sound, as I sang along while driving across the Kaua’i coast with the windows down.
I didn’t realize how deep your culture runs, how strong your artistic community is, how proud and diverse your inhabitants are, how intense and varied your beautiful landscape can really be. I didn’t know that there was so much more to you than grass skirts and ukuleles — though I do admit that ukulele sound really did grow on me.
I didn’t know yet how my eyes would well in my mask as manta rays soared over me on a night dive, how my face would hurt from smiling at relearning the joys of solo travel, how salty the air would taste running alongside the ocean in the mornings, how blissful it feels to be in the exact right place at the perfectly right time.
How lucky I feel to have had family and friends on each of these islands to host me and show me how locals live. How thankful I am to Wim and Dave for hosting me in Oahu, to Warren and Claire for taking me in on the Big Island, and to Heather for being my travel buddy. How grateful I am to my Uncle Mark and Aunt Linda for having me in Maui, and to the Banana Bungalow Hostel for making me feel like ohana for the rest of my stay there, and to Kyle for taking me to Lanai, and to Angie and Alex for inviting me to Kaua’i. How happy I am to have met so many wonderful new friends along the way, the kind of new friends who instantly felt like old ones.
I don’t think I can ever thank them enough for bringing me to a place that gave me so much joy. Hawaii, thank you for reminding me to live with aloha. Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for all the moments of bliss life has to offer. Thank you for reminding me that nothing makes me feel more alive than exploring a new place, than living actively and spontaneously, than traveling. Hawaii, I was coming out of a dark time when we met. Thank you for bringing me back to life.
With So Much Aloha,
“If you’re a truly lucky traveler, you won’t be the same person when you get home.” — Patrick Bredehoft