Remember that time in January when I was like “HEY! 2016 is gonna be my year! I’m gonna travel more and go to sleep earlier and blah blah blah”?? Well…one of those things can be checked off the list and it’s not go to sleep earlier.
I’m back in the office today after an incredible trip to Hawaii, feeling anything less than sad to be back in Boston. Perhaps the post-vacay feels just haven’t quite caught up with me yet and despite 671 unread emails, plus the torrential downpours that welcomed me home, I’m feeling so glad to be back and so grateful for the experience.
My time in Hawaii, at the risk of sounding cliche, was a life changing one. I hesitate to use “once in a life time” because I’m not so sure I’m finished over there. I also hesitate to write this post, unsure that I’ll be able to find the right words to describe my 5 days in paradise, unsure that I’ll be able to do the sights I saw and the food I ate and the people I met, any justice at all. Which is, for me, a new feeling of uncertainty, when experiences can’t be translated into words, no matter how many times you pick-up your lap top and begin to punch the key board. But here’s my best attempt…
Day 1, I arrived on Big Island having successfully survived the flight that everyone said would be unbearable. To all of those people, everyone who immediately launched into horror stories of painful and endless flights to Hawaii, complete with delays, obnoxious in-flight neighbors and bad food, (and let me tell you, it was a lot of people), did any of you happen to like, open your eyes when you stepped off the plane?? I mean really, the endless blue sky, the 50 degree temperature jump, the PALM TREES, the friendly people?! Did none of those things eliminate every negative thought that might have snuck into your mind during your journey to paradise??? What I’m saying is, the flight didn’t phase me one bit and my arrival on Big Island began with an immediate swap from sneakers to flip flops, a quick application of sun screen and lots of pictures snapped of palm trees.
With some time to kill before Brae’s arrival from the East side of the island, I headed into the village of Kailua-Kona, back pack strapped in and rolling suitcase trailing every step. My cab driver dropped me off at a hostel in the center of a small, tourist town. “You’re going inside right?”, I wasn’t. He looked at me quizzically, I shrugged, he smiled and wished me luck and I headed down the street, towards the water. I walked parallel to the Pacific Ocean, in somewhat of a shock that I had finally arrived, unsure exactly of what I was looking for or where I was headed. I stopped at a waist-high stone wall, separating busy sidewalk traffic from the peaceful ocean roar, swung my feet over the edge and rolled my suitcase close by. Surrounded by so many unfamiliar faces, in a brand new place so very far away from home, I found comfort watching the waves roll in, one after another, hitting the shore in the familiar way that they do, whether on Nauset Light or some sandy spot in Hawaii. Groggy from the flight, I sat and watched the surfers for about an hour, feeling a mixture of disbelief, that I had actually booked this trip and made it to Hawaii, and pure elation, that I had actually booked this trip and made it to Hawaii.
Day 1 (my first full day in Hilo) was the only kind of day I had really planned for; a beach day. Beach towel, sunscreen (evidently, not enough) and trashy mags all packed up, we headed to a black sand beach off the coast of Hilo Bay. On this day I swam with Honu, the Hawaiian word for sea turtles, caught a pretty wicked sunburn, and made a new friend. I laid beneath palm trees and didn’t care how sandy I got, which for me, is pretty much the definition of letting go. Beach day started with an acai bowl, a berry smoothie blend topped with coconut, granola, cacao nibs, bananas and berries, and was followed by my first Poke bowl (top 5 best meals I’ve ever eaten…ever). To clue you in, a poke bowl is to sushi, as a burrito bowl is to a burrito…only better. Today was a lot of sun, sand and food, which fulfilled just about all vacay criteria that I had planned this trip around.
Day 2 brought me to a parade in downtown Hilo and to a few massive waterfalls that literally took my breath away. When I say that a beach day was the only kind of day I was prepared for, I mean that I was 100% unprepared for just about any other activity…and there were a lot of other activities. I scaled waterfalls and hiked across unstable lava rock in brand new flip flops and that one dress I packed, the one dubbed my “luau” dress, that’s still buried somewhere at the very bottom of my suitcase. My freshly manicured hands clung to rocks and reeds as we made our way up slippery paths through rain forests and waterfalls and my toes stayed perfectly polished despite endless cuts and scrapes. Plus, it turns out, hair straighteners are VERY unnecessary while camping. On Day 4, at the top of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, it’s peak the highest point in the state of Hawaii, at a chill 40 degrees, I layered up in borrowed hoodies and warm pants and hiked to the summit, to watch the sun disappear into a layer of clouds that separated the top of the volcano from the rest of the world beneath us. Sharing one blanket and three beers, snuggled up against jagged rocks, the three of us watched the sun go down and the stars come up, marking the beginning of the end of another perfect day.
Days 3 and 4 were my favorite, although I hesitate to use that word just thinking about the events that took place during the days before and after. Each day is completely impossible to rank, all of them blending together to make one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Days 3 and 4 were really great days, filled with so many activities and new experiences, lots of laughs and pure, simple, happiness. Days 3 and 4 felt like one endless day. We began with a roadtrip, from Hilo to Kona, driving roughly 70 miles between two massive volcanos and nothing else. We tried and came very close to taking the road less traveled to a secluded beach but ended up turning around in fear of punctured tires and lost car parts. We watched the sun go down, pitched a tent and a few hammocks and settled in for a night beneath the stars. On day 4 I woke up on the beach, started my day with a very big swig from a water bottle which I realized just after the fact, was covered with ants, and went for a swim in the impossibly blue ocean. On days 3 and 4, I felt really lucky to be alive and so very happy to experience Hawaii with such seasoned professionals and dear friends.
Day 5 was the perfect finale complete with paddle boarding in Hilo Bay and pie! We traveled to the southern most point, stopping at two coffee farms along the way, drank a beer at the southern most bar, ate some loco moco and watched the sun go down while sharing three slices of pie and a bottle of wine. Day 5 was another really great one.
On day 6, my final few hours in Hilo (brace yourselves mom and dad), I missed my first flight home because, well…Hawaii and island time and live aloha, dude. A minor set back in my journey back to Boston that could have been a really terrible end to my vacation but actually turned out to be pretty awesome. It resulted in one bonus hug from my host and dear friend, Brae, an extra 40 minutes in Hilo, a hilarious sprint through the Honolulu airport, busted flip flop and all, and a beautiful view of Hilo’s Rainbow Falls.
Standing at the gate unable to board my flight, I felt a very calm and unfamiliar feeling of “oh well” mixed with an all too real frantic feeling of “dad’s going to kill me”. There was just something about Hawaii that made peaceful content speak louder that frantic chaos.
If you’re still reading, thanks! I’ll admit, selfishly, I wanted to be sure I wrote this post so that my memories from Hawaii existed not only in photographs and in my head, but also in a very tangible space on the internet. This is probably one of my less exciting stories, I wasn’t too thrilled with the pics (not enough faces and food) and I still don’t believe that my words here do my trip very much justice at all but I am forever grateful for this experience, for the sights I saw and for the people that showed me around, welcomed me into their home and tried so hard to get me to stay forever, dropping me at the airport a mere 6 minutes before take-off…
Without one very special old friend and a few new ones, this trip would not have been anything close to what it was, so endless thank you’s to those guys. They truly put the “BIG” in Little Anne’s Big Adventure and gave me a whole lot of memories that I will cherish forever, and for that I am forever grateful.