That was probably a bad joke, but I’m just going to run with it.
Back in late February, one of my best friends Bill and I went on a 10-day excursion to Hawaii. Skipping the over-hyped Big Island and the drivers that run you over in Oahu, we journeyed to Maui, which is simply one of the more beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
When I first got the text from Bill that tickets were at the cheapest they’ve ever been, and miraculously he has family we can stay with when we go, I immediately jumped at the opportunity because to be honest, I’m not really much of a surf & sun kind of person on my own.
I know what you’re thinking..
Black, white and tan sand in between my weird, baby toes.
So what I mean by that is, you wouldn’t catch me drooling over exotic locations where the sand is white and the sun is hot because I simply prefer being surrounded by mountains with a cool breeze on my face. I decided not to go in with too many expectations and bought my ticket solely on the idea it was somewhere new and far away from what was going on in my life at the moment. I’ve learned you cannot run away from life, but learn how to process what is going on in a completely different environment, surrounded by a whole bunch of new people and perspectives. It ended up being exactly what I needed.
But I digress.
The plane ride(s) were from hell and I thought I was going to have to cut our trip short because my legs had become incredibly painful from sitting for so long in such a short span of time. I ended up taking a whole lot of aspirin and was left with a nasty mystery bruise on my calf and sweet cough for the duration of the trip. It was great. I made a map of all the places we ended up stopping (hint: it was only supposed to be a one-layover trip, thanks American Airlines..)
Once we arrived on Maui, everything changed. Despite our lack of sleep and endless plane rides, the island itself was complete bliss. I don’t know what it was, but the place just had me in a great mood the entire time. I absolutely loved being able to stay with people who had practically lived their entire lives on Hawaii.
As someone who is huge on learning about the culture and history of any place I visit, Aunt Andrea always had a story to tell behind each place we went and Aunt Cindy was quick to explain the meaning behind a lot I would have generally missed out on. The ties to the past and traditions here somewhat surprised me, not really sure what I should expect from Hawaii going into it, Maui became less of a beach getaway and more of a place I could fully immerse myself into exploring.
Thanks to Bill’s family, we had a car to cruise the island and boy did we make good use of that little beast, almost making a complete loop of Maui during our 10-day stay
What I Expected From Hawaii:
- Grass skirts .
- Hawaiian shirts.
What I Got Instead:
Lei’d (a real flower lei, none of those plastic flower ones!)
As soon as we stepped off the plane from our long journey, we were greeted by Bill’s aunt and cousins. Draping lei’s over our tired heads, I reached up and was shocked to find soft petals between my fingers. They had looked so beautiful in the waning light, I had believed them to be fake. It was the best welcoming I had ever received.
Nearly private beaches
The beaches for the most part, were uncrowded and pristine. Though it seemed most were pretty narrow from the treeline to the actual ocean, all the sand was buttery soft and ready for our toes. Bill’s birthday was spent on the beach, surrounded by his loved ones and not another soul in sight.
Exploring Iao Valley was both a lesson in history and a mind-blowing experience. I had not expected the steep mountains on Hawaii, after-all I went into this trip trying to keep my expectations at a minimum. It was funny, as we drove around the island, I found myself pointing up at the mountain ranges whereas Bill had his eyes trained on the ocean on the other side of the road. Needless to say, it’s a good thing we stayed under the speed limit for the most part.
View from Aunt Andrea’s house. Seriously.
100% not dirt mounds and will hurt to fall on. I don’t know what I was expecting honestly as we walked among the lava fields. They just looked like soft pillows of dirt cropped up here and there, but as soon as I went to lay my hand on one, it was intensely sharp and not at all what my senses were seeing it as. You could see the different variations in scraggly rock versus smooth lava flow hardened over depending on the age and conditions of it. Lava rock snaked its way down mountain tops, looking like a dirt ski slope in some areas.
La Perouse Bay
Side-of-the-road, homemade banana bread that was OUT of this world.
As we winded around the sharp turns of the Road to Hana, there were little fruit and banana bread stands everywhere. The weather made a turn for the worse, and we stopped at this little one for some warm banana bread that had just been packaged up as soon as we arrived. The rain and humidity did not stop me from eating close to an entire loaf though.
Lessons in history, culture, and traditions of the island .
Throwing flowers into the serene waterfalls at Iao Valley for someone we each lost, yet wanted to pay tribute to. Both of Bill’s aunts were attune to the traditions of the island, making sure we paid our respects at such an emotionally charged historic site. Some of the locals refuse to even enter the area including Aunt Andrea’s husband, saying the energy of the place was so heavy with pain and sadness from all that had perished here. Being somewhat attune to atmospheric changes, there was a bit of weight in my chest as I threw flowers over the bridge, including one extra for those forgotten at this now-serene place.
But most importantly, a sense of peace and belonging.
Even if was only for a short while.
I have struggled with anxiety and depression for a few years now, and when there’s a sense of stillness in the air, it comes as a shock. When more days are dark, you tend to notice the sunshine a lot more. Hawaii left me with a sense of peace and belonging as we cruised the island with the windows down. I recall telling Bill I felt as if I was on something strong, I couldn’t stop smiling as the gentle breeze ruffled my hair and the sun warmed my face.
I strongly recommend traveling to a place where either you or your travel companions have family, friends, college roommate, or even just someone you may have met in passing that live and breathe the place you would only scratch the surface of if you went in cold. Don’t get me wrong, both methods are great for traveling as sometimes it can be better to explore a place on your own, but in this case, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Have you been to Hawaii yet? What tropical island are you most in love with?