Aloha, Mahalo, and a Hui Hou, Hawaii

This entry is post-dated to reflect the actual day we left Hawaii, but it’s actually February 12. I’m only shattering this illusion of timeliness to illustrate exactly how much I have been dreading this post and the emotions that are bound to accompany it.

We YOLOHAed as best we could during our last week on Oahu. We had an amazing farewell drinks-and-apps sesh with a lot of our new friends at REAL a gastropub. We enjoyed every available second of lanai time. We ate Okinawan sweet potatoes and pineapple and sushi and Happy Haleiwa Waialua coffee peanut butter and hurricane popcorn. I got a tattoo of my happy place (Magic Island Lagoon) at Tattoolicious.

To say I was not ready to leave Hawaii is probably the understatement of the century. I spent two hours of our last full night ugly-crying on the lanai in the sarong and earrings I bought during our stay. I felt like there was still so much left to do and it was going to be so long before we could come back.

We ended up having to buy an extra suitcase to fit all of the souvenirs and other assorted items we procured over two months. I spent what felt like 12 hours packing every single thing in the condo amongst three suitcases, two laptop bags, and two carry-on bags. Mostly it was just me sadly shuffling around clutching various items of clothing I never even wore–I took two pairs of jeans to Hawaii, y’all!

Mike and I both put in a full workday the Friday we left. When he got home from work we meandered back to the Moana Surfrider for one final mai tai before heading to the airport. As we sat on the patio I watched the surf roll in and out… the people enjoying the sun and the surf… the various air and sea vessels crossing the horizon… it really hit me how much I was going to miss pretty much everything about island life. At least no one can tell you’re crying when you wear sunglasses! lol

surf-rider

Our first flight was a redeye on a gigantic plane, and–for whatever reason–it had what seemed like DOZENS of babies on it. I was deliriously tired, but every time I would nod off for a minute one of the babies would start screaming bloody murder. Yeah, yeah, I know babies don’t know what’s going on but when you already can’t sleep sitting up and you’re tired and depressed it just makes things that much more miserable. Our second flight was significantly easier and after a couple hours in the car we were back in Philly to get the dog and crash at my in-laws’ place. It was during that time that I learned that basically skipping an entire night of sleep and then going to bed “on time” on the East Coast is a remarkably effective way of combating jet lag.

I would love to say that I experienced all the personal growth I sought when we went, but work woes unfortunately inhibited some of that. Mike worked some pretty long days and eventually sleep deprivation caught up to me (who knew you couldn’t live on five hours of sleep per night for two months?). And I don’t know why, but I found that my job was actually MORE stressful when I was in Hawaii. I don’t even understand how that happened. Regardless, I still managed to soak up quite a bit of the aloha spirit.

To be honest, I do feel more patient. I’d love to say it’s because I fully embraced “island time,” but the truth is it was equal parts acceptance/relaxation and simply being forced to wait longer for things. But personal growth is always good–even if it’s forced upon you.

I am infinitely more aware of my whiteness. Hawaii is bursting with different cultures in addition to tourists. I met and learned from so, so many people of different origins, theologies, and mindsets. Some of those people openly expressed shock/surprise at what Mike and I knew (cultural mores we’d researched before going, a few Pidgin words and Hawaiian phrases, etc.) or could do (skillfully use chopsticks) or were willing to eat (pretty much ALL the food on the island) despite being haoles. Being the minority and learning about how white/religious people came in and pretty much ruined everything (and killed a lot of people in the process) left me feeling almost raw with guilt and sadness and deference all at once.

Seeing how most locals respect and revere nature got me back in touch with my crunchy side. Experiencing firsthand both the surreal majesty of the flora/fauna and the devastating effects of being a society that wastes/throws away so much reignited in me a deep concern for where our planet is headed that is only compounding with the new administration’s insistence on rolling back laws that protect the environment. The pristineness of many of the areas we frequented has pretty much ruined me for travel. We went to Punta Cana for a week and, like the truly spoiled brat I am, I could not get over how much trash was everywhere we went. Cigarette butts on the beach–the whole nine.

I got more comfortable with myself thanks to spending two-thirds of my time in a bathing suit among other scantily-clad folks. Don’t ask me how that worked, but it did. I got more in touch with my femininity as well, thanks to some really positive female energy I was fortunate enough to be exposed to. It’s been a long road for me in terms of finding my place within the sisterhood, but I’m really digging where I am right now.

So that was Hawaii. I feel incredibly lucky to have been given such an amazing experience and perhaps even luckier to have been in a position where we could fully embrace all aspects of island life. We blew through some of our savings, sure, but we squeezed every second out of those eight weeks. It left a permanent footprint on my heart, and I can’t wait to go back… without my laptop.

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