This summer started off with a bang and I was fortunate to have spent a whopping 47 days (just shy of 7 weeks) in the stunning state of Hawaii. Part of it was spent travelling with friends and family and part of it was spent interning and exploring the Big Island on my own. Throughout this epic trip I’ve learned 7 important lessons, here they are in no particular order (with travel photos sandwiched in!)
1. Having no plan is a sometimes good plan
Uncertainty makes me uncomfortable; I like to know what to expect and to have an back up plan, if not two. I arrived on the Big Island with next to no expectations. I had no idea what my internship would look like, what I’d be doing on the weekends, who I’d be living with for the month, or how I’d get around. My roommate reminded me more than once to not worry because it would all work out. Although my heart believed it, my brain sometimes thought otherwise. Over the month, I practiced trusting that it would all fall in place, and it did!
I left it up to fate to determine what my free time will be occupied with. Whatever opportunities arose, I’d take it and run. Maybe it would be tagging along with Air BnB guests on their road trip to Waipio Valley, biking to the Kalapana Lava Flow, or viewing the full moon from Ahalanui Warm Pool. Or it would be tagging along with our manager to do extreme activities like waterfall rappelling and cliff jumping (I’ve never had so much adrenaline running through my body). These spontaneous excursions allowed me to tick items off my bucket list that I didn’t even know existed. I never felt endangered because whenever I needed a ride, God sent someone my way. Once it was a lady on her way to work at a crepe café and even offered me free crepes for breakfast. Another time it was another Hawaiian Sanctuary member who drove passed me at just the right second. And another time it was a bus that was surprisingly running on a Sunday! I felt at ease knowing I was being taken care of.
2. I take Vancouver for granted
Sometimes I forget how wonderful it is to live in a city bounded by snow-capped mountains on one side and the open ocean on the other. To have wildlife roaming around in your backyard, and heck even having a backyard! Having the sparest buses come every half hour instead of every four hours is something I need to stop complaining about. Only spending $3 on organic peanut butter instead of $9 is a blessing unto itself (I’m still salty about that).
Chats with other interns have made me appreciate the beauty of Vancouver more. How lucky am I to have so many mountains that provide us with skiing runs in the winter and hiking trails in the summer? For a person who doesn’t have their own car, a reliable transit system is crucial. Once my roommate and I went out to Hilo and we had to wait 2 hours for a bus that would take us back to Pahoa. The bus was rickety and drove down so many detours before finally getting to Pahoa one and a half hours later; it’s an experience that makes you never want to take the Hele On bus ever again.
Hawaii is beautiful, but so is home.
3. Being yourself is liberating
This may be the reason why people enjoy solo travel so much. You arrive with no expectations of others and others have no expectations of you. I had the freedom to be 100% me, the weird me, the quiet me, the chatter box me, the teacher me, the friend me, the chef me, the spontaneous me, and allow others to build their own understanding of me purely from my actions and not what some third party told them. Whatever I did was not being measured to my ‘usual me’ because they did not know the usual me. As an adult, many of my friendships were formed years ago and I have almost forgot what it feels like to create new relationships. Since I did not know the other people at the sanctuary prior to arriving, I did not have to act in an unnatural way to please them. I could try new things without feeling as if I was deserting my ‘normal’ self. If others accepted me for who I was, that’s great. If they didn’t like the raw me, then that was okay too because I’d only be there for a month.
4. Look (and think) before you leap
This branches of #1. I may be more open to trying activities outside my comfort zone but I’m still the same ‘better safe than sorry’ person I was prior to this trip. ‘Don’t think, just jump’ was my mantra for my first two cliff jumps at Pe’e Pe’e Falls and South Point. But after a terrible landing (I entered like a ‘V’) at Boiling Pots that ended in a massive bruise on my thigh and strained muscles that limited my upper body movement for weeks, I think the proper mantra should be ‘look and think before you leap, but not for too long’. Look at where you want to land and think about maintaining proper form (straight as a stick) and jump before you begin thinking about how high the cliff is.
5. Mosquitos love me and it’s a one-sided love
I was the only fool to arrive at the Hawaiian Sanctuary (a tropical jungle) with no mosquito repellant or long pants. Unfortunately for me, the only spot with wifi in the 44 acres of land was the area with the highest concentration of mosquitos. I joke that I traded blood for wifi but it’s 100% true. By the end of the trip, it looked like my legs were covered in chicken pox. I must be very tasty… Lesson of the trip: long pants are an essential clothing item even in summer months.
6. I am capable of being sunburnt
I’ve gone 20 years without ever getting sunburnt. I can prance around outdoors with no sunscreen all summer long and the outcome is my skin tans until I’m practically a different person (my dad calls me ‘dark chocolate’). But the Hawaiian sun is not joke and by day 2 I had developed sunburns on my shoulders and my hairline (so did Chew so that confirms how intense the UV is in Hawaii). Never have I voluntarily put on so much sunscreen or used so much aloe.
7. Kombucha has alcohol
And that’s too much alcohol for lil’ lightweight me. I kid you not, after a tasting flight of Big Island Booch, I felt the same headache I get after consuming a cocktail. While you laugh at my lack of alcohol tolerance, I’ll be sitting poolside on the rooftop of some Hawaiian hotel sipping on my dang good virgin pina colada. My roommate and I also got a good laugh when we saw that the seal on a bottle of GT’s Kombucha said “Contains alcohol. Must be 21 and over.” So, my argument that kombucha is healthy beer stands true.
I hope ya’ll enjoyed this reflective post about my time in Hawaii. If you want to hear what Chew did with her 34 days in Hawaii, read this post. Those that are interested in interning on Big Island, I’ll be detailing my experience at Hawaiian Sanctuary in a future post. Everything we did and ate during our girls getaway in Oahu are in these posts.