It was a bit hard to say good bye to Vancouver, but I knew sunny skies were going to be at the end of my rainy Sunday and night flight to Oahu, Hawaii.
I tried not to sleep for the entire flight since I would be getting in around 10:30pm Island time. The warm weather in Oahu hit me as soon as I got off the plane! It was late and I had planned to Uber to my hostel, since I was unfamiliar with the bus system and it was night. Unfortunately, Uber was not available! After a few minutes of panic and almost considering a taxi, I tried Lyft and after 3 tries, it went through!
The price was only $40, which was pretty reasonable when I made it to my room to see we had our own private bathroom (with shower), fridge and sink in a kitchen area! I stayed in the 4 bedroom female room and 2 were already in bed, so I followed suit and climbed into my top bunk.
The next day I had some time to kill before the 1st person arrived (John) from our little Wanderlust Volunteer Facebook group. I ventured out from the hostel down to Waikiki Beach to catch some rays. The sun felt SO GOOD after having not seen it for so long. I had quite a bit of time to kill, so I even got into the clear blue water!
John and I ended up sharing a rental car and stopped at Rainbow Drive In for lunch as soon as he got to me. I had Shoyu Chicken and it was SO good and for a great value too! I would definitely go back here next time I am on the island! We then headed up to the North Shore. After several errands, we finally got to our site and settled in at Malaekahana Beach Campground. I had my first day of work with Wanderlust (yes, that’s right WORK) the next day.
Side Note: I got the amazing opportunity to actually WORK (not just volunteer) with Wanderlust for this festival! I was a runner and spent the majority of my time running errands all over the island. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better job! All of the anxieties and crazy emotions I had been previously feeling zapped away as I was out in the sunshine practically all day and seeing incredible views of the blue ocean and mountains. I even had the opportunity to see sunrise on the east side of the island! Not to mention, I got to be a small part of such an amazing event that did so much for me in the past! I made new friends and even spent time with celebrities…Yes, I got to transport Clarence Greenwood (of Citizen Cope) and Susan Casey (a New York Times Best Seller) to and from Honolulu. As if my job couldn’t be any more awesome, I was also allowed to attend a yoga class each shift! All in all, I left each 12 hour work day feeling overly energized and on top of the world!
OK, back on track. After my first work day, John and I spent some extra time in the resort charging up and using real bathrooms before heading back to the campground. By the time we got back, I was ready to crash and thankfully I could because John was nice enough to set my tent back up for me! The next morning was my first 5:45am shift and I knew it was going to be rough when I woke around 4:45am to lots of rain. We needed to leave the campground by 5:30 and I needed to bring everything with me since I was going to be changing campgrounds. I waited as long as I possibly could, but ended up having to pack my tent up in the rain, then walk my tent and pack all the way to the car. Luckily, I was able to set my tent up in the resort to air out while I worked.
My first night at the new campground on the resort grounds was amazing. I had my first outdoor shower and was feeling quite rejuvenated! I ended up getting a spot as close to the beach as possible. I was on the edge of where the tree line and sandy beach met. My ocean sound machine lulled me to sleep each night.
During the week I would get off of work and be on a high for about 2 hours, then crash hard. Before I crashed I tried to spend time with new friends at the night time entertainment. It was great to get to be reunited with my friend, Abby, from my first Wanderlust! She was a wayfarer at this festival. Funny how things work sometimes! I also tried to hang out with my Facebook camping friends that I was originally supposed to camp with before I was bumped from volunteer to employee. In the process I discovered that one of the girls, Jen, would also be continuing travel after Oahu and we talked about continuing on together. I also became good friends with a girl I like to call “Liz the Volunteer”. She was a lovely soul who had been traveling since the Fall. Unfortunately, this was her last stop, or we definitely would’ve traveled on together as well.
As I’ve learned with timing and expectations, I couldn’t have predicted what happened once the week came to a close.
First, my wonderful boss got to deliver the news that they were going to allow me to continue my role as runner at as many festivals I could do with Wanderlust this summer! (Sadly, it’s only 3 this year due to prior commitments). This news made my heart sing and was yet another sign that I am continuing on with my dream and the choices I have made have set myself up for these awesome opportunities.
Second, I had planned to fly out to Maui with 2 of my Facebook camp friends on Monday, but right as that day got switched to Tuesday night, I realized that I could time it so that Liz the Volunteer and I could spend a day together before she had to go back home to Chicago!
Finally, as I was rushing around Monday morning trying to get everything together for my trip into Honolulu and not sure how I was going to get around (or get to a post office to ship some stuff home), my boss, Lyndsey, offered me a ride into town so long as I was ok with some errands first, which included a trip to the post office! I mean, talk about timing!!!
After Lyndsey and her girlfriend helped me pack up some boxes to at the post office, we headed over to Liz the Volunteer. We said our good byes and parted ways. Liz was staying with another girl named Liz and her girlfriend. They felt bad about only having the floor to offer me, but I had been camping all we so it really didn’t matter. Before going out to dinner I had my first real shower in 10 days (you really learn how to make it work when you only travel with a back pack!) It was a nice little group of us who had dinner at a little spot in Waikiki. After we ate our food, we played a game of Uno and I won! 🙂
We were all pretty exhausted after spending a week with wanderlust and camping so we head back to the house and crashed.
The next morning we woke to rain, but luckily it cleared out pretty quickly! Liz’s friend came and picked us up after her travel buddy, Nancy, bought us some Malasadas (the Hawaiian version of a Portugal donut filled with custard). The coconut with my coconut macadamia nut tea.
The four of us headed to Diamond where Liz and I split off to take the easier, yet still pretty steep, hike up to the top. The view of the city was incredible! The ocean is so blue and clear here!
After we made our way back down to the bottom, we decided to walk instead of trying to take transportation, to Beach in Waikiki. It was a lovely 2 mile walk and we even stopped for banana ice cream. We spent the afternoon lounging around and waiting for the other two to catch up with us.
The 4 of us then all went to lunch before heading back to catch our flights out. It’s always amazing to me how quickly you can get so close to someone. I guess when you find a kindred spirit it’s just that easy. I said my “See ya later” to Liz, knowing that I will for sure see her again! Her friends were nice enough to give me a ride to the airport, which I greatly appreciated… Then it was off to Maui!
I was so tired, so I passed out for about 20 minutes of the 30 minutes plane ride from Oahu to Maui. I had planned to use Lyft to get to my hostel, but now I had the opposite problem that I head in Oahu. Lyft didn’t work. My phone was still acting up so I couldn’t even try to download Uber. I took a $30 Taxi the 8 minutes to my hostel.
This time I stayed at the Banana Bungalow. It was the most expensive hostel I’d stayed at to date, and I was initially pretty let down. There were private bathrooms (like the website stated) but they were down the hall (unlike in the room like Waikiki). In addition, the kitchen and front desk hours were from 8am-11pm, and the only safe in the hostel was in the office (usually they are in the rooms). This was already an issue because I had to leave the next morning by 7am. I was a bit bummed since it was $47 a night!
I retreated to my room knowing that the next morning needed to get 30 minutes across the island and couldn’t afford to do a taxi, so I really needed to figure out Uber. I finally discovered how to use it through the browser. In the process, I started to connect with my roommates. The first one I met with Amy, from Australia. She actually was also at Wanderlust! The other roommate was Evie, from Poland, who has been travelling non-stop since last summer. I was excited that I would be spending the next two nights here getting to know these two lovely ladies, in hopes that when Jen checked in the next day, we would all be in the same room.
The next morning I got up extra early and quietly got ready to call my uber and head over to Kihei. Again, I had more issues and couldn’t get a ride until the very last moment when someone picked up my request. My driver was a sweet retired man who spends six months of his year in Maui with his wife. He was very kind and I felt very relieved after all the stress of making sure I could get an affordable ride across the island.
Why was I going all the way to Kihei? Only to Mark something off of my bucket list… Learning to surf! I have been wanting to surf ever since I saw the movie Blue Crush With my best friend in high school. Jen mentioned it to me while we were still in Oahu, and took the initiative to book a lesson for the two of us. It was an amazing experience! We were with a smaller company (Big Kahuna Adventures Maui) that was less of a chain. It ended up just being the two of us and our instructor, so we got a lot of one-on-one attention. I rode my first full ways and on my third try! It was thrilling!! While on the water, our instructor gave us lots of life lessons. My favorite quote was “The waves of life will keep coming, but you can learn how to surf.”
Toward the end of our surf lesson, Jen and I had a moment where we both looked at each other and knew that we were going to have to do this again before leaving the island. We ended up booking a second lesson for Friday morning, which was our last day in Maui. After the lesson we walked over to Foodland to get some lunch. I had yet another poke bowl (raw ahi tuna in different flavors served over rice). From there we walked over to the hotel she had been staying at to meet up with John. We found a rental car company that would give us a car for roughly $30 a day, so we went over and took care of that. After a couple more errands, we headed over to catch some of Jaws (huge waves that professional surfers rode). The waves were huge, but nowhere near the size they were on Oahu’s North Shore… Especially the day before the Eddie.
We ended the day getting dinner at a small pizza place called Prison Pizza (SO good!) some then headed to the beach to see the sunset. By now you should know that I am obsessed with sunsets. I would like my professional job title to be “Sunset Chaser”. Of course it was gorgeous; we were in Hawaii after all! As we watch the sunset we enjoyed young coconut water courtesy of John, who got the coconut from a tree on the farm he was staying at.
Exhausted, we headed back to the hostel to get Jen all checked in. She ended up being in my room as well. We decided that the next day we would do the Road to Hana, and invited our new roommates to join us.
Thursday was slow moving for all of us, but we eventually got moving. We started the day in the hostel kitchen making pancakes. After a filling breakfast, we got on the road. Our first stop was a little fruit stands that John had previously worked at. It had the best banana pineapple bread I’ve ever tasted!
We then headed to the bamboo forest to catch five different waterfalls. This was quite the challenge for me and I was definitely out of my comfort zone. My shoes had me slipping all over the place on the rocks and in the mud. I’m not one for cliff jumping, or any sort of jumping, but decided to give it a shot. The first small waterfall I attempted to climb up, I slipped and almost fell all the way into the water. It was quite painful but I got up and managed to jump in anyway. The water felt so refreshing! The hike to the final waterfall was possibly one of the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. I had to jump off a high place again in order to swim up to where the waterfall was. We climbed a ladder, used ropes to go up steep mud hills and walked over more slippery rocks. I could tell my muscles were really starting to get fatigued and I was holding up the group. I ended up going barefoot because my feet gripped the rocks better than my shoes did. When we finally made it, I felt so relieved and just setting of my surroundings. The other for crazies all climbed up to jump off. I was more than happy to be the photographer on this one.
The final challenge came when we had to go back from where we came from to get back to the car. There was a lot of downhill and again, my muscles were pretty shaky so I felt pretty unstable. My biggest challenge came when it was going to be easier for me to jump off, yet again, another small cliff. This one was higher than the others and I really started to struggle. At least went all the way to the top and knew I needed to jump out, but I just couldn’t. I tried over and over again to just go with it, but something in me just couldn’t do it. Evie came back up to try and help me face this huge fear; John was at the bottom holding my glitter glasses encouraging me to jump out; Amy was on the side with her GoPro ready to catch it on video; and Jen was in the water, ready to help me if I needed it. I was surrounded by the love and support of these people I had only met days ago (some only hours ago!). I wish that I could say I jumped, but panic got the worst of me so Evie and Amy ended up helping me back down into the water. Even still, the support and acceptance of such new friends blows my mind. I definitely regret not doing it, but looking back I am definitely and thankful for the love and support they all were kind enough to offer this crazy stranger.
With my head hanging a little low, still a bit ashamed of my inability to face my fears, we made our way back to the car. Everyone really made me feel like it was okay and I was finally able to get back to a positive place. We then continued on the winding road to Hana.
All of us were pretty hungry so we were really excited when we made it to Hana and found some food trucks. I had some of the best Thai food in my life! We replenished all of the energy we had exerted then got back in the car to head over to Red Sand Beach.
It was another walk down to the beach and just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, we turn the corner and I got a glimpse of the most magnificent beach I’ve ever seen! The water was several shades of blue and turquoise as it crashed over the rocks in contrast with the other side to create a Whirlpool sort of motion over the Red Sand. In addition the red rocks that surrounded the small Beach jetted High into the air making you feel so small that all you could do is stand in awe. Pictures do not even begin to do it justice, but the views at this beach work definitely in my “Top 10 places that took my breath away”. I remember standing there trying to take it all in while creating this memory that would last a lifetime. I stood in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen alongside four other semi-strangers who were now friends.. And I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else!
After maxing out daylight, we took the winding road back from Hana to the hostel singing to the beats courtesy of DJ Evie. We stopped to get some dinner just before the hostel and spent some time together on our last night in Maui. I went back early to pack, as did Evie, to find that we suddenly had an infestation of cockroaches in our room…with 2 IN MY BED. I have no problem sleeping outside with bugs everywhere, however, they do not belong inside at a higher costing hostel.. Or particularly in my bed!! I ended up packing my bags up quick and moving them out to the car. Jen was nice enough to let me sleep on her top bunk.
We had another early departure so we could make it to our last surf lesson. We had the same instructor (Jesse) but one additional student in our class. This time was even better because we already had a feel for it and there were much less people out in the water. By the end of our lesson, Jen and I ended up getting to surf on the same board! It was an awesome way to start the day and we definitely can understand why Surfers are so fit! Haha
After our lesson we went back over to Foodland to get some fuel for the rest of our day as well as some souvenirs to bring home. We picked up our surfing pictures and headed over to Big Beach. Though it was a public beach, there was hardly anyone there! We ate our food and laid in the sun determine to get a tan before leaving the islands. Between chats and sangria we didn’t realize how much fun we were actually getting until we were already burnt. We headed out to have a drink at a five-star hotel before meeting up with John for a final sunset and dinner. In each passing minute we were getting more and more red. Sunset was truly amazing and I literally watched the red sun drop below the horizon. We had fish tacos then the three of us headed back to the beach for some final time together before our flights.
It had been a long day and we wanted to maximize our time so we got to the airport with just enough time to get through. We got to my gate first (since I was leaving first) just in time for me to board. I was glad to be spending my last moments in Hawaii sitting next to this amazing woman who I fell in deep friendship with so quickly.
We both knew that this was not goodbye and that we would make the time and effort to see each other in the future. I plan to see her this summer at the latest!
All in all, my trip to Hawaii was everything I wanted yet nothing I could’ve imagined. I think that’s exactly what made it so special. At the beginning of my trip I was a bit anxious about how everything would turn out… I always have a little fear in my mind reminding me that I should worry. Oddly enough, through this worry I had a strange peace knowing that everything would turn out if I just stayed open and let it happen. Like always, it did, and it came out better than anything I could have ever planned!
Even though it’s far, the islands will always have a mysterious hold on my heart.