Not many people would describe me as a well-traveled individual. Before my recent trip I had never been on a plane and have only ever left California once or twice. So it’s fair to say my flight out of LAX at 8:00 in the morning to Hawaii (that’s a 6 hour flight) all by myself was daunting to say the least! My nerves were through the roof the few days before and I couldn’t imagine having to navigate the calamity all by myself. Did I have my eticket? What even is an eticket? How big should my carry on be? Can I fit this in my suit case? Probably not. What if it’s too cold? What if it’s too hot? What if I sit next to some one who farts? What if I don’t even get on the right plane?! Luckily my loving boyfriend came in the morning to help my anxious brain and drove me to the airport. He told me everything I had to do and with out him I probably would’ve gotten on the wrong plane.
But after boarding and take off I was relieved to know that I was only mere hours from this alleged paradise. I have never been anywhere like this before and I didn’t have any reference as to what to expect, other than that it was Hawaii and supposed to be the best place on Earth according to all of the movies I’ve watched. But I was excited none the less.
But as soon as I landed (finally) I was greeted by the most cheerful folks I have ever met- my grandparents. They quickly got shots of me getting off the plane, talking, getting my luggage, hugging my cousins, and all around being excited to be there. My trip was well documented because of these two! My aunt, uncle, and older cousins all were there as well and we quickly set off for the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Honolulu.
These were all of the names of the men who died on the S.S. Arizona; many of which still reside in the wreckage.
The Memorial was touching. I really only knew about what happened there because of my text books and teachers who briefly covered the subject as an entry way to our WWII courses. But actually seeing the place where it happened and learning about the history in depth gave me a new perspective on the story. It was even more moving to watch my grandparents experience this for the first time, as they were kids when this happened and have memories of the day.
The spot where we ate lunch. I honestly don’t remember what I had because the view was too good.
After the memorial and an hour trying to find our bus, it was back on a plane we went, this time to Maui. We got to the hotel at midnight (3:00am our time) and crashed shortly thereafter. When I woke up I could hear the sound of tropical birds singing, the ocean crashing, and the trade winds blowing. It was magical right from the start. I knew that this week was going to be wonderful.
The view from our room
The beach was only a few feet from our room so a lot of that week was spent in the ocean, which I was extremely happy about. I have never been in water so warm before! It was intoxicating. The crystal clear water made it perfect for snorkeling. me and my cousins spent four out of the seven days just swimming and snorkeling. The amount of tropical fish I saw was incredible! It was hard to believe how much life I was able to see; all of these communities and schools of fish in the coral beds were amazing. I couldn’t get enough, I was hooked. And then it all got better when I saw a Hawaiian Sea Turtle. The day before my cousin got to see one and I was extremely jealous. So I made it my mission to spot one too, luckily I did and it was an experience I’ll never forget.
She was beautiful. Slow yet majestic. I swam with her for a good ten minutes where we mostly just floated around. She didn’t mind me at all- we were just co-swimmers. She looked me in the eye and it looked like she knew she wasn’t in danger. She surfaced a few times to get air and her little head poked out of the water just enough to get a breathe and back down she went. I live for experiences like that. Observing nature and life in a friendly way. Not imposing myself on the animal but rather just witnessing a small part of their world. We parted ways; taking a small piece of me with her.
A cute Banyan tree
Hiking was next on our list. We took several trails and saw numerous jungle-y parts of the island. One of which was to Ioa Valley where the needle was. It was everything I expected the Hawaiian land scape to be and more. Very Jurassic Park-esque. The valley held a lot of history as it was a sight where the native peoples lived. I was breathe-taken by the enormous size of these mountains. They were beautiful and I tried to imagine what life must’ve been like pre-colonial times, when the Hawaiians were creating their own culture, language, traditions, and people.
As far as the native people went, they were kind and welcoming. No one seemed to mind that we were blatantly tourists. They were eager to help and recommend any and all services. We eventually made our way to a luau, the Old Lahaina Luau to be exact, which I’m proud to say is the most touristy we were on this trip. This was arguably my favorite part of the trip. Unlike how I expected it to be, it was extremely true to the culture, not sugar coating any of it’s Hawaiian history. The show primarily focused on traditional Hawaiian dances and discussed their background and meaning. The dancers were beautiful, they moved and beamed with pride for their craft. I was in awe of their skill and culture, each one loving what they were doing. I loved it. I loved learning about the people and their history, I loved seeing an unfiltered display of who these people are and how after years of having it being taken from them, they are still able to show excitement and joy for their story.
Family luau time
At the end of my trip I felt so enamored with the place I was visiting. Maui is a destination unlike any other and I am so glad I was able to witness it. I felt as though I was going to leave a place that spoke to me so well. A place after my own heart. I bought my little trinkets and doodads but I didn’t feel like that would be enough. So, in true Maddie style I went to get a permanent memorabilia: a tattoo. I went to a local artist who lived right up the road and got a small sea shell behind my ear. I was in no way about to get any tribal symbols or Hawaiian art because I didn’t want to disrespect their culture in any way. I just wanted something that I could look at and say “that was an amazing time.” So a tiny shell it was. And I love it.
My cute shell tattoo
I know I sound dramatic when I say it, but Hawaii really touched me. I have never felt so purposed in my life. Everything there had a reason and a story behind it. All of the food was local, I didn’t see a WalMart anywhere, the shops and shop keepers were friendly and conscientious about protecting their island and keeping their beautiful nature whole. Everything was respected and admired for their beauty. A lot of the times we take our surroundings for granted and destroy it in the process. There everyone knew that this place had to be protected and was aware of the steps they had to take. This stuck with me.
I left Hawaii thinking this isn’t goodbye, but until next time. I knew if I never came back I wouldn’t see my heart again. As for now I am back in Long Beach and happy still, but now I know of this beautiful place where I genuinely loved. So let this be a promise to myself. I will go back one day, and might even make it my home if I’m lucky, but for now it’ll just be a fond memory to carry me until next time
Thanks for everything Hawaii. See you soon.