Aloha, Comfort Zone

Hawaii 01I’ve recently returned from a trip to Hawai’i. My sister and I flew down to Maui to visit our uncle (MASSIVE THANKS FOR INVITING US, dude!), and if I had to summarize the whole experience in a single word, I believe I would choose… “uncomfortable”.

Hold up! That sounds worse than I mean it. Let me elucidate.

Y’know what’s not comfy? Air travel.

Airports stress me out. The crowds and the busyness. The gazillion signs everywhere and the blaring loud-speaker announcements (for me? Not for me? Do I have to try to figure out what they’re saying? Am I doomed?). The sitting around, waiting to stand around, lined up so I can sit for hours longer in a cramped economy seat on a plane that might (probably won’t, but might) crash and kill me. Also, the struggle [between trying to stay hydrated at flight altitudes and not peeing yourself while waiting for an onboard bathroom to open up] is real. Plus Dianne and I neglected to bring travel snacks, so… that was dumb. But we survived, with a little help from Hangman and charades.

Why not rename it Uncomfortable Beach?

I could honestly get into the idea of using HAZMAT suits as everyday-wear. The world is gross, and I prefer to touch it as little as possible. But you can’t live like that on the many and varied beaches of Maui. Sand calls for sandals – or, just as often, for bare feet. It’s the only way to play with the opalescent waves that act all coy ‘til you’re close enough to drench up to the hips.

People sunbathe for comfort??

For some, “vacation” conjures up an image of lounging on a sunny shore doing absolutely nothing. I’ve never done that before. Now I’ve done it for hours. It was… weird. Getting nothing done. Ignoring any kind of to-do list. Anti-productivity. It should’ve been my kryptonite. Instead, I watched the ever-changing water, and let my mind wander with no clear objective, and startled up straight when Dianne and I spotted what we’re pretty sure was a sea turtle, riding under a wave. We also got painfully sunburnt, ‘cause sunscreen, girls. Use it.

“Adventure” and “comfort” are not synonyms. (Unless you’re Gant-o’-the-Lute.)

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Maui is not all beaches.

It’s also mountains under a near-constant cap of hazy clouds, periwinkle shadows in the morning mist, or with and a peach-and-lavender twilight behind them.

Big colorful blooms bursting from every bush – hibiscus, African violets (which are orange, of all colors), and blossoms that serve as harbingers of mangoes.

A hundred kinds of greenery – grass and fronds, leaves and needles, trees that twist or reach up tall and straight or look like they’ve got to be either painted or made of playdough.

And hilariously enough, chickens roaming everywhere. Crowing through the forests. Wandering through backyards and way-out-there wilderness. Quite often, crossing the road. (Your guess as to why is as good as mine.)

Over the course of three days, unser Onkel* drove us all over the island. (* German; “our uncle”.) Along the shore, up mountainsides, through a bit of a national park.  We clambered over rocks and watched for whales and kept cool with shaved ice – a local treat that puts snow cones to shame. We cruised the highway with the windows down, island music bouncing from the radio as we crossed a volcanic wasteland. We hiked treacherous paths to overlook hidden coves of red sand or spectacular cliff-side ocean vistas.

Sometimes a sight was such a special kind of gorgeous that it kind of hurt my heart. My photos couldn’t do them justice. I hope my memory will.

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Nothing comfortable about putting me behind the wheel!

So Dianne and I could explore on our own time, the uncle rented us a car. Dianne, alas, is not yet 25 – the minimum age to drive a rental in this country. That meant the task fell to me: The Shipley voted Least Likely to Be Driving, Because No Thank You. But we weren’t about to let our uncle’s generosity go to waste, so there I was, trying to navigate Maui’s roads of insanity.

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Why do these street names all look alike? Maybe because you can’t actually read the sign until you’ve almost passed it. Of course, one street can have three or four names, depending on which stretch of the road you’re on; guess you should’ve made that left turn at Albuquerque.

Even with Dianne’s eyes glued to the map on her phone, we got lost as often as we didn’t.

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We also figured out routes to a couple of cool touristy areas, where we could browse potential gifts for our family, and Dianne could get a bangin’ new tattoo, and we could eat perfect ice cream beneath a banyan tree that spread for a block. We made our way to a spot where the waves crash up through a hole in the ground. We somehow survived miles and miles of twisted mountain roads that liked to narrow to one lane with a rock wall on one side and a sheer drop on the other, just in time for traffic coming the other way around a blind curve.

Heaven and hell on a single island. I’m shocked to be alive. Mahalo*, Lord.

(*Hawaiian; “thanks”.)

“Comfortable”s not the word for a night beach.

Because we could, we also drove to a nearby beach after sunset.

Walking the shadowed shore felt illicit, even though we were hardly the only ones out there. The water seemed a dark and formless thing – a place for ghost ships and monsters of myth. We didn’t dare anymore to get close enough to let the waves touch us. Instead, we sat on a lifeguard station abandoned for the day.

Listened to the surf’s stage whispers.

Tipped our heads back to gaze at the stars.

Sang a melancholy medley at the bedazzled sky.

Never comfortable. Better than.

^ Hawai’i in a coconut shell.

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