Over two years ago I was blessed enough to visit the beautiful Island of Kauai, Hawaii.
Something that forever seemed like an impossible dream. It’s too expensive, it’s so far away. Blah, blah, blah. There’s a million reasons why Hawaii is an unattainable destination. I wanted the few reasons that I could make it happen, and I did. I put it out into the universe and was able to find a ticket at a more than reasonable price.
While I was over the moon to be there, I kept feeling like something was missing.
I kept thinking how much my Mother would fall in love with Hawaii’s sacred culture. The Island’s traditions, how the wind calmed the soul and the water rejuvenated the spirit.
One night when I was staring out at the star covered sky, I made a wish, I wished that one day the universe would bring my Mother to this beloved place. There was something so strong in me that believed she needed to see Hawaii’s magic for herself. That something was here for her, it’s as if the Island itself was speaking to me, telling me to bring her on an adventure.
I fell in love with Hawaii. I was heartbroken when I left the Island and I wasn’t sure if I would ever get the opportunity to go back.
Fast forward to a few years later (This past May, 2019) when I was sitting on a white sand beach in Kihei Hawaii, with my Mom and the love of my life.
Life is so generous. My wish had come true.
My Mother is 52 years old and she has never been on a vacation. Getting her to fly was a real treat!
Seeing her inner-child come out and play in the waves for hours at a time was a real highlight. Each night she fell asleep with a huge smile on her face, while hugging her pillow. I’ll hold onto that image forever.
We spent an entire week exploring Maui.
Now, I’m not one for “Vacations”, rather I like to think of my travel experiences as an adventure. As I’m usually putting myself in unlikely circumstances (backpacking an entire country, hiking dangerous trails and sleeping in the woods, or living out of a van, or even living on a beach).
But since Mom has never traveled on a plane to a tropical destination and has never had a traditional vacation, I had to make an exception…. Naturally, I went a little overboard. 😉
We did every little silly tourist thing possible, from a Luau to snorkeling and even driving the dangerous Road to Hana!!
A few times I caught myself rolling my eyes at the “Tourist Traps” and had to gently remind myself that this entire experience was new for Mom, and wouldn’t you know – we had an absolute blast!
Seeing her light up with excitement over every small thing. Experiencing the world through her eyes. The things that people get used to and eventually take for granted, she happily soaked up every last bit of it.
During the day we spent hours playing in the waves, laying under the hot sun on the beach and laughing at the sand that was getting everywhere, and I mean -everywhere!!
On day two, we were splashing in the water when my foot rubbed against something rock hard and slimy. I jumped out of the water with fear as I realized I just stepped on a giant Sea turtle! Once I had calmed down, I quickly grabbed mom’s hand and lead her to the Sea Turtle. We spent the rest of that afternoon swimming with Sea Turtles at Turtle Cove – what a magical experience!
At night we would explore the town!
The first place we went to was the Tropical Coffee Plantation. This quickly became our favorite spot as Mom is an avid coffee drinker!
Mom smiling with my partner Jerry at the coffee plantation. Two kindred souls.
My Mother’s favorite flower has always been lavender flowers – what better thing to do than to surprise her with an entire farm of them!
Mom and I at the Lavender Farm in Maui, meditating with Buddha
What a beautiful gift our Maui Vacation turned out to be!
Just off the coast of Maui, is a remote island called Molokai.
One must board an eight-person plane to get there. Though you feel every movement with the wind, it is totally worth it to see the huge cliffs of Molokai from the sky.
Molokai is a hidden gem, but it’s not for everyone, which is exactly why I fell in love with the Island and its people.
Sure, Molokai has a dark history, but it is rich in culture. The population of the entire island is that of the small town in which I now reside when I am in New England. Only 7,000 people. The locals scoff at white tourists, huge picket signs are found throughout the entire island that say in bold letters – ‘COME. SPEND. AND GO HOME’. It’s not exactly a warm welcoming. So why do I love it so much? It’s rich in beauty, serene in landscapes, and calming to the soul. It’s the perfect place to rejuvenate your spirit, to reconnect with yourself and to find clarity.
You can drive the whole island in one day. There is only one town on the entire Island. This is Old Hawaii. This is Hawaii before it became commercialized. It’s what the locals have fought so hard to hold onto, their unique culture and their way of life.
Despite the majority of the locals not liking tourists, I found Molokai a friendly place to be. I find that when traveling, go with an open heart and leave your spirit pure, the right people will gravitate towards you, and that’s exactly what my experience was.
Meet Uncle Yama.
It was a hot and sunny morning, when I had wondered into town (the one and only town on Molokai Island). I was sitting alone enjoying my most recent book when this man came over to greet me.
“My friend, I have a few spare moments of time, if you would like, I can share with you the culture and history of Molokai.”
Recognizing this man as an elder in this sacred community and knowing how rare this moment was, I closed my book and encouraged him to continue his story.
“We raise our children to respect their elders in all ways. We raise them to address their elders as Auntie or Uncle. It doesn’t matter the color of the skin, how recently you met, or from what part of the island you are from. If you see an elder across the street, you run to them, open the door and help them out of their car. When in public you offer them your seat and you always greet an elder whenever you see them.”
The proud man looks at me and says, “You are family now, and I am Uncle Yama.”
Uncle Yama continued to share with me that his mother had 13 kids that she delivered on her own. Her last child that she had, she gave birth to in the bushes, and cut the imbilical cord with her own teeth. And she had 108 great-grandkids the day she died (PBS did a documentary on her – Happy Birthday TuTu Ruth).
When Uncle Yama was 8 months old a Tsunami came in and brought their entire house in-land. Everyone (including the house) survived and they ended up spending the remainder of their days in the jungle near a waterfall.
Uncle Yama is the Sole Proprietor of a 14-person household. He is 74 years old. He works three jobs just to make ends meet and he loves teaching his grandkids the Molokai lifestyle. He sleeps only 3 hours every night and has the most vitality that I have ever witnessed in another human being. He says, “We live a very poor lifestyle, but it is because we know we are rich in all the important things in life.”
Their main source of income comes from this food truck – ‘A taste of Molokai’
Here they serve the worlds most delicous Poke Bowls.
Uncle Yama’s granddaughters sit on a cliff with binoculars, guiding the fishing crew with a walkie-talkie. Once the best fish are found, the nephews release a net and they wait for the tiger sharks to swim up and have a feast. Once the water settles, the nephews and Uncle Yama jump in the water (Yes, with the sharks!) and bring back the best the ocean has to offer.
As if swimming with sharks was no big deal, Uncle Yama revealed to me that when they hunt boar on the island, they only bring their pocket knives with them. Which means they must jump on the boar in order to catch it. He then went on to share with me that there are 100,000 deer on Molokai Island!
The last bit of wisdom that Uncle Yama left me with was the true meaning behind ‘Aloha’.
“How big is your Aloha? Your love. Aloha is much more than a simple greeting, it is a way of life.”
He went on to tell me about how his wife of 42 years almost divorced him when he was fighting the government. Which brings the conversation full circle. Why is it that the locals on Molokai despite tourists?
Like the other Islands of Hawaii, foreigners set out to commercialize Molokai. They even succeeded for ten years, building a 260 million five-star resort. Kepuhi Beach Resort. An exclusive resort that banned the locals from the islands most beautiful private beaches. But that’s not the thing that lead to Unlce Yama’s rebellion and near divorce. It was during this process the resort owners deemed it best to rid the island of the wretched animals that the locals consider to be sacred. They did so by shooting them from a helicopter and leaving them to rot.
This was the part of the conversation that Uncle Yama was most emotional about.
“My wife, she didn’t understand why I was so upset that they were shooting the pigs. She challenged me about my Aloha. But when I told her that the boars raised our families, they were the only thing we had to eat, and though we killed them, we respected them, we made sure they had a nice life and an easy death, we honored them. So, for two full years I lead the fight with the government. It was a very stressful time. But soon, the rest of the locals and I won, the resort was shut down, and we saved the future of many animals. What my wife didn’t understand was, I was fighting for our Aloha the whole time.”
Uncle Yama and I talked for well over an hour. The gratitude I feel for this man and his story is tremendous.
An hour later, I was standing in the middle of Kepuhi Beach Resort, laughing as I realized that I was indeed staying at the SAME abandoned resort!
They had opened a small section of the resort up to condos with a pool and beach access, but at a closer look, everything that surrounded me was boarded up. Walking around I couldn’t help but feel sad for the memories and the dreams that died here, it truly was a spectacular resort. Though I was happy that Molokai was able to successfully preserve their unique lifestyle.
Keep Molokai, Molokai. Old Hawaii. 🙂
Home of the Maori culture.
This is NEW ZEALAND. Land of endless beauty.
It takes roughly two full travel days to arrive to this enchanting country. But it’s well worth it.
I spent one month backpacking both the South and North Islands of New Zealand.
First touching down in Auckland and rushing straight to the Hobbiton Movie Set.
It was everything I had always imagined and so much more. Lord of the Rings is one of the many reasons that New Zealand is famous.
I felt a great sense of peace the first week as I explored many farmlands and held a lamb. In New Zealand there are more sheep than people!
By the second week, I hopped on a short flight and flew to the South island.
I spent the rest of the remainder of my time surrounded by nature. Standing beneath mountains that touched the clouds. The massiveness that was at every turn, waiting to be witnessed. A truly breathtaking experience.
Exploring Milford Sound was one of my favorite highlights.
New Zealand is one of the most travel-friendly countries that I have yet to experience.
It also is famous for its food! Especially, the green lipped mussels and eggs benedict!
When in New Zealand, it is perfectly acceptable to eat dessert for breakfast!
Make sure to hike Tasman Glacier and drink 100 year old glacier water!
And be sure to spend a weekend wandering the streets in Queenstown.
New Zealand does not disappoint!
After an excructiating long flight of 36 hours, my plane touches down in the City of Denpasar.
Time travel does exist, as I glance down at my watch and realize I’m an entire day ahead of everyone back home.
Leaving the plane, I am instantly flooded with emotions.
What have I done?
I sold all of my belongings and bought a one-way ticket to Bali, Indonesia.
This is the first time in my entire life that I didn’t have a plan.
Once I go through customs and leave my old life behind, I stand, paralyzed in the crowded airport.
I am both overwhelmed and fascinated.
It’s as if time stands still.
Everything is a chaotic blur.
People rushing off in all types of directions.
Once I step outside, I am reminded of being in another country.
In a foreign place, as a motorbike swerves to avoid me. Road rules don’t exist here.
The sun is melting me with its intensity.
I slowly make my way through the crowd of men lined up saying, “taxi! taxi!”
One of them shoves a sign in my face.
I spot the sign that has my name, a man and woman waiting for me.
They sweep me away into their van and off we go.
I smile at them and they smile back.
They swerve. They stop. The husband hops out of the van.
He comes back carrying a fresh coconut for me.
An hour later, I have settled into my new bungalow home.
I rinse off the jet lag in the outside shower. Exposed to Bali’s beautiful nature.
Everything is so divine here.
It’s my first day here and I already never want to leave.
Weeks fly by and I have made a whole community of friends.
I spend my mornings writing above the rice terraces.
I laugh to myself when the geese chase each other.
Every afternoon I go to the market. Everything here is SO beautiful.
The Balinese are great merchants. They make it impossible for you to say no.
By mid-day, everyday, it pours down a tsunami of rain. Everyone gets caught up in it. Drenched.
Wait an hour. The sun will be back out, making you miss the rain that has just passed.
Re-hydrate with a tumeric juice.
Decide that I’m hungry and eat a whole pizza at buddah bali
Each precious night I spend dancing.
I’ve never felt more alive. I’ve never felt more myself.
I eat way too much food and leave the guilt behind.
Wake up and decide to go chase waterfalls….
Wander the streets alone and admire the architecture.
Sit by a private pool. Relax. Breathe.
Get invited to a private roof-top party and watch a strange man juggle.
This is what it’s like to live in Bali.
The most bold thing I have ever done was travel the world by myself. I was inspired by my father reading me travel books before bedtime as a young child. As a teenager, I grew up in a very remote part of the world. A town with barely 700 people in it. A town with no stop light and a graduating class of 8. My best friends were my books. Nobody ever left. Nobody ever changed. I had to get out. Where was the art? The culture? The life? I fell asleep every night dreaming of faraway places I couldn’t pronounce. My biggest, wildest dream.
When I was 23, I achieved every successful checklist possible. Beautiful Home. Brand new car. Private Practice. Perfect credit score. The “perfect relationship.” What some would call, “The perfect life.” But all I had ever truly wanted, the thing that was most dear to my heart, was to travel. Not visit a place for a week and eat at fancy restaurants. I wanted to buy a one-way ticket. Immerse myself in culture and language. To wander aimlessly through foreign cities. Discovering the most beautiful art. My friends laughed at me. Discouraging me – “Why would you ever want to do that?”
Sure, I had a successful life but I knew that it was not truly in alignment with who I was. I wanted a life that reflected my inner being of creativity. The superficiality of my success was slowly suffocating me. Everyone told me it was impossible. Still, I couldn’t silence the voice. The world was calling, and I had to answer.
I left my brand new home. Closed my private practice. Sold all of my belongings. Walked away from everything that no longer felt right. I bought a one-way ticket. First to Hawaii. Then to Indonesia. Southeast Asia. Eventually Los Angeles. Malibu Coast. Oh, how I loved chasing the foam that the waves created on the beach. A road trip through Las Vegas that ended up turning into a longer stay than planned. Jackson Hole, WY. The journey continued. 6 long months. Traveling by myself. Each winding turn, I would smile to myself. They told me it was impossible. Yet, here I was. Breathing dreams -like air.