Hawaii is paradise, if you understand what paradise might mean. If you seek refuge, connection to the earth, a community searching for mysticism, and water that touches your inner mechanisms, then Hawaii is paradise. What Hawaii is not, however, is a single island where one stop shoppers can find what they seek like a tourist picking up shells from the sandy beach. Paradise demands intelligence, patience and kindness for it to be found intact on the rocky islands built on the violence of lava. I traveled to two Hawaiian islands to unplug from the strenuous life for sixteen days and nights. We needed to escape the grind of the city, to speak with people from outside our normal experiences, and to sleep. I needed sleep badly, and while I would never sleep away an entire vacation, not sleeping regularly and in tune with my body’s needs was not an option.
The first leg of our journey found us on Maui in between Up Country and the Hana Highway. We chose to spend seven nights at Maui Eco Retreat, a green-friendly space with spiritualism foundations built by its founders, Raphael and Kutira. After a few driving challenges due to the insane bends and twists of the Hana Highway, we found our home for seven nights. With the wind and rain a fairly constant background noise, and the smell of incense permeated the grounds, I fell into a sleep that rejuvenated me in the way nothing else could. Over the next few days, we hiked to a serene waterfall to swim alone, we hiked down steep, muddy cliffs to watch a sea turtle navigate the curdling waters, and we shared many interesting conversations with other travellers from America and Germany. The owners, themselves, were traveling during our stay, but we did enjoy time speaking with a few of the volunteers who work at the retreat. Our dialogues clarified what to do for each subsequent day’s activity. One morning I practiced yoga and worked on my novel alone in the Music Temple surrounded by the most majestic view of the Pacific Ocean. Another day we drive to the Haleakala National Park to hike. We swam in a little cove area at the end of Baldwin Beach. I had a therapeutic massage to release tension and toxicity from months of stress. We ate sushi and fresh fish with tropical papaya while drinking many types of kombucha health drinks. By the end of our week we felt like ourselves again instead of stressed out city dwellers drinking high octane espresso to stave off collapse. Paradise can be found in Maui.
The second part of our time was to be spent on Kauai. Kauai feels ancient. Unlike Maui, it has one great highway that almost completely circles the interior which remains largely inaccessible. We chose to stay at an Airbnb option with Laura and Larry who rented us a room for six nights. Both hosts are writers, and while we spent most of our time outside the house, two nights were spent having enlightening and interesting conversations until late into the night. A house is a different choice for me, but I felt a positive vibe about the choice and am most glad that we stayed in their positive surroundings. Our days in Kaui were mostly spent on Hanalei Bay. While we may have driven to Waimea Canyon for a spectacular hike through the cloud forest of the Napali Coast, generally we spent afternoons moving from the pristine beach at Hanalei and our favourite sushi bar, Bouchons.
Maybe we could have pushed hard to wake up early enough to hike the Na Pali trail with 500 other tourists or we could have learned to surf, but maybe it was far more important to hike inwards and learn to ride different waves. Our time in Hanalei reminded us to seek out the value of little things and restful moments shared with each other in nature. No wonder Puff the Magic Dragon lives here. Finally, we returned to Maui for one final night at the Fairmont Kea Leani luxury resort in Waimea. Perhaps I do not have the money to procure a room here under normal circumstances, let alone the suite I was upgraded to, but due to my previous travels and benefits from my AMEX card that I use for my photography business, we had one free night and multiple food vouchers for this spectacular resort. From entering to a lush tropical juice and real flower and nut lei to the adult pool built from lapis blue and gold tiles, I felt surrounded by details that were meant to create awe and wonder. Our romantic dinner and lunch were both perfectly matched with wines, and our day was spent either at poolside or staring at the unbelievable view. What do I take away from Hawaii? I found my calm, restful and accepting self. I remembered that spirituality does not need a gate cathedral to be practiced. I learned to eat lighter foods while accepting sleep as a necessity to possible health. Paradise may indeed be found in Hawaii, but perhaps it can be cultivated and developed in our own homes each and every time we enter the threshold. Maholo is not a word to use lightly.