After 5 hours on a plane with nothing below but the great blue sea, you begin to wonder, ‘Could there possibly be anything out here?’ Then you spot it. A curve of emerald green rising into a spiny ridge, dotted with myriad hues of lushness. One of the first feelings to wash over you is relief. You are an awfully long way from anywhere, in the middle of an ocean that covers almost half of the planet. You are coming to an island chain that is a speck of sand in a great pond. You thank modern navigational equipment for safely guiding your journey, and wonder how anyone ever found these islands in the first place, long before GPS and radar.
Your next feeling is of wonder. The green seems almost translucent, and the ocean reflects it in the shallows around the land. Your excitement becomes palpable. Violet says to me, “Is that a warm place?” With a great big smile, I say “Yes, this is a warm place. You can even swim in the water here all year long. You don’t need clothes to keep warm, even in winter.” Violet gets a far away, dreamy look in her eyes at the prospect of eternal, naked beach days. What more could a four-year-old want than to frolic in the water all day with the warm sun beating down? It sure beat the snowfall happening in BC as we left. Cyrus speaks up. “I love coming to Hawaii. It’s like my skin can breathe here…” And indeed, I know what he means. Every pore on your body seems to open up and drink in the richness of the air. In Yogic tradition, the life energy that surrounds us and fills us is called “Prana”, and Hawaii feels alive with the stuff.
After the plane lands, there is a collective sigh of contentment as the door opens, letting in the moist, warm air. Everyone smiles at each other, and you wonder if they dosed everyone on the plane with Prozac, and no one told you. There is no mad dash to find the baggage carousel. Few people seem to be on any kind of schedule, and those who are still move with the serenity of those who know that all things can wait, for there is no time like the present. This is what the Hawaiians call ‘Aloha’, which means ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘love’, and the intense feeling of well-being that comes from deep contentment, the sense that all is well with the universe.
We chose a hotel close to the airport, mostly because we were planning on leaving again within the next few days for our destination island. Flights are generally cheaper to Oahu/Honolulu than to the outlying islands, and the inter-island tickets sell for as little as $30 each, so our decision to come to Oahu first was based more on financial reasons than any great desire to come to the most populous of the Hawaiian Islands. Beyond that, we still weren’t sure which island we were going to.
On the one hand, The Island of Hawai’i (known as the ‘Big Island’, bigger than all the others combined,) was a vast place, the newest of the Hawai’i an islands, with wide open spaces, low prices, less crowds, and active volcanoes, which certainly sounds exciting to anyone who has never come within a thousand miles of an active volcano. I’m sure most Hawaiians would toss off a quick “Meh” when given the opportunity to visit the molten snail’s pace of the lava flows, but I felt certain that the youthful energy of an island that is still being created would hold some allure. Neither Theresa nor I had ever been there, so it was a place of potential and adventure for us.
Maui also held certain appeal, as the island of choice for those seeking all night beach parties and an abundance of new age mysticism. Perhaps not the best choice for a travelling family, but full of a different kind of adventure, one that held much appeal for a family who had spent several years mired in the trappings of modern materialistic life.
And then there was the island of Kauai (Koo-wai-hee), the garden isle, lushest, oldest and most beach laden of the islands. Theresa and I had both spent some time there, with Theresa and Cyrus having lived there for over a year, and I having spent several months there. It is a place we knew and loved, and also had family living there via Cyrus’ father and Aunt.
Not wanting to waste our first day in the islands worrying about where to go, we decided to venture forth and check out Oahu. It didn’t take long to feel as though we could be in any medium sized American city on the mainland, which certainly didn’t feel very special. We decided to check out Waikiki Beach, which seems to be thing to do when on Oahu. Apparently every other tourist in Hawaii had the same idea, and decided to join us that day.
If ever there was a beach that was the epitome of a tourist trap, Waikiki is it. I can’t even say it’s the best beach I’ve ever seen in Hawaii (It’s not), but we were soon lulled into the sense that we didn’t actually need to go anywhere else. We could just stay right in Honolulu. Why worry, why hurry? There seemed to be so much to see and do, and there is something to be said for the charm of being catered to by every person sitting on a corner with some interesting story or some art to share.
That fleeting novelty lasted for about an hour. After being accosted by every type of sales pitch you can imagine, and finding our heads spinning, we found solace in some dim sum, and then hopped on the city bus back to our hotel. After a grueling 1-hour bus ride to cover a mere 20 blocks, we decided that maybe Oahu wasn’t the island for us. Back at the hotel, we received an email invitation to stay with our extended family on Kauai. It seemed that the choice was made for us. Kauai, it was!