Some may remember that I last visited Maui in February 2012. If you remember those reports, you'll also remember that I stopped filing them rather abruptly in the middle of my trip, as my energies needed to be directed elsewhere.
Now I can tell the rest of that story and talk about my current trip to Maui, from May 1-May 11 (and beyond). This trip follows my standard format - Hawaiian Airlines directly into Kahului from Seattle. After I picked up my bags, I walked straight onto the Enterprise shuttle and was first in line when I got off, setting a personal record for speed in and out of the lot.
Normally, I would take a leisurely drive to the Royal Lahaina in Kaanapali, but this time I decided to detour into Kihei to get some shave ice at Ululani's "for the road". In addition, my Hawaiian Air flight landed at 12:15, so I needed to kill some time on the drive so I could check in when I arrive and not spend time in a holding pattern. Ululani's sugar-free watermelon and lime was exactly what I needed to put myself in the right frame of mind.
After making my way through Lahaina traffic (there was a one-lane stretch due to road work where traffic was at a dead stop), I ended up detouring down Prison Street and through the back roads of Lahaina.
I had booked the room at Royal Lahaina directly through the hotel - I discovered that their website guarantees the lowest online pricing. If theirs isn't the lowest, they match the other price and give you a one class upgrade. When I got to check-in, the young lady realized that this was my 5th trip, that I was solo, and that I was fine with two beds, so she gave me a huge upgrade on top of the original one to a room facing north at the far edge of the tower. An outstanding way to start the trip.
Where this trip departed from the normal is what I did when I left the room for the beach for the first time, and for every time thereafter. I left my iPhone in my room. On purpose.
In large part due to events that spun out of me cutting short the trip report last February, I find myself voluntarily unemployed, with no immediate prospects for new revenue. And I don't care. Maui will serve as the springboard for a once in a lifetime adventure that will see me visit 3 Hawaiian islands, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, England, France, The Netherlands, Iceland, and the east coast of the US between May and the middle of July. I didn't lay it out this way on purpose, but it turns out that it will literally be Around the World in 80 Days.
I'll get to the questions that last paragraph raises in a second. The important part is that for the first time in nearly 25 years, I am taking a vacation where I am not on call. Where I can, in the words of a friend of mine, "live like an animal" - just be free and stop following a schedule. Eat when I am hungry. Sleep when I'm tired. Get lost on long walks. Talk to new and interesting people. In short, to live.
It all started with that first, largely symbolic step, of severing my last umbilical to the life that I learned with, and finding out what I'm going to do with my life after that. The iPhone stayed in the room and I went to the beach with nothing more than my key card.
Well, and a pair of sunglasses.
And a hat.
And swim trunks.
This living like an animal stuff is going to be harder than I imagined. Ok. I'll work on that part.
As I mentioned above, things went a little off-kilter during my last trip. My best friend, Carla (no fake names here - this is real life and I'm not going to dishonor her by using a fake name), was diagnosed with colon cancer a couple of weeks before my 2012 trip. I almost cancelled the whole thing in the interests of doing whatever I could to support her, but she was insistent that I go - she knew what Maui meant to me, and there wasn't anything I could really contribute by being in Seattle at that point in time.
I felt kind of useless in terms of helping with the initial stages of her care, being 3,000 miles or so away, so I did the only thing I could do, aside from calling every morning. I wrote her. Every night. For about 5 months straight.
I wrote of hope and inspiration and faith and belief and motivation. Most of the time, to this day, I have no idea where all of it came from. I would have a drink or two and sit on the beach, listening to the ocean and looking at the stars and my muse would speak to me and suddenly a couple of thousand words would spill out. It was as easy, and as effortless, as breathing.
I didn't find out until after I got back just how important those emails were. She didn't tell me, but she had an awful lot of nights where she would wake at 3 am, full of fear and anxiety and doubt, and my latest email would be there to help her get to the next dawn. I can't even imagine, even a year later, that level of despair.
When I got back, she was finishing up chemo and radiation in preparation for surgery, and I saw how important it was, so I kept writing. In all, there are something north of 70,000 words, all typed on an iPhone (with no typos, a point of personal pride) by someone bent on saving their best friend's life.
After surgery, things went badly for a while and she was given a 5% chance of living for 4 months. She decided, as a last ditch measure, to do 8 rounds of high-dose chemo. And by October it worked. She was given the all clear and told to expect a long and full life.
Except it didn't work. The cancer had spread to other organs by November, and she passed away in her sleep in December. We had saved her, and it had all been for naught. I was basically useless for the month of December - I had spent all of my passion, all that fueled me, on the best person that I've ever met. I filled a role that, looking back, I was in a unique position to fill for her, and I am honored and humbled that I was able to do so. But it emptied me.
I mention passion because between 2000-2012 passion was what kept me going at my job, what helped us build a little dotcom into a company that became a model for a small but significant niche in a very old industry. It was passion that allowed me to do things that others thought were impossible, to dream up things that had never been tried. It was passion that paid for all my previous trips to Maui. I'm proud of my work there. Passion plus belief plus talent plus a hint of crazy is not additive. It is multiplicative.
But it was clear that passion, while contained in a very deep well, must be replenished, and that wasn't going to happen any time soon, and it wasn't fair to either myself or the company to pretend that I was anything close to the person who had helped build the company from the ground up using the technical equivalents of baling wire and duct tape, supplemented by a Belief in our mission that bordered on the maniacal. So I did what I could to ensure an orderly transition out by April 30.
The Hawaiian Airlines gates at SeaTac were about as far away as possible from the rest of the terminal - I'm trying to figure out if I crossed into a different time zone to get there. But today I got on a plane, partly to honor Carla's wish that I take nothing for granted, and partly to try renew that wellspring that has always lived inside of me.
This is the beginning of an epic adventure. It will be the hardest thing I have ever done. If I have the guts to follow through the whole thing, it will be something I never forget. I will be able to look back and say "I did that." It will be my Refrigerator Moment. What's a Refrigerator Moment? When all of us were kids, we would invariably bring something home from our school that our parents would ooh and aah over before hanging it on the fridge. I'm talking about the sheer feeling of pure pride in our efforts.
Carla never made it to Paris. She and her husband were just about to book the flights when the final bad news came in. Do not ever, ever, leave anything on the table, she and I always said. Go Big or Go Home.
I've never even had a passport before. I may need a second one when I get back, given the number of borders I'm going to cross. But if my passion is out there, if my calm center can be engaged, I'm going to find it. In the worst case, I'm not going to leave anything on the table.
But all journeys begin with a single step, and mine began the moment I walked out of that hotel and onto the beach and the island that has provided me with such tremendous memories of gentle breezes, stunning views, waves lapping on the shore, and exotic wildlife.
It was glorious. It was as easy as breathing. It was nothing. And it was everything I thought it could be.
I have no idea at what level I'm going to file trip reports here, or on the other TripAdvisor forums. At some point, it seems like too much work, to write stuff every day or every couple of days. It doesn't fit the "live like an animal" ethos, but even now I feel the stirrings of my old levels of passion, and they will need an outlet. I really only have one item scheduled for the entirety of my stay in Maui - a boat trip to Honolua Bay, which I will talk about. My food tastes lean toward the pedestrian (I'm a type I diabetic so I really need to be careful about all of the sweets that are available), so I don't expect to be discussing a lot of meals.
I can't imagine going completely radio silent while at the same time embarking on a trip of this scope, so expect Maui-related posts here, and after about the middle of May, check in on my username from time to time and see how I'm doing. Trip reports and random thoughts will be posted, on a schedule that can best be described as "intermittent". After a conversation with another user, it was suggested that I set up a separate blog site, to organize everything in one place. I'll look into that during the moments I'm not being an animal.