(This post is a part of Gwen Bell's The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. Thanks for the great inspiration idea, Amy!)
I consider myself a bit of a traveler. I mean I don't really go to super exotic locales or cliched destinations or anything (hell, I have embarrassingly only used my passport once and it was in 1986 when my hair was in full on bowl cut mode, god I should find and scan that picture) but if I have a few extra bucks in my pocket my first choice is always to spend them by getting out of town. Usually I like exploring a new place, and usually it is someplace quaint rather than extravagant, somewhere off the beaten path or somewhere seemingly ordinary. But this year I took the trip of lifetime and of all places, it was to Maui! I'm know. You are all thinking: Holly, could there be a more cliched travel destination than Maui? And the answer is, probably not. But for a few really personal reasons, it was by far the best trip I have ever taken.
Hawaii was always this mythical place in my mind growing up. My parents had lived there while my dad was in college, and even after he graduated and started playing football professionally in Detroit they spent the off seasons on the Big Island. Growing up all of their friends and members of my family had these great stories about the times they visited my parents on the islands. There were funny stories and amazing adventures, and they all painted a gorgeous picture of a what a crazy life my parents had before I was born. First of all they were in their early 20s. Imagine what you were doing when you were 22? I know I was goofing off in college and then "Finding Myself" in Los Angeles (ha!) definitely not living it up in some exotic locale. It was fascinating to me that my parents had this offbeat life before I came around -- I know that's a little self centered, but as a kid it just seemed so weird to think of your parents life before you, but it was hard to ignore when it was a life of stories re-told in such vivid technicolor. When I was young and my parents would tuck me in to bed at night I always asked for a story, and often times my father would describe tales of surfing and swimming and hiking in the lush Hawaiian landscape with its strange sounding names -- and I would drift off to sleep awaiting the day I would finally get to make sense of it all in person.
As I got older, it became less of a myth and more of a promise. You see my Grandma Marian (who passed away in 2004 and was the absolute light of our whole family) knew how much I wanted to go and was always assuring me that I would get there. Each summer all of us grandkids had the opportunity to take our own "solo trips" up to her house in Sonoma. When it was my turn to visit, she always let my fingers go walking through her perfumes and lotions -- my childhood favorites always being the L'Air du Temps bottle because it was pretty (hello 80s flashback) and a metallic tube of Crabtree & Evelyn Rosewater Hand Therapy. We spent our days visiting, doing water aerobics at her class, watching Jeopardy, having sandwiches at the Sonoma Cheese Factory, and of course always making time to catch up with her neighborhood buddies as they knew all us grandkids.
Inevitably during these trips we would stop by and say hi to her best friends (and my dad's Godparents) Mert and Don, who lived down the street. Many times they would tell stories of their recent trips to Maui altogether and how the 3 of them spent their days lounging and having cocktails and enjoying the weather at at the beach. They would always laugh when I would get upset about not having been to Hawaii yet, and say that someday I would have great friends to go with when I understood the power of The 5 o' Clock Cocktail. I would roll my eyes, of course, but they just made Maui seem so accessible. But I couldn't, in my 9 year old mind, figure out how to make it happen. So instead I'd come home from my week at Grandma Marian's and just nag my parents about it. They finally promised that they would take me when I turned 10, but frankly I'm not sure they ever really meant this. I think it was more of a finite answer to the infinite questions I would always ask "When will visit Hawaii? How long until I can see Hawaii? Can I learn how to surf? Where we will snorkel?"
WHEN YOU ARE TEN, HOLLY. WE WILL TAKE YOU WHEN YOU ARE TEN.
And so that was that. Except of course age ten came and went and we never made it to Hawaii. It's not like my parents never took me anywhere, my childhood was full of fabulous family camping adventures, the aforementioned trips to Sonoma, and one incredibly exotic trip to Bermuda (which I totally didn't appreciate a the time -- God, the regret!) but we just never really made it to Hawaii like we were supposed to when I turned 10. And so as you can imagine I pretty much brought that up annually over candles and cake. It became a bit of a family joke, actually.
I think as I got older I finally came to terms with the fact that nobody was going to Take Me To Hawaii, so I went about researching the cost of getting there myself and Holy Hell are those plane tickets pricey when you are making $12 an hour slinging mochas, so I kind of gave up the dream for awhile. I was fine doing my frolicking around the mainland and exploring California's bounty until about two years into my relationship with Garrett when he nonchalantly mentioned that his family owned a portion of a condo in Maui and would I be interested in heading out there for a couple of weeks at some point? To which my answer was, HELL-TO-THE-YES! And also immediately afterward, WHY THE HELL HAVE YOU WAITED TWO YEARS TO BRING THAT UP, BUDDY? His reply was that he had pretty much gone every summer of his entire life up until he was about 16 and so he wasn't sure that Hawaii was anything I was that excited about.
(No really, BLINK BLINK.)
So once we had a very brief repeat conversation about my likes and dislikes (LIKES: Free Condos in Maui. DISLIKES: My boyfriend thinking I would not be interested in Free Condos in Maui. See? Easy) he explained that his parents and grandparents and some teacher friends from the bay area each owned 1/12th of a condo. We could have the condo for a month if we wanted, so pretty much immediately I began to plan. Of course as travel planning goes it took us a couple years to get our time/budget/act together, but surprisingly at the end of May this year I (FINALLY) found myself on a 5 hour flight that was Maui-bound. Only twenty years after my 10th Birthday.
It was kind of a moving experience, that flight, which I realize sounds totally cheesy, but really the whole time I just kept looking out the window and thinking I can't believe I am finally going to Hawaii. I had not only packed my entire closet (which actually turned out to be a totally unnecessary rookie mistake) but also a lifetime of anticipation! And let me tell you when that plane finally landed I just let all those emotion loose! I actually cried when the plane landed because I WAS FINALLY HERE! I was finally able to see the places I had dreamed about as a child, to feel the ultimate relaxation with my best friend that I had heard about as a teen, and to see the beauty that I had envied as an adult. I had a moment of sadness because neither my father nor my grandmother were alive to finally hear about all of the experiences I was about to have, but in that moment it was like they were right there. The rite of passage was right there under my feet and it was so much for my little heart to take and so I just cried and cried the happy tears of joy that were 30 years in the making. Of course Garrett finally looked over at me and said "Dude, all these people are going to think I'm being mean to you if you are crying" and so we had a huge tear filled laugh, I wiped my cheeks and the adventure began.
We stayed in that condo for 12 days, and it was probably the most blissful time in my life. Garrett recounted memories of his trips as a child and I finally got to reconcile the pictures in my imagination with reality and it was truly so much better in person. I felt incredibly close to my father and my grandmother during that time, and as Garrett and I spent our days walking hand in hand on the beaches or cruising the island highways off to our next undertaking, I would think of my parents, and the similar moments they must have shared in their early 20s with the gorgeous Hawaiian sunset as their backdrop. What were they hoping their future held? I felt connected to the past, connected to nature, connected to a family history that surrounds me with wonderful memories even though we are no longer able to all sit together around the table and tell stories. Around every corner there was a reminder of the connections that I have always had with this beautiful place, and it truly felt like coming home.
The weirdest coincidence of the whole trip happened a few days before we left when I went rummaging around in the condo bathroom for some Advil. Underneath the sink amidst years worth of sunscreens, community shampoo bottles, and expired medicine, I found a halfway used tube of Crabtree & Evelyn's Rosewater Hand Therapy. Immediately forgetting about my headache, I doused myself in it and took myself back to those Sonoma summers with my grandma and hearing about her trips with Mert and Don and enjoying the Maui Life. It was a special moment, and the coincidence was sort of overwhelming, so when I got back home I of course shared the story with some of my relatives. Through a series of conversations I ended up having with my aunt describing where we stayed and through photographs of our trip, we ended up connecting the dots to figure out that the condo Garrett and I stayed was the same condo that my Grandma and Mert and Don had stayed in every summer all those years ago. Completely unable to believe that possibility Garrett called his parents who had the original Condo-share agreement, and sure enough, Mert and Don's names were on the contract for all those years with Garrett's parents and grandparents.
And seriously? A moment like that not only makes a trip, it kind of makes your life.