There is something about traveling alone, that makes you realize your strengths and weaknesses. When the noise of others fades and you are left on a slick street in Honolulu, the world can feel bigger and smaller at the same time.
This week I travelled to Hawaii with a group. We stayed in a gorgeous house, and the trip was so busy that I didn’t really have time to think or plan — which was perfect since I was too exhausted from my recent move to be interested in either.
But the business of others, the hum and buzz of a group can be a fickle friend. You are lulled into their noise, and with all of your decisions made for you — become complacent to the ebb and flow of what’s happening around you.
It was in this way that when I dropped my guy off at the airport — and parked in Honolulu’s Chinatown — I felt an immense silence that I hadn’t known for days, and I was both terrified and thrilled.
Even in the quiet moments on the beach I had been buzzing. What will we do later? What will we eat? Will I have time to work? Has that sea turtle inched any closer?
I somehow couldn’t fully relax even in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. And I realized in that moment after parking our rental car that this is what had been missing.
This complete silence.
To wander uncensored, to explore without explanation or judgement. This solo adventuring that has become so second-nature to me in the past few years and is the life breath of a writer. The ability to thrive while alone.
And yet the past two weeks I have felt empty and void of all creativity. I am exhausted by how empty I feel, and all the sudden changes have left me as blank as a chameleon, ready to take on whatever color life gives me, but too tired to chose my own.
Hawaii was beautiful, and I loved it in a way that I never expected to.
I have heard people say it is touristy, and overdone, but this was not my impression. I didn’t see Waikiki (the famed tourist downtown) until my final hours in Oahu, and even then it was just a brief period of walking through a slightly obnoxious and overdone outdoor mall in the sprinkling rain with a military presence filling out the bars.
But my Hawaii, the one that my grandfather had been born into, was breathtaking. The wild mountains, spiking high into perfectly over-fed clouds made you feel equally untamed. The beach with its humid sand, sand that was more like a series of crushed shells in their sharp culmination. The palm trees that shook their heads, long leaves knocking against one another as rhythmically as wooden wind chimes. Tiki statues up against sea-blown houses, their original colors faded into a neutral scheme beneath slippery wind-beaten roofs.
And its so funny the things that an island teaches you in a week — teaches you as in a remembering, and teaches you as in a forgetting. I remembered what it meant to respect the wild in a way that you think before placing your feet in grass, wary of the risks in every step.
I forgot how to spell perfectly, spending hours away from my laptop — letting mountains and sea mist fill my mind’s spaces generally reserved for more modern applications. I remembered the dangerous rip and curl of a tide’s lip, and I forgot to check the time.
The island life presented me with its best gift: the chance to forget everything beyond its coves. The chance to close your eyes to what lay beyond, and all things that would normally pull you from a deep meditation and into the grasp of distraction.
I saw seals, fish that were beautiful in ways I didn’t know fish could be. I saw a sea turtle raise its barnacled head and yawn, a cat stretch its claws on a piece of driftwood beside the incoming tide. I saw a moon ducking behind dancing clouds, casting light and shadows on a group of us walking while making the ocean shimmer and glow. I looked up at a great boulder as the wind seemed to carry time so far ahead of us, spinning the sky as if in a shaking snow globe.