First Impressions of Hawai’i

Today is only my 4th day on the island, but I already feel like I’ve been here for much longer.

Many of you have been contacting me asking how things are going, so I thought I’d “kill two birds with one stone,” as they say, and briefly outline my first impressions of the Big Island of Hawai’i, as well as provide some teasers for what’s to come. (There are also more video-blog entries coming, as well.)

Pink Hawaiian Flowers

In short, it has been magnificent. This island really does have a strange kind of magic to it, and I can easily say that in all my travels I have never been to such an incredible place.

So far, the only downside has been that the sun sets faster (Hawaii being so near to the equator), and is obviously more intense. But with precautions, these differences are easily accounted for. The people also seem much more relaxed in general, although perhaps more superstitious. As I was soon to learn, Hawaii is the only US State where myth has been woven into the very fabric of the culture itself, often with fascinating results.

Day 1

Upon landing at one of the in one of the cutest international airports in possibly all the world, I exited the plane and immediately found myself outside. No tube was attached to the craft leading me into a confusing maze of terminals. Instead, I found myself walking down an attached flight of stars and walking across the tarmac, feeling not unlike the Beatles as they exited a similar-sized craft onto a similar tarmac so many years ago, although certainly not in such a tropical place.

My Beatles parallel soon shattered though. I looked back at the Alaskan Airlines plane still parked behind me and considered my situation. No one was here waiting for me, and no one was going to pick me up. Having gained 3 hours from Californian time, it was only 10AM, and my host wouldn’t be off from work in hours. Add to that the truly abysmal public transportation options leading out of the airport, and it left me but one option: Hitchhiking.

Now granted, there are various shuttles you can hire to get you down to Kailua-Kona from the Kona airport. But none of them are economical options, and my host assured me that hitchhiking on the island was, for all practical purposes, a cakewalk.

And so, I made my way down the long road that led to the main highway. I didn’t even feel like sticking out my thumb at first. After all, my last experience of hitchhiking had been on the mainland years before, and truth be told, I was still a bit nervous to do it.

I never even got the chance to stick out my thumb, though. After about ten minutes of walking, a shiny, clean car parked on the other side of the road. I walked over and after talking to him, I realized that he’d been on the same flight I had been on. He told me he’d been in my position before, and offered to take me into town. I studied him carefully, and my intuition gave me a green light.

Turns out, he used to work for Oracle and made some decent money in the stock market (although he beat himself up a bit about how he wished he’d sold his stock earlier). After a short stop at the grocery store, he dropped me off at my host’s place and gave me his card. I must confess it’s refreshing seeing someone with wealth have the empathy to pick up a hitchhiker. Yes, it does happen!

Later that Day

Since my host was still at work, I met my host’s brother first, a talented cook whose dream is to be a head chef someday. After talking to him and another friend who stopped by, hitchhiking to a beach and exploring it seemed to be the best way to spend the rest of the day, and within two short rides (the 2nd being from a lovely lady named Loana who was very sweet and asked me various questions to make sure I was prepared), I found myself at the entrance to the path to Makalawena beach, one of the most beloved white-sand beaches in the area.

The trail was rather ugly and long, but the reward was worth it. Within a half hour, I found myself at my own private white sand beach. No one else was in sight, and I began reacclimatizing myself to salt water. After all, it had been nearly a decade since I’d swam in it.

Everything was going so very well, and the sun was low on the horizon, reducing my need for sunblock. I even found that I was able to function nearly adequately without glasses if I squinted.

It would have been a perfect visit, if I hadn’t sliced my foot open just before I left.

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