Mahalo, Kaua’i

Vacation is a magical word, conjuring images of palm trees, sunlight, and precision relaxation. I’ve just returned from a week in Kaua’i, the Garden Isle of Hawai’i. It was everything ‘vacation’ conjures.

Mr. Aniko and I slept when we were tired, ate when we were hungry, explored the island on foot and in our rented Ford Fusion. We spent a day in a covered cabana by the sea, alternating reading with looking out at the expanse of blue, blue Pacific. Most days, we took sight-seeing drives; there are no interstates, which I suppose is obvious, and there were few short stretches where the speed limit was a whopping fifty (mph). To put that in perspective, some of the roads I drive on daily in Austin have a speed limit of eighty! At first trying to go twenty-five in areas that looked like Texas-sixties was laughable, and it was very easy to creep up to forty and still believe you were crawling. Sometime in the second day, it clicked: you don’t need to go as fast when the distance is so short, and when the landscape is inexpressibly beautiful. There were many times we remarked that the most noticeable thing about Kaua’i was the intense unreality of it. The lush greenery, winds scented with plumeria and hibiscus, the perfect temperature that never demanded more than a light sweater, the sudden rains followed by brilliant rainbows: none of it seemed like part of our world. Star Trekkies, Kaua’i has got to be the genesis of Risa, the holiday destination in the stars. It is that perfect.

This is what vacation looks like.

I wasn’t expecting the wind. We get wind here in Austin, strong gusts that precede a distinct change in weather. In Kaua’i the wind was constant. It soughed through the palm trees outside, and fearless little tropical birds perched on the spines of palm branches. One little red-capped bird hopped onto our lanai, or balcony, and sang to Mr. Aniko. It was enchanting.

I’d read that it rains in Kaua’i almost daily, and I packed an umbrella. The umbrella was not equal to the winds, but it was better than nothing. The downpours tended to spring up without warning, and at dawn there was a curtain of rain that blew off of the sloped roofs in sheets of water. On the day we drove out to see the Waimea Canyon, the rains didn’t relent. We trekked up to one of the rainiest spots on the planet, in a downfall, smiling and laughing the whole time. Out on Po’ipu Beach, the afternoon showers would come in and feel so very chilly. You could tell the newcomers, who would scatter at the first drops, but everyone quickly learned that if you cover up with the orange-striped beach towel, you’ll stay comfortable and keep your book dry, too. The afternoon rains passed in a matter of minutes, and then the sun returned, baking us back to warmth as we enjoyed vibrant rainbows arcing through newly unperturbed sky.

rainbow!

Traveling, to me, is as much about experiencing cuisine as it is about sightseeing or relaxing. I drank coconut water from a coconut hacked open by a man with a machete. I ate a Hawaiian hot dog  which is entirely encased in the bun and seasoned with spicy mustard and fruit spreads. We shopped at Big Save and Sueoka’s grocery stories, picking up Hawaiian sweet rolls (in Hawai’i!!), sandwich meat, and breakfast provisions. We alternated granola breakfasts on our lanai, with scrambles at the earliest-opening breakfast joint near our hotel. The waitress there never remembered us, and often didn’t bring me what I ordered, but the kim chee scramble was really tasty, and came with rice instead of hash browns. Our most excellent meal was at Pizzetta, in Old Koloa Town. I got decadent white truffle-infused meatballs and pasta.  Prices in Kaua’i are out of this world expensive, with $12 scrambled eggs(!) and $35+ entrees at the nicer restaurants. Overall, the food in Kaua’i was better than what we had when we vacationed in Maine a few years back, but nowhere near as good as almost any restaurant here in Austin. However, Kaua’i had more wild chickens and crowing roosters than either Maine or Austin, and the charm and the breezes and the perfect temperatures more than offset the lackluster fare available for (somewhat) reasonable cost.

Would I hop on the next grueling flight back to the Garden Isle? Two days ago, I would have said yes. I’ll admit to crying when it was time to leave; being carefree, comfortable, and without stress is addictive. It is chilly in Austin now, still getting into the thirties (F) at night, and the traffic screams by on roads so fast there is no option of driving with the windows down and still enjoying a conversation. The predominant colors here are brown and gray, an ugly contrast to the greens, purples, yellows, and reds of Kaua’i. Even the airports on the mainland are less lovely, all enclosed and full of recycled air instead of open and allowing in tropical breezes like Kauai’s Lihue airport. Like I said, two days ago I would have said yes.

I'm holding a baby coconut!

Today, I’m not so sure. Some really overdue yard work reminded me that there is gratification in doing that can’t be born of lazing around. It is also nice to cook again; right now, I’m preparing Tuscan beans flavored with sage and garlic. That we can do our weekly grocery shopping for healthy foods  for just over what one day of eating cost us in Kaua’i is a definite plus. My dogs are happy to see me, and the little Yorkie is sitting in my lap as I write this, both of us snuggling together against the brisk and chilly breezes howling down the chimney. The most important thing about being home is the return of my sense of volition. When I am perfectly comfortable, as I was in Kaua’i, I have no impetus to create. Writing seemed like a silly thing to bother with when I could lay on a beach and let the island sing to me. Work? Ha! That seemed like a ridiculous thing to even consider when the wind shifted palm tree shadows across the lanai. Yet writing, tending my house, and going to work help me understand who I am. If I were to stay in Kaua’i, I’m not sure I’d be the person who could write novels. I’m not sure I’d still be me, and I don’t want to be someone else.

And isn’t that the real magic of vacation? To leave enabled me to return to daily life, glad to be home, and happy to be myself. Life may not always be paradise, but I need the discomfort of too fast cars, too busy days, and disconsolate brown landscape to spur me to creativity.

Mahalo,  Kaua’i, for reminding me of who I am.

 

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6 thoughts on “Mahalo, Kaua’i

  1. I spent a little over a month on Kauai and the big island a few years ago. I was traveling without much money, hitch hiking around (which is much safer there than here, I heard) and sleeping outside many nights by the sea. My god. I love that place. Last night I dreamed that I was on Kauai, and I was trying to come home to see my dog and my city. I like how you brought me back there to an almost uncomfortable level (I miss plumerias, great views, and rainbows!!) but then brought me back to the fact that it’s fun for an amount of time, but that novelty is not something that stays. Plus, the choices of live music for that entire island probably don’t compare to what you can get in three blocks of South Lamar 🙂 It’s a magical place though, for sure. I would love to go back someday.

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    • Jennifer, aloha! You are adventurous, to backpack around Hawaii. I was all cozy (and far less adventurous!) in a resort, but I can see how someone could stay outside on Kauai in great comfort. Luxury, even, given the weather and the scenery. I miss the island, but I am grateful to her for giving me fresh perspective on my daily life.

      I have no doubt you are right about the live music selections, although there appear to be far fewer hula dancers on Kauai!

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  2. Aniko! You’re back! (And with a new look, too.)

    Kaua’i sounds (and looks) absolutely magical, so much so that I have a sudden urge to head off to the travel agent’s and see if there are any nice holidays to be had there. It’s funny, but I too used to cry when it was time to come back from holidays. I never, ever wanted to return to my normal, everyday life, which I think was due in part to the fact that my life just wasn’t at all happy then. Now I feel a great deal more settled, and so I don’t tend to feel soul-crushing misery so much as mild melancholy when it’s time to head back home. I find nowadays that holidays remind me of what is most important in life – which turn out to be everyday little things like going for walks and spending time with the mister. It’s a but sad that I sometimes need to be reminded of something so obvious!

    How is the writing going?

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    • Mari, hi!

      I am back, and WordPress was quite insistent that there was an update available for my blog theme! I like the spacing of the menu tabs better, and am too cheap to upgrade to customize the widget colors/fonts which I don’t like as much. Thanks for noticing the change – and for stopping by to say hello!

      I am glad that you are in a good emotional place, and that holidays bring you more joy than misery at their passing. Part of me wishes Mr. Aniko and I could have stayed forever on the island, but if we did, then it would simply become another place where we live. The magic would pass, and there would be work and bills and probably sadness that there are no marked seasons on the island. A week was just the right amount of time, and I highly recommend a visit! The best part about vacation is the perspective it gives on home and daily life. Today is the adventure, no matter where you are.

      Writing is going well, thanks! My next post will talk about what I’ve been up to and give a progress report. The novel is still in progress, but I am in the final third, and I am very excited about the (hundreds of pages!) of additions I’ve made to the first draft to flesh out the story and characters.

      As ever,

      -aniko

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  3. Pingback: Starting to get ready…. | This...That.... and whatever else I can think of... SayVan Photography

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