Livin' La Vida Local
We are one day away from leaving our temporary home in the tiny town of Hawi and a week from leaving Hawaii, so it seems like a perfect time to reflect. We have been here for 9 weeks—by far the longest “vacation” for any of us. As noted in my first post, we certainly started our gap year with Slow Travel. We have loved it and we have hated it.
By far the best part of staying in a new location for over two months is the opportunity to live like a local. When we first arrived, we used the travel guides to do some tourist highlights. When we ran out of those, we turned to the old and new friends who lived here as well as discovering our own sites. We soon developed our personal favorites: Beach 69 and Pololu Valley Hike, both of which we visited half a dozen times and feel are “our spots.” There is a lot of comfort in that. (We have posted about both of those multiple times on blogs and FaceBook.)
We also heard about more obscure local spots—maybe not “secrets” since we weren’t here long enough to unearth those—but certainly out of the guidebooks: Māhukona, Keokea Park, Pine Trees Surf Spot. Māhukona is a local snorkeling and swimming spot on the far north side of the island. It is an old abandoned sugar mill port, more of a swimming hole than a beach. We went on a Wednesday afternoon and jumped off the cement pier into clear water covered in fish and sunken port relics. We were joined by groups of teenagers, workers meeting up for a beer after work, retired people out for an afternoon snorkel. It felt good to play alongside these groups and pretend we belonged there.
Keokea Park is also a local swimming hole on the other side of Hawi, tucked into the lush hills. It is a rough cliff-lined shoreline with a tiny manmade “harbor” of lava rocks so the kids can swim safely. The Friday afternoon we visited, we saw young families pulling up for happy hour: the kids jumping off the rocks in the water while mom and dad sat on the tailgate enjoying a much-deserved beer. In the park pavilion there was a group setting up for the Kohala High School 10-year reunion. It was a relaxed and fun atmosphere to linger in as Lucas and his friend played frisbee in the water, I read, and Dan explored with his camera. A wonderful respite from tourist-packed beaches along the west coast.
We found Pine Trees Surf Spot when a local friend invited us to a Beach Cleanup. It was Labor Day weekend and the postcard-inspired rocky beach was lined with local campers enjoying the end of summer. As we cleaned the beach with the rest of the group, many campers shared a hearty “Mahalo!” for cleaning their beloved beach and promised they were trying to keep it clean as well. It was fun to watch the seasoned young surfers and boogie boarders and savor the scents of the Hawaiian barbeque while we worked, imagining what it would be to live like that. We could almost hear the island express a heavy sigh of relief that the tourist hordes were gone (at least until Iron Man in October and then the snowbirds descend).
At all these places, we could pretend to be locals. We went where they went, did what they did. However, we would never claim to be locals—here in Hawaii earning that status can actually take years. We could act alongside them, but never quite participate. I had heard that you know you’re an accepted local when you’ve been invited to a lu’au—a real lu’au, not one at a hotel. Real Hawaiian lu’aus still happen all the time at parks and beaches each weekend. We saw many of them being set up with an array of food, drinks, decorations, and simple music. Most commonly they are thrown for a baby’s first birthday, but they could be any celebration to gather large families and friends for time together. It was fun to watch, if even longingly from the outside.
We will miss these memories when we leave. It was fun to dive deeper into a location than we usually get to do. Yet we all guiltily admit we are ready to go. This may have been more time than we needed in this part of the world, something we were worried may happen. There’s not a lot to do here, especially in this remote part of the island, but we knew that would be a good exercise in slowing down.
We wanted to see what was on the other side of boredom…and we did. It turns out that it’s not writing my book or blogs (oops). At first the other side of boredom only seemed like it was housework (and more than I’m used to) as we tried to take care of this rural place without a lot of modern conveniences. Or then the other side of boredom seemed to be sitting at home and falling into the same dysfunctional routines (hello, social media). Or alternatively, the other side of boredom could be slogging the big beast of our borrowed truck along the same long and remote road over and over again to get to civilization and find something to do. But no. We found our answer on September 3. What lies on the other side of boredom is actually a lovely, peaceful beach trail. Who knew? Maybe it was worth it after all.
So as we pack up our belongings that have exploded and multiplied over our little house, we are excited to get on the road. We realize that our stop in Hawaii was a bit of a layover before the “real” travel starts; after all, we are still in the United States and in many ways it is like California. We are eager to start moving more to discover different lands each day.
We are all anticipating the next itinerary. From Hawi, we travel to the Hilo side for 5 days, visit the sites and Volcano National Park, then spend our final weekend in Kona. We’ll be staying in hotels, leaving our local costume behind to play tourist again. And we are looking forward to it (especially the maid service.) From Kona, we fly to Honolulu for one brief day before boarding our flight to Christchurch, New Zealand. We’ll be in Christchurch for a week before our 7-day campervan adventure, and then spend two weeks exploring the South Island’s beautiful and remote West Coast. We’ve booked 11 different stays during this part of our trip, so the Myers will certainly be Moving then.
But then we’ll slow down and settle in Nelson, New Zealand for November and December. We will unpack our Local New Zealand costume and see how that fits. Hopefully we will also learn to live like local Kiwis.
Mahalo, Hawaii. Kia Ora, New Zealand.