One year ago today I joined Ethan in Hawaii. That day was both exhausting and exciting, and I’m happy to say we’re still exhausted and excited 365 days later. Ho’i Hou Ke Aloha means “let us fall in love all over again” in Hawaiian. I think it defines this year: falling in love with each other, Hawaii, and ourselves over and over again every single day.
In case you didn’t know: The Hawaiian Island chain is the most isolated land mass on Earth. We. Are. Out. Here. Our closest neighbor is Kiribati, a country made up of tiny coral atolls with a few towns with names like London, Paris, and Banana -very exciting.
California is about 2400 miles away, Japan is 3800. Even though most people think there are only eight islands in Hawaii, there are actually around 137…Little coral atolls and islets dot the ocean like stars in a galaxy. Flecks of blinding white in a universe of blue make a Milky Way in the Pacific.
The sun beats down on on jagged patches of volcanic rock while parrot fish take enormous bites of coral in the shallow waters offshore. The trade winds whip by, soaking rains open up, and the ocean slowly swallows the islands whole with every lapping wave. It’s strange to think that someday these islands will be reduced to nothing by nature and our clever carving of the mountains and coasts. The history of the people here from their first arrival in canoes to the monarchy to present day will be no more than a season in the life of the islands. Cue Nature Slideshow.
Staying in Hawaii and learning about life in the Pacific and in Polynesia has been an experience that I never anticipated. Of course, we’re not truly alone here. Oahu is actually pretty crowded and we’ve made a lot of friends with wonderful people in a short time. 1 million residents live on Oahu. About 9 million people from all around the world have visited Hawaii since I got here exactly one year ago.
But truthfully when that one million people does not include your family or your oldest friends, it can feel as lonesome as a rock in the sea. Especially during holidays or after a particularly hard day, it’s like being an albatross on a tiny islet hundreds of miles from the next place to relax your wings. Lucky for an albatross, they can fly whenever they want. For us it’s not so easy.
It has been a fabulous year on the most part though, looking back. I’m so glad we came here, taking those initial risks and putting ourselves to the test in new and different ways. Today I feel closer to the person I want to be than I have for years. The challenge of making the most of our time here has been so worthwhile, I’m optimistic that the rest of our lives will be so much more fulfilling because of this experience -even after just one year. Maybe that’s what it’s like to gracefully exit your 20’s for anyone, but I have a feeling there’s more reward from having taken risks.
Anyway, what have we been doing all winter? My last post was in November so it’s been a while. Every day offers a little bit of adventure but on the most part life has been quiet. Rather than working for the weekend we’ve been working for moments of unexpected glory on a daily basis, using a different mindset than in the past.
Since November I’ve become a nature guide taking people hiking through a tropical rainforest to a waterfall or through a desert in a volcanic crater, or showing visitors around the island teaching natural history, geology, botany, ecology, and ornithology. Ethans job is not as action-packed (no flash floods in the office) but it has taken us interisland this year with the possibility of Guam in the near future. We’re looking forward to seeing what our day jobs will become while we live here.
One of my best friends was our first visitor for over a week during Thanksgiving. We snorkeled and visited the North Shore, and Lindsay brought her Macbook for emails into a tropical rainforest to Maunawili Falls which is the perfect metaphor for San Francisco meeting Hawaii. I’ve really missed our midday coffees and post-work cocktails in SoMa so it was amazing to have her here. Sometimes you feel a little bit more yourself with your best friends around and that refreshment was just what we needed.
My mom came to stay with us too in January to celebrate our birthdays. We went to a luau, she joined my hiking tour, and the three of us got to explore Volcano National Park on the Big Island (Hawaii Island) which was spectacular. I’m very fortunate to have friends and family who save up to experience these incredible things with us. If that wasn’t the case, this year would have been much harder.
Distance really proves who considers your relationship a priority. Of course there are lots of people in our lives who want to but won’t be able to visit us anytime soon because of cost/time/health, but we’re also realizing there are others who will never visit simply because it’s not important enough to them. After crossing North America many times to do just that, you could say it’s disappointing. At least we’re on the paradise side of things!
During January, Ethan and I were actually able to go to the Big Island two weekends in a row. It’s only a 200 mile trip where your plane starts descending just as soon as it’s in the sky. One weekend was with my mom where we were based on the Hilo side, and the other weekend was an annual company-wide trip through Ethans work where we stayed at a huge resort on the Kona side. Between those two weekends we visited lava fields and desert, pastures and farmland, volcanic mountaintops, tropical rainforests, and dramatic curving coastlines. Cue Big Island Slideshow!
In Hawaii you can find 11 of the 13 types of climates on Earth and many of them are on the charming and immensely beautiful Big Island. It is home to the only two active volcanoes in Hawaii and it is the youngest and largest of all the islands.
It really has been a quiet winter otherwise. We did some hikes, drank some margaritas made with Fresca, and started watching the X-Files. It has been a good thing to lay low all season however, since we’re leaving on our Honeymoon in two days! After a year and a half since the wedding, we’ll be visiting Ireland and France with brief stops in San Francisco, Iceland, and London. This will be our first time travelling internationally together and our first time leaving Hawaii since we moved here. Is it ironic that we’re a little bit excited to wear jackets and coats? I’ll take it either way. Life is really just one big Alanis Morrisette song…or at least I hope it is.
Last week we started getting the feeling that summer was beginning again. One day it was chilly, pouring rain, and the next it was 80 degrees with the sun hovering over you mercilessly like a prison guard. Summer here means sweaty nights and sunburns but also a lot of fun. So for now we’re looking forward to beach days and swimming, grilling out and long nights, while enjoying the dazzling green slopes of the mountains and never-ending “aloha spirit” in the meanwhile.