Cindy Carlson dreaded her 50th birthday and feared the heartbreaking agony of aging that she'd witnessed in her parents. Then, a kayak adventure in Hawaii revealed a surprising paradox about fear, and a new perspective emerged.
by Atreyee Gupta
The first time my father took me to the island of Oahu, it was not to see the popular beaches. Instead we went straight to the interior of the Hawaiian isle where dense wilderness overtakes the landscape, creating a virescence that leaps out at the eye in full three-dimensional glory. It was a capital sight for me, an immediate opening up of my senses to the wonder of nature’s artwork. Ever since, immersing myself in Oahu’s jungle trails has been a necessity, an addiction I cannot deny.
For my father, whose own parents had taken him as a child to the depths of the Wai’anae Mountains, Oahu’s wild heart was the key that unlocked his soul, bringing him back to himself. Our hikes exploring Waimea Valley or the Hau’ula trails were times, he explained, for us to look into our hearts and see the best of ourselves reflected in the natural world. “Know yourself,” was a phrase he often quoted to me on our jaunts.
Silently crossing burbling streams or making our way deeper into the Ko’olau Range, we kept our senses alert for the sounds of bark and nuts crunching beneath our feet, the quick flash of a red-crested cardinal as it dove into the branches, the whiff of delicate perfume from rose apple blossoms. Our speechless rambles were only broken with peremptory whispers as my father identified the cheerful yellow amakihi swaying on a limb, the fiery red stamens of a flowering myrtle as it quivered in the breeze, or the discovered tributary of a tiny silver runnel. My time with him was spent not on discussions about my future or his past, but on total absorption of Oahu’s natural paradise. Everything else, he claimed, was secondary.
by Deston Nokes
When I flew from Honolulu to Molokai, the culture shock was akin to leaving Las Vegas for a small town in Utah. Gone were the towering hotels, expansive resorts, chain eateries, blinking neon, and surging swarms of humanity on Waikiki.
On Molokai, it’s quiet. It’s gentle. The island is only 10-miles wide and 38-miles long. There isn’t a lot of structured activity and visitors should be prepared to entertain themselves exploring, snorkeling, hiking, making crafts and just enjoying the sensation of just being in Hawaii. Sportsmen find the hunting and fishing terrific, and there’s just one nine-hole golf course, where the pace is said to be … leisurely.
Kaunakakai, the island’s largest “town,” is just three blocks long, but we did find the island’s best ice cream at Kamo'i Snack-n-Go, and we lined up for the warm bread made daily at Kanemitsu's Bakery.
Here, every beach is public and no building is higher than a coconut tree. There are no traffic lights, escalators or elevators. The Hotel Molokai is the only hotel unless visitors opt for a vacation rental. And traffic? A local saying defines a Molokai traffic jam as “two trucks stopped in the road talking story.”
Mia Gains-Alt, an Oakdale, Calif., transplant and former Bravo TV’s Top Chef contestant, fell in love with Hawaii while shooting the reality cooking show on location in Kona. In a fit of inspiration, she applied for the chef position, and moved her husband, three daughters and even her mother to the rural island.
“The people here are really tight knit, and there’s a certain amount of freedom in that,” Gains-Alt said. “And, as a parent, I love that Molokai is so safe for our kids. I have peace, sanity, and just don’t feel like I need to go anywhere else.”
I grew up in the jungle of Maui, barefoot, climbing trees, keeping geckos as house pets. A trip to the busy west side of the island was an all day affair. After a two hour dance with the narrow, cliff-side Hana Highway we’d arrive in Kahului where I was fascinated by the fluorescent lights and honking car horns. I’d sing along to the Ka’ahumanu Center jingle on the radio and the grocery store might as well have been Disney World I was so eager for the cheese samples, flower displays and rows of sugary cereal I might possibly convince mom to splurge on.
When I was nine, my family relocated to Maine where grocery stores weren’t so special and civilization was easily accessed just a few minutes down the road. I spent my teenage years still titillated at the mere mention of a trip to the mall as it seemed Maine never got the overdevelopment memo the rest of the country took to heart in the 90s. The closest mall was still two hours away; I’m a country girl.
Though I still live in Maine today, I at least have made it to Portland, the “big city”. I have had the pleasure of getting my traveler’s feet wet as I’ve grown out of my rural roots but when I returned to Maui in 2005, I was caught off guard—the visit was nothing like I expected.
As I trotted behind my guide along the trails that Jack London once rode, I imagined myself as one of the many friends he led on horseback rides through his 1,400-acre Beauty Ranch in the early 1900s. We galloped through stands of eucalyptus, madrona, and towering redwood trees that shaded fern-filled glens just as Jack described them in his novel The Valley of the Moon.
Delighted with each new vista I, too, felt “vitalized, organic” as I overlooked vineyards in their tidy rows stretching to the foot of the purple Sonoma Mountains. We cantered over a rise to see the lake that Jack and Charmian, his wife of eleven years, swam in on sunny afternoons. I saw myself gliding with them through the clear water then drying on a hot rock in the sun, cooled by the wisp of a breeze.
Like young Jack London, I went from California to the Northwest while in my teens. Unlike Jack, it was not my idea of a great adventure. My parents, determined to homestead in Haines, Alaska, rudely uprooted me and took me to a world populated by loggers, fishermen, and Tlingit Indians. At thirteen, I hadn’t read Jack’s White Fang or The Call of the Wild. I didn’t know I was walking in the famous author’s footsteps when I took the narrow gauge train that snakes up the Whitehorse pass into the Yukon. I had no idea it was the alternate route for the Chilkoot Trail Jack climbed carrying 150-pound pack during the Gold Rush of the 1890s.
A decade after my family’s shift to the North, Hollywood chose to use the more accessible Dalton Trail from Haines to the Klondike to re-enact the fabled climb of the stampeders up the ice steps of the Chilkoot Trail in the movie White Fang. Every able-bodied person in my hometown was hired to re-create the famous scene Jack described. Even then, while everyone in town swaggered about bragging about his or her role in the film, I still had no personal awareness of Jack London. He was simply an adventurer who captured the grit of the Northwest in children’s books.
Palm trees swayed in the breeze, the sound of waves were crashing on the beach, and beautiful Hawaiian girls danced as they dispensed colorful leis. All eyes that had the ability to focus were looking at the giant TV screen and the delightful scene as they enjoyed their armchair travel to Honolulu. Shirley was dressed for the occasion in her coconut bra. She wheeled around in her wheelchair as she modeled her vacation wear.
by Jules Older
On our first trip to Hawaii, our twin daughters were two-and-a-half.
On the first trip, we four — Effin and I and our twin daughters — stayed in a cottage at Puunalu on the (then) largely undiscovered north side of Oahu. This time we eight (add Willow’s husband Leroy and our dear friend Barbara) stayed in a slightly bigger cottage on the south side of Kauai.
Travel with Kids
In some ways travel with kids is harder today. If you intend to drive, you have to lug along awkward, heavy car seats. You have to make your way with kids and car seats and fold-down strollers and disposable diapers through airport security. On the plane, there's much less legroom and even less food.
On the other hand, these days you can rent a van, and you can rent or bring along a portable DVD to keep the kids amused.
Max did pretty well through the taxi to SFO, the airport wait, the five-hour flight to Honolulu, the Wiki Wiki bus to the other part of the airport, the two-hour wait for the next flight, the next flight, and half the mini-van ride to our cottage. We made a big deal of driving in a “brand new blue mini-van.”
At precisely the halfway point between airport and cottage, Max went into meltdown. His lower lip quivered ominously. “I w-w-want to go h-h-home.”