Seems like Hawaii is on everyone’s bucket list these days. I’m not really big on bucket lists, but Hawaii would probably have been on mine too if I had one. There’s something about the unique landscapes and island culture that is inexplicably alluring and magnetic for veteran and newbie travelers alike.
For me, Hawaii has been an enormous part in shaping me as a person and as a traveler – something for which I will always be grateful.
I grew up in California, which made Hawaii the best and easiest place for my family to go on a tropical vacation. We weren’t a big beach-going bunch, but there was a certain buzz of excitement around the house right before we’d head off to the airport en route to the islands. For my brother and I as kids, it was an exciting trip to take – flying into the middle of an ocean to visit some of the most remote islands in the world. For my parents, it was a chance to let us play in the sand while they relaxed. Before I left California to live in New York, I’d been lucky enough to visit Hawaii, and specifically Maui, three times. All three times were memorable travel experiences from my childhood and throughout adolescence.
Recently, at the end of The Trip, I returned to Maui for the first time in 13 years. This time I’d arrive with Matt, in search of a new experience on the island. As he’d never been, I wanted to show him the places that were special to me from my previous visits, like Kahana and Haleakala. But this was our first trip here together. I wanted to find new places for new memories.
No matter where we went, new place or old , I couldn’t shake this feeling that Maui was more important to me than I had previously imagined. Even on the golden sand of beaches I had never been to, it all felt familiar and important. Yes I could still hear my brother’s voice as we played in the sand on Ka’anapali Beach as kids, or feel the cold wind nipping at my cheeks as we watched the sunrise over Haleakala’s crater. Though these memories of my childhood are infinitely valuable to me, there was some other layer involved in my connection to this place. It was something I wouldn’t realize until I arrived back in New York after our big trip and began writing through our travel experience.
Maui is where I found my Wanderlust.
For this reason, it will always be special. No matter how many places I visit. No matter how many other places I fall in love with more deeply, Maui is The One That Did It. The place that inspired a deep curiosity about the world we live in and a intense need to explore it. Wanderlust.
Whatever Maui gave to me all those years ago, with its waterfalls and beaches and helicopter rides, it kick-started my insatiable desire to keep doing more. To keep learning more about the world through personal first-hand experiences. To try new things, both exciting and daunting alike. To share my stories with others. To photograph it all so I can always remember how it felt to be there.
So I thank you, Hawaii. Thank you for opening my eyes to something that has truly shaped my life. I will now always be an explorer, whether around the world or in my own city. And I’ll be back to visit you – I’m sure. For a fifth time. To remind myself of those initial feelings of wanderlust that have gotten me to where I am now, and perhaps I’ll find something new yet again on the island that started it all.