I chose Hawaii for vacation because I wanted out of city-life, and because I have 3 friends on the island. Turns out, the island of Oahu isn't "getting out of the city" - it's mostly a pretty developed place, with tons of suburbs and coffeeshops and all the sides of the modern world, only with tropical culture included.
But, the not-mostly-city spaces are enough to go on. There are beaches everywhere, especially within walking distance of both friend-houses I've been staying at. I ran on one this morning. The center of the island has multiple hill/mountains (when is it big enough to be called a mountain? Does it hurt the mountain's feeling to call it a hill?), ridges, and craters that can't be built on, so there's good hiking. From up high Oahu is quite a sight - cities built on the flat spaces atop ridges, with deep wooded valleys between, surrounded by more city and then the sea.
The hiking has been my favorite part. I HAVE MISSED HAVING LEGS! I bike everywhere in Austin and Toronto, but biking's nothing compared to a good 4-hour trek, ideally including lots of up-and-down and bouldering. Every single day here I've gotten to run, hike, or work out in some way, and it's been GLORIOUS. The best stories so far:
- On my second day, I and my host for most of this trip so far, Chris Gongaware, went for a 4-hour adventure. We'd planned to start easy with a flat trek of about 7 miles, ending at a beach and going through a bird sanctuary on the way. After the sanctuary, though, I got bored with the flats, and voted for us to head up the mountain-hill next to us. There seemed to be a tiny path going up. We took the path, and after 20 minutes or so of scrambling, ended up at a mysterious opening that Chris thought was a bomb shelter. It turned out to be an abandoned mineshaft, complete with rusted old mine-cars, which we had to explore in total darkness by the light of one phone flashlight. As we turned to go out, I spotted a ladder going a few hundred feet up, with a square of daylight at the top. It was completely red with rust and looked like it hadn't been used in at least 30 years. So, of course, we climbed up it (Chris first!). I'm scared of heights and started to panic halfway up the ladder, especially when I got close to the top and it started curving outwards, and then when we had to swing from the ladder into the lip of a tiny drainage tunnel to get out into the sunlight. But, we survived, and came out close to the top of the ridge. We found an old WWII lookout point a bit higher up with some amazing graffiti inside, and then reached the top, hiked around for a while, and came back down...not through the mineshaft this time!
- The other fun hike was yesterday, another 4-hour trip, but this time through the jungle. I hadn't seen this side of Hawaii before. As soon as we started the trail (which was not the sort of thing you'd find in tourist-books, being fairly dangerous, physically challenging, and absolutely incredible), we were surrounded by green foliage, mist, and mud. So much mud. In many places, it was up to our ankles, and by the time we came out, we were spattered head-to-toe - I still can't get it out of my toenails! After an hour and a half of mud-hiking, stream-fording, and circling conversation, we came to the base of a beautiful waterfall. The trail continued up. We used ropes that past hikers had tied into tree roots to pull ourselves up the rocks next to the falls for at least 45 minutes, up and up, in one place even having to hold onto a line and half-Tarzan-swing THROUGH the waterfall! At the top, we had a beautiful view of the grassy marsh at the center of the crater whose lip we stood on. If we'd had a few hours more, we would have hiked around the lip; but as it was, we climbed back and made it back out of the jungle only minutes before the sun set for good.
Other things I've done include attending a lantern festival, eating good food, lots of books and beach walks, waking up at 5am every morning with the time change so I get to see the sunrise (and, where I'm staying now, meditate every morning for 45 minutes with one of my hosts), lots of stressing, and playing with my host's kids. I'm currently staying with Thomas and Tataya, circlers I've known and trained/trained with for the last few years. It's an absolute joy getting to spend time with them, and with their 3 kids. I've missed time with kids!
In all, this hasn't quite been the relaxing vacation I'd hoped, but it's been pretty close. The stress I'm feeling about "Where am I going to live? What am I going to do?" isn't going to go away until my situation changes, I imagine. But, getting some distance from life as "usual", and conversations I've had with Mark and others in the last few days, has really helped me gain perspective. I don't need to figure it all our right now. I need to do what makes me feel happy, and relatively stable, even if that means working on less clear projects and moving home in a couple months. The world goes on, and so do I.