This is a difficult post to write, but it’s time to say a hui hou, Maui. And I firmly believe there will be a next time, you lovely little island, you.
I’m standing on the edge of a steep, jagged cliff of stark black lava rock, looking out over the windswept ocean that lies just below me, around me, everywhere. In the distance there’s a string of flickering headlights on the Big Island, visitors and residents driving home from work, to dinner, onto their next adventure.
The mosquitoes have come out to play, buzzing, glad to have some company as they rest on our picnic table and shins. Tonight we’ll sleep under a lone hala tree on the edge of East Maui, backed by clouds lazily rolling over the backside of Haleakala Volcano. It’s humid and warm, and the rain is far off but coming.
Hammocks swing in the breeze, and our twinkly Christmas lights blink as nighttime approaches, anticipating their growing charm. The Talking Heads play in the background and we’re all laughing, high on life and nature and pineapple soaked vodka, thirsty for more.
This is Maui, and this is one of a million charming memories I have here.
A Hui Hou, Maui
There are a lot of things I could tell you about this island.
I could say it’s gorgeous and breathtaking, intense yet relaxing, and nearly always seems to produce things that smell and taste and look good, but you know all of those things. This is news to approximately no one.
So what can I say about this place, after living here for the past two years, that will make you more confident in dropping what you’re doing and moving here immediately, staying where you’re at, or simply adding it to your growing collection of travel maybes?
In a word, or I guess two words – the truth.
A reader recently asked me to tell the unromanticized version of Maui because I have no reason to tell it otherwise. That’s fair, and it’s true. I have no incentive to tell you that Maui is tropical paradise perfection, or the best place I’ve ever been.
It’s not, by the way. But not because it’s not wonderful… I just don’t think I’ve been to the best place I’ll ever go yet. It’s too soon to make that call, and honestly, my “perfect place” probably doesn’t exist at all. If I had it my way, I’d combine everywhere, everyone, and everything I love most into my own personal version of paradise. And unless I’m friends with a secret wizard of life perfection, that probably ain’t happenin’ (now’s your time to speak up, wizard friend!).
My advice is to stop trying to find a specific place that fulfills all of your dreams, and instead, focus on what it is that really makes you tick, makes you genuinely happy, and leaves you wanting more, and follow that intuition. From my experience, moving in and of itself won’t make you a happier person. It’s more about what you do after you get there, and it’s all about challenging yourself (and hopefully succeeding at least some of that time), learning more about the world and people in general, finding new things that inspire you, and using that to become a better all-around human being.
The perk of moving to several different places is that often, your interests grow with each new place as you’re introduced to different routines of living. And let me tell you, that is a damn good thing for your soul. Don’t limit your interests, and don’t write off the ones you’ve never tried (except maybe riding those damn devil-birds known as ostriches, because that is my personal hellish nightmare).
The truth, I’m afraid, is that I’m honestly very heartbroken to leave this place. It’s hard to tell an unromanticized version of Maui because it’s truthfully so very romantic. The majority of what I see and do here on a daily basis is super swoon-worthy. Even during the most mundane of activities, like riding the bus, I’ve seen breaching humpback whales propel themselves out of the ocean. Eff the rainbows! That shit is insanely badass.
I’ve never been to a place (not just lived, but been) where nature is so in-your-face. Standing on the shoreline and watching giant waves beat the living shit out of sand is just a tiny reminder that we live on a piece of rock in a gigantic world of ocean.
And it’s not just that. Hiking through Iao Valley and looking up at the lush, steep walls of the West Maui Mountains – you can feel the power of the place, the land, the history. I’m fortunate that my job, which involves writing a ton about this island, has put things into a much deeper, richer perspective for me. I have read and researched the historical significance of the land, the names of the people who fought for it, and how it’s been shaped over time. I’ve done this not only to avoid sounding like a total haole dummy, but because it’s fascinating.
I’ll also mention that the ocean is not first nature to me, and this is the first time I’ve ever lived on an island. I was initially a little nervous about the typical concerns when you think of living in Hawaii – getting eaten alive (or dead) by a shark, pissing off the wrong local, or contracting a mysterious meat disease from heightened spam consumption.
But guess what? None of those things were ever even remotely a concern. Sharks, as I’ve learned again and again, really don’t want anything to do with me, the people on Maui have almost all been extremely kind, and spam is actually quite tasty on a breakfast sandwich.
I will miss the people I’ve met here terribly – 2 years is long enough to make super solid life homies – but they all know they have a place to stay wherever I am, and vice versa. Planes work both ways, and so does Skype. Plus, I’m certain I’ll be back to visit.
There’s something to be said for the way of life here, and Maui, at least in my opinion, does a pretty nice job of honoring the continuation of Hawaiian culture without over-commercializing it for the sake of money. Are there still important fights yet to be won? Absolutely, and they’re likely only going to get more complicated. But as an outsider, it’s nice to see the real Maui, outside of the luaus and tiki torches and resort pools, not too far out of reach.
I want to thank everyone who has made our time here absolutely unique and memorable – by introducing us to new friends, inviting us to join your adventures, and sharing bits of life over beers, behind bar tops, in the sand, waves and insane wind, you have made what would have been a fun move into a life-changing one. You know who you are.
If you learn anything right here, right now, let it be this – Maui is heaven, and it’s not for everyone. But if you come here with the right expectations of low-key living, right attitude, and right balance of relaxation and curiosity, like anywhere else, you may just find what you’re really looking for. And that’s pretty priceless, my friends.
A hui hou, Maui…