I always assumed I’d have to make it as a long-standing contestant on the Bachelor in order to visit Hawaii. It’s one of those uber romantic places that producers love for TV because the brilliant sunsets are a dime a dozen and every hotel looks like it was built for honeymooners (it was). As a New Yorker, a Hawaii trip seemed so far out of the realm of possibility for me that I didn’t even put it on my travel bucket list — if I didn’t get cast on the Bachelor, I’d just never make it there.
Then, this fall, I found myself on a twelve hour direct flight to Honolulu en route to Maui — one of those plush travel writing gigs that people will happily give a pinkie to score. I had a lot of time to pinch myself and, with no WiFi, the seemingly endless flight was filled with intense anticipation. It was a lot of buildup, especially considering that I’d only be in the state for two days, something which I’d soon be told is “literally insane” by every single person I met on the trip.
When I landed at around 7 PM, the jet lag and leftover buzz from the free-inflight booze left me feeling incredibly loopy, so it was hard to comprehend what I was seeing. On one side of the sky, the sun: an electric peach, huge, surrounded by a purpling haze. And on the other side, the moon: a glowing ball of crumpled silver satin. Two universal giants, sharing the sky like two equally-weighted children on a see-saw. I fell in love with Hawaii immediately.
If you look below the skyline, the ride from the airport in Maui to the resort town of Wailea is not beautiful. And it was hard to photograph the battling stars without getting a seemingly inappropriately placed Target truck or Taco Bell in the frame. Screw capitalism, y’know? I tried though. The sight was so outrageous that I fully expected to see Earth behind me. Like I was vacationing on a far off star.
Once we passed through the commercial side of the island, everything became so beautiful that I drained my full phone battery on blurry attempts to capture it. Every inch of land was worth documenting. Worthing Instagramming. Worth sending to friends and family back East.
After half a day surrounded by sky and ocean, you forget that the rest of the United States ever existed. Your Earth is no longer long stretches of land. Now, teal waters are the mainland, and the islands are merely terrariums with idyllic dioramas inside. This was all a lot to handle for a big city girl. The closest I ever feel to a synergistic connection to my environment is when I’m frantically eating my lunch on a park bench, drop something, and a rat beats me to the clean up. The people of Hawaii have some sort of handshake with the Earth.
I’ll never know if it was the calm bathwater ocean temperatures, or the celestial sky show, or the fish tacos that gave me butterflies in my stomach, but Hawaii definitely left me with the feels. In only 48 hours, it managed to convince me that I’m doing it all wrong. That basically anyone who doesn’t live in Hawaii is cheating themselves out of a better life.
Here are eight things besides my constant sky-watching that you can do in Maui to induce an epiphany: