For years, my trips back to Hawaii were simply that; a trip back to Hawaii. I would stay at my parents’ place, go to the same beach we always went to, make a couple trips into town, maybe see a couple people I knew in passing, and would just generally BE in Hawaii. But growing up there, I remembered so many more aspects to Hawaii, things that made life there special, but were either few and far between while living there, or simply opportunities wasted by my teenage self, who was struggling with an excess of self-doubt and still figuring out what it was I actually wanted. My assumption was that visiting home for Christmas, the first time in at least seven years, would be little different than all my previous visits, and I would return to Sydney simply a bit tanner.
Instead, I found myself re-immersed in all the things I found best about Hawaii, and even things I could have used so much that were missing in those formative, emotionally land-mined years. I hiked through the valleys at the end of the road, picking and eating wild liliquoi fruit along the way and stopping for a swim before hiking out barefoot, sea salt crusting on my shoulders. I bodyboarded on huge winter swells as they crushed the shore and stole all the sand from the beach. I rounded out the days with a jump in the ocean off the decaying piers frequented by locals and devoid of tourists. I sat on the back steps with Kohala’s slack key master, guitars on our laps, and did my best to keep up with everything he was willing to share. I went to parties and made plans. And biggest of all, I discovered friends both old and new.
A week and a half ago, I left Sydney with just a nagging memory in the back of my mind of what made living in Hawaii different. I return well reminded.