A Trip to Gili Trawangan and Nusa Lembongan

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After our unexpected camping trip in Amed my friend and I were so excited to take a fast boat to Gili Trawangan and enjoy a more tropical paradise escape in accommodations that included air conditioning and hot showers. The Gili islands are known to have clear turquoise waters and great snorkeling. Many from around the world come to these islands on holiday to swim and, what I soon found out in Gili Trawangan, party. I did not know the latter of the two until we arrived. The Gili islands are tiny islands located off the coast of Lombok. Lombok is a predominantly Muslim country so it was a bit of a surprise to me to find out that drugs on the Gili islands are legal. As I’m sure you’ve put two and two together now, many people on holiday choose these tropical islands for that reason.

We took an island taxi, which is a horse and carriage to our stay in a quaint little cottage style bed and breakfast. It was very cute and private with great flora around it and a pool. When I got into the room it had to be close to 100 degrees F. It was insanely hot as it is hot and humid on the islands. I came to soon discover the air-conditioning was broken. I talked with the guy in charge of the place and he had someone come out to fix it, thank goodness. It was fixed by the evening. That evening after exploring the island a bit I came back to my now cool room to take a hot shower and wash all the sweat off me after a long hot, humid day. As I waited and waited for the shower to get hot I realize there just in no hot water. Cold showers for the next couple of nights it is. Late one night as my friend and I were returning from a late night out I put the key in the gate to enter into our cottage area. “The locks are changed.” I look at her and say. She didn’t believe me and thought I was just having trouble with the door. I explained to her again “No, you don’t understand it’s a different lock. This is not the lock for this key.” She tried the key as well but still wasn’t comprehending the someone really did change the locks on us. A neighbor came over and tried. She came to the same conclusion. We walked around the perimeter of the building, calling with no good way in, calling out our property managers name. Finally, his wife came to the gate and let us in. I said to her someone changed the locks. She giggled and confirmed her husband did in fact change the locks while we were out. Like I said, drugs on these islands are legal and shrooms are the drug of choice. Needless to say, we stayed at a different place just a block down the road for the rest of our trip. These experiences make for unforgettable memorable moments.

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The Gili islands are nice but a short stay will suffice. Gili Trawongan is by far the most crowded and touristy of the three. It is small enough that you can go for an easy bike ride around the whole island. There is a small part you do have to walk your bike through sand. Gili Meno and Gili Air are smaller and much less populated but also go to them very aware that there are going to be limited things to do there. There are a few places to eat and mostly just fun more secluded places to relax, enjoy a beach and snorkel or swim. You can also take a boat between these islands which is what I did. After 5 days in the Gili islands we were ready to move on… to Nusa Lembongan.

Only a few short days on Nusa Lembongan was just not enough. This island is more known for its surf breaks, it is a bit less touristy and a bit more outdoorsy. With the help from a newly made friend in Uluwatu I got a beachfront room with a hot shower. My first hot shower in a while and I was over the moon. We had a great view from our balcony of the popular surf breaks and were steps away from the beach. It was paradise and I wish I would’ve planned to stay on this island longer. The breaks a pretty far out so it’s perfect for stand-up paddling which I did. And we also took a canoe down a quiet very still river which was relaxing and picturesque. However, my favorite moment on my entire journey thus far was taking a boat from Nusa Lembongan to the coast of Nusa Penida and swimming in the deep sea with giant manta rays. I have never had an underwater experience so exhilarating. The boat captain didn’t make us wear life jackets or hold onto a raft and stay on top of the water and just look, he let us loose. I put on my fins and mask and dove in. It was at first terrifying to see such huge creatures gliding by doing circles around me. There were dozens of these creatures in the water and they ranged from 10 to 16ft wide. They were huge! As soon as I got used to seeing the size of them I was able to enjoy the magic of what was happening. Every time I turn around I would see another one gracefully glide by. I was sure not to touch them because though they are docile animals they are still wild animals and I would not want one to think it had to protect itself in any way.

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After swimming with the mantas, we took the boat to Crystal Bay and Mangrove Bay, other areas off the coast of the Nusa islands. I have been snorkeling in and all over Hawaii for 7 years now and I have never seen the untouched variety of coral and fish that I saw in Crystal Bay. It is still so alive and flourishing. I saw fish in colors I have never seen on fish before and the coral was like something I had only before seen in pictures and on the discovery channel. Beautiful doesn’t justice to how immensely invigorating and exotic this small piece of God’s great creation really is. I want to come back to the Nusa islands and do this all again. I have a feeling it would be a new a different experience every time.

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The Sacrifice of Warm Showers and Clean Sheets: On the way to Amed, Bali

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Yes, you read that right. I had little idea of what I was getting myself into and no idea it was going to be a camping adventure until I got there, but it was worth its weight in gold for the life experience. My friend joined me in Uluwatu and we made the trek to Amed to experience a different side of Bali. But first we had a good size list of things we wanted to do while on the way there. The drive was several hours so we made sure to enjoy the treasures Bali had along the way.

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Bali is known for a few things, one of them being silver. Some of their silver is high quality, at a good price, and the craftsmanship to make their Balinese style jewelry is unmatched. There is so much silver being sold in Bali that it is worth your while to take the time and ask around to verify that where you are planning on buying yours is high quality. A lot of the not so high quality silver has a higher mix of iron in it and much of it is sold at higher prices in the areas with higher tourist traffic. We asked around a bit and decided to stop at a silver shop outside of any main city where we were able watch the silversmith make the jewelry. I don’t normally purchase jewelry for myself but on this occasion, I did a little splurging.

Another art and craft Bali is known for is Batik. Batik is a technique of wax resistant painting. And this of course was another must on our stop and see list. To watch these women painting intricate patterns with such ease and grace on usually silk and cotton fabric was astounding. It is truly a talent and an art. Many of the pieces they are painting on are worn for special occasions in Balinese culture and a good quality batik silk dresses or saris are a bit expensive. It does make for a beautiful dress or long skirt.

Onto temples and the prettiest most intriguing water palace I’ve seen to date. There are so many temples in Bali; it really does seem that there is a temple on every corner the way there is a Starbucks on every corner of Seattle. Through talking with a few newly made local friends in Bali I was told there are three temples in each village. This makes for over a thousand temples on the island of Bali alone. Each temple has its own meaning; one is to represent creation, one is for daily maintenance of health, luck, life, etc., and the third is for destruction or “the destroyer”. The village cemetery is also always by the temple that represents destruction. Disclaimer: I do not claim fully understand Balinese Hindu; I am merely just regurgitating for you what I was told. I may in the near future write a blog on all I learned about Balinese Hindu which is different from Indian Hindu and why Bali is the only island left in Indonesia that is predominantly Hindu. That being said I have seen so many temples. The water temple is one worth taking the time to visit.

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We didn’t arrive to Amed until well after dark and the street, if you can call it that was windy, narrow, and very broken. When our taxi stopped at our stay I thought “Is he sure this is the right place?” We were escorted back to these cabins on stilts. I couldn’t see much because it was so dark outside and there weren’t any lights along the path. There was just a faint glimmer of lights coming from other cabins. “Oh, good there is electricity!” I thought. We walked up ladder like steps into a cabin. The man escorting us turned on a light. There was one light, I think one electrical socket, with a mattress on the ground and a ladder to a loft with another mattress on the ground of the loft floor. I’m thankful for the mosquito nets provided over the beds. The man left and my friend looked at me and asked, “Are you okay?” I could tell she was wondering if she was okay as well. We both just looked at each other realizing we both smelled the not so good aroma coming from the mattresses and whatever was under our cabin. We opened the back door of the cabin that put us back outside and there was another small light. We flipped the switch and saw the hose fastened to a concrete wall that was our shower and a toilet that was less than clean looking. I looked at my friend and just said “We’re camping.” She replied, “that’s what I was telling myself too.” “We just have to tell ourselves we are camping and then it’s not so bad.” I said back to her. We both smiled and laughed.

 

In Amed I slept in and wore the same clothes with a swim suit for 3 days because I refused to let anything else I owned touch the mattress. I just couldn’t pinpoint what was in or on the mattress that was creating that smell and I wanted to subject as little as I could to it. And I got fairly clean feeling under the cold-water hose of a shower. I still however enjoyed the rustic and serenely beautiful landscape of this area. When we awoke the next morning, walking down the ladder-like steps, we were greeted by the calm ocean waters just feet from our doorstep. The few days we spent there were a good switch from where we were. We walked up and down roads and small paths that led to fresh spring water and rice fields along with other crops to be harvested. We snorkeled and saw a completely different ocean than the one I am used to in Hawaii. And my most memorable moment was capturing the small glimpses of an entire community coming together to prepare and build for a Balinese wedding that was soon coming. If you follow my Instagram you may have seen these stories. There were men building archways and women and children all helping. I thought they were building homes until I asked and was told the whole village comes together to prepare for these extravagant celebrations. Amed was worth the trek, just choose you accommodations carefully.

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International Travel Beginnings in Airports and the Uluwatu area of Bali Indonesia

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Arriving to Bali was a thirty-seven-hour event full of learnings and experiences that made me quickly realize how covered in grace I was. I’ve done limited international travel and never attempted the budget travel airlines until now. For anyone traveling internationally, if the airline has an option to purchase baggage allowance as you are booking, purchase it! And purchase enough. I thought that like the major none budget airlines I would just pay for my baggage at the airports but soon found out that the fees at the airport for those who don’t prepay are astronomical. My large checked bag would’ve been almost $500 just for the first flight. I had 2 more flights to go! Long story short the woman at the service desk pulled a few strings and let me check my baggage for $160 then at the next airport grace and mercy flooded down again and I only had to pay $70 instead of almost $400. There was a moment I wasn’t sure I was going to be getting on even the first flight, and in hindsight the experience allowed for me to not have any other option but to receive grace and multiple huge favors from complete strangers. There are people who want to help and want to see you succeed whether in large or small feats.

As I got off the plane with just about everything I own in my two suitcases, I saw a couple wave me down, I assumed they were the couple there to pick me up and take me to my first place to stay in the Uluwatu area of Bali. I suddenly realized I had no clue who these people were; I am completely unfamiliar with where I am, and here I am, standing with everything I own, needing a ride, and forced to trust them enough to get in the back of their truck. Yes, I was on edge, and yes, I prayed for safety. Talk about stepping outside of my comfort zone. I am naturally pretty weary of people until I get to know them and see them as trustworthy. My first experiences were filled with huge language barriers, not knowing much about where I am and despite all that compete strangers showing me an abundance of patience and a sincere desire to help.

One of the major hurdles in Bali is transportation. Yes, in comparison to the United States things are much much cheaper. However, even what seems to be small expenses add up quickly. By far the most affordable way to travel is by a motor bike or scooter. The traffic and just the way people drive in Bali terrifies me. The rules of the road are there are very few rules of the road. People on various types of transportation honk endlessly and enter oncoming traffic as they zoom passed each other. I will say there seems to be very few accidents however for the most part, so far, I’m more comfortable paying for rides to where I need to get. I’ve also walked miles every day.

I’ve walked and gotten rides to several beaches around Uluwatu and they are just breathtaking. My favorite is probably Nyang Nyang. It’s more local and much less crowded then the more popular surf beaches which are filled with travelers in search of amazing, thrilling waves. While in Indonesia one of the moments I really take pleasure in is drinking their fresh fruit juices. I cannot emphasize enough how delicious a tall glass of local papaya juice, or watermelon juice is. The local cuisine is phenomenal and for the most part pretty healthy which just adds to the flavor of paradise I’ve experienced near Uluwatu and South Kuta.

Next I am trading in my first world amenities (air conditioning, and warm showers) and leaving the more popular touristy area to head into a much more secluded and local area rich in Balinese culture and tradition.

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My Heart Made a Little Bigger for the Islands in Big Island

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There has always been little to no ambition in me to venture to the biggest island of Hawaii. I’ve spent multiple times in all the other main islands but what I heard over and over again about Big Island was the voggy atmosphere, there’s a mountain that sometimes has snow on it, and the island is dry and well, big. None of those things appeal to me and of course I heard about the beautiful sights here and there on this mostly voggy land mass, but for the most part it just didn’t seem like a worthwhile trek and expense. Having these thoughts in my head only sweetened the romance that was to come when Big Island swept me off of my feet.

I went on this expedition with a friend and we landed in Kona. Kona is high in tourism and has a couple really great resorts. Who doesn’t like a great stay at a resort where all amenities are provided but we wanted to explore a bit more off the beaten path. We only spent a day in Kona and the touristy parts and things to do just weren’t my cup of tea so we hiked along a rocky hot beach dripping sweat and only in slippers (flip-flops to some) and swim suits. We walked probably a couple of miles to a more remote area and found ourselves surrounded by shallow calm aqua water, black rocks with greenery determined to thrive and burst thru lava rock, and multiple sea turtles basking in the sun on the mini islands across from the multiple coves we jumped into to swim.

From there we made our way up the coast to Waimea, Honokaa, and hiked to Waipio Valley. This by far was my favorite part of the island. It was filled with lush greenery and had green rolling hills that were home to farms and pastures. Waipio Valley is worth the hike and when you get down to the bottom the brackish water from the river that flows abundantly from the impressive waterfall is the perfect dip for refreshment. This place was just magical and the second waterfall that falls from a cliff into the ocean was icing on the cake. I could live here for the scenery alone. With the small town of Honokaa just above gives this area a quaint and cozy feel.

We opted to stay in a well decorated yurt a in Kea’au and I got eaten alive by bugs, but I still say it was worth the experience and a comfortable form of glamping. From there we visited all the main attractions: Hilo, Mauna Kea, and Volcano. Then we went to South Point and the olivine green sand beach. We started off willing to hike into this beach but it was hot, dry and the strong wind was wiping us continually with dirt from the red dry dirt hills we were walking through. There were many locals making money from tourists by driving them to their destination with lifted trucks with huge tires through this off-road terrain. A guy named Rodney stopped and we hopped in the back of his truck as he made his way to the green sand beach. He’s a rancher by trade and owns several horses. He filled the drive out with stories of his days competing in rodeos all over the states. His family has lived in Hawaii for twelve generations. The south part of this island is filled with dryer ranch lands and the people who live here have usually lived here for several generations. The conversations alone that were had in this area left a feeling of appreciation and connection for Big Island. Also to help with this, this area housed my favorite place to eat on the whole island with the most creamy and delicious Mac-nut cream pie. Hana Hou restaurant, thank you.  Another favorite find of mine was the newest black sand beach recently formed by the last lava flow. The locals of this area have made it their mission to replant and rebuild. To see up close and for myself the destruction to an entire town being covered in lava, well there just are no words… But to see the perseverance and devotion to make their home fruitful again, and it literally rising from the ashes had me reflecting on what hope tangibly looks like and was awe-inspiring. It was a memorable way to leave the islands as I head off to my next destination, Bali.

Thought-filled Tastes of Reality as I Leave Molokai

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It’s my last morning on Molokai and I’ve got a million thoughts and emotions racing through my mind. Most of my thoughts encompass how different I feel like my life appears from everyone else but how I’m probably more similar to everyone around me when it comes to wants, needs, wishes, and desires than it appears. I’ve got one more week in Hawaii and one more island to explore then I’m off on my international travel venture that I’ve decided to take. I’ve heard how excited so many are for me and how they too wish they could’ve done something like this and I’ll be honest; I think doing something like this when looking from the outside has an overly glamorized appearance. When in reality the only reason I’m doing this is because this is where God has me. Nothing else fell into place in my life the way I thought it would in the timing I thought it would happen in but this opportunity did; so here I am. And I am confident that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m anticipating moments of great adventure and mind-blowing happenings, but also I am very aware of all the work, budgeting, not showering when I want to, planes trips, airports, and tiring days that quickly turn into nights that traveling is. I am positive there are going to be moments when I just want to be in my own home in my own room, snuggled in my own bed but I sold all those things so that’s not happening anytime soon, haha!

My time on Molokai was spent with a close friend of mine. This was good for two reasons. First, we talked about where I am in life and all the good and bad that comes with it. It was a time of great talks and lots of processing. Second, as usual we had a blast together exploring Molokai. We are known to take on adventurous situations together and this time on Molokai did not disappoint. Some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii are on Molokai but very difficult to get to and a vehicle that is raised and made for taking on rugged terrain is necessary. Many times there is literally no one else on these beaches or at the very most, just a few. These beaches are still filled with shells waiting to be found and haven’t been over-picked by the masses. Most of the larger more sandy beaches are on the west side of this more remote island but there are beautiful beaches all over.

We went hiking up in the mountains on Molokai were the climate quickly changes to a much cooler and wetter one in some parts of the mountains but on the dryer side you can feel scorched with heat. There are deer everywhere. Residence from other islands come here for hunting pretty regularly. There aren’t many places to rent but a great place to camp, and hunters do.

On the east end of Molokai there is the more well-known Halawa valley and waterfall to explore. I recommend spending an entire day to do this. Make sure you contact someone for a tour to hike to the falls or residence of this area may not take to kindly to you venturing back here by yourself. There is private property that you have to pass to get to the falls. And this fall is beautiful.

One of my favorite experiences is just being able to fly over the north part of Molokai coming from Maui in a smaller 8 seat commuter plane. I have never seen such breath-taking views. There are so many hidden waterfalls that I’m guessing no one has even been to because of where they are and you can only see from the air. The steep, jagged and very green mountains and sea cliffs are like nothing else I’ve seen in the world.

My time on Molokai was a beautiful one and I am sad to leave, but excited for my next stop and last leg in Hawaii, the big island…

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Exploring Maui

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Leaving Oahu to explore Maui wasn’t a difficult thing to convince myself to do at all. Maui has a little more of a laid back vibe, less, traffic, and fewer people, not to mention a few very good friends I got to spend some quality time with. I started my trip taking the long windy drive to Hana which I wrote about previously, spent lots of time in Wailuku and Paia, then headed to Makawao, Haiku, and finally Wailea. On this trip I felt overwhelmed by the constant blessings that just kept rolling in. It was my first venture out of Oahu on this grand travel undertaking and things just fell into place with blessings sprinkled all over along the way.

Wailuku is a smaller town with agriculture land tucked into the mountains and a quaint town center and a few boutique style stores, a great trendy coffee shop called Wailuku Coffee Co., and my favorite find, a hole in the wall juice and healthy eats shop “The Farmacy”. I stopped in The Farmacy almost daily for one of their delicious smoothies and their sandwiches did not disappoint either. Exploring the Iao Valley is a must in Wailuku. It’s an easy hike with a beautiful river flowing through calmly enough for you to take a dip and lush greenery everywhere you turn. It’s a state monument with some historical significance as well. Be sure to take a few minutes and read up on the Iao needle and King Kamehameha I defeated Maui at this location.

While in Wailuku visiting Paia is a must. Another picturesque town with wooden signs, known to be a spot for hippies hang out. It has more and possibly trendier boutiques to shop in and a few great places to eat but what I love most about Paia are the beaches. They are pretty perfect when it’s not too windy with perfect yellow sand and clean turquoise waters.

My favorite part of Maui is Paniolo country aka Makawao that sprawls into Haiku on one side and Kula at a higher elevation. This town even has a small museum dedicated to the towns cowboy history and the shops in the town reflect that the paniolo culture stills runs thick. The general store has some of the best chili at only $4 for a small bowl and the beef in it is local grass-fed beef. You can sit on the front steps and enjoy. They too have cute boutiques and coffee shops my favorite being “Sip Me”. Another place with great coffee and healthy eats. What stood out here was I could by a jar of mac nut milk and other milks and juices to take home. Haiku has farm and ranch lands as far as the eye can see and Kula houses a beautiful lavender farm I could spend hours walking and eating lavender infused chocolate.

During my trip I was unexpectedly able to spend a day enjoying The Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea with its beautiful pools and cabanas then in the evening I was graciously invited to a pupus, cocktails, and spa evening at The Grand Wailea. And if you know anything about this hotel you know that when they hold and event it’s quite grand. We sipped on chocolate martinis while eating sushi and other pupus (appetizers) then headed down to get facials, massages, and all kinds of algae pool dips good for your skin; and all complimentary! What an amazing relaxing blessing and to watch the sunset from this hotel was a real treat.

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The Heart in Hana

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A place with giant white crosses built on mountain tops in the midst of shear drop off cliffs and cascading waterfalls as tall as the eye can see left me wondering how in the world anyone got the crosses up to these places and the dedication, risk, and perseverance it must have taken.  I’ve lived in Hawaii for over six years now and I’ve wanted to make it to Hana the entire six years. The windy road is, I believe, over 60 miles and averages about 10 near hairpin turns per mile with areas of drop off cliffs and room for only one vehicle. Not many have a desire to travel this road often and I was curious to find out for myself if the trip would be as nauseating and anxiety filled as some have made it out to be. I set out on this adventure with a good friend who lives in Maui. We packed a weekends worth of things, a cooler for the ride, and we were off.

I think most will tell you half the fun is stopping at all the hidden gems along the way, so that’s what we did. I have never seen so many waterfalls in my life. It seemed like there was a new one every few turns. There was something enchanting about this part of Hawaii in particular. If you decide to take this drive take your time, start out early, do a couple hikes and a couple beaches along the way. This will also help if you are prone to car sickness; which my friend is. And the fruit and banana bread stands are worth the stop.

Our first night we decided to rent a place from VRBO. It was a cottage tucked back on some agriculture land with a coffee farm next to it and a deck with a beautiful view of the land. I’m not sure there could be a more perfect way to start this stay in Hana. It was only available for one night and we had such an amazing drive up we knew one night wouldn’t be enough to enjoy all Hana has to offer, so we booked another night at Travaasa, a pretty lavish resort in Hana with an ocean view, and it was a treat. When we pulled into the parking area for the hotel there on a mountain top right in front of us was another cross. I would get a feeling that filled my soul with a sense of peace every time I saw another one on a new mountain peak. And I’m hopeful that with the amount of work and effort it must’ve taken to get these crosses up there, they felt the same way and it was a constant reminder for them of God’s presence in their lives and it was shared amongst this community of people. It was also a constant reminder for me that God is on these adventures with me leading the way.

While in Hana we ventured out to more waterfalls via hikes, trudged through magnificent bamboo forests that went on and on, ducked our heads through lava tubes, and when our feet were too tired to walk anymore we laid on various red and black sand beaches. And when I say black sand I mean I have never seen such true black sand. Usually when I’ve gone to black sand beaches in the past to me it looked more like a darker dirtier sand, not black sand. But one beach in particular we saw from up above as we were enjoying the view and it was a perfect little bay with pitch black sand. So of course we made our way down.

We didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on food and in this area there is just no need to. We ate banana bread and drank locally grown coffee for breakfast or went to a take out window that had great egg sandwiches or eggs any way you like them. For lunch and dinner there are great food trucks to try. One in particular made what was my favorite meal of the trip. I love Huli Huli chicken and this was by far the best Huli Huli chicken I’ve had, Huli Huli chicken at Koki beach. That’s what the signs said and we followed. The kindest couple sets up shop every day under a tent at Koki beach and they get to making these delicious meals. Everything was so good! I’m not a huge mac salad lover but this mac salad changed my mind and was the best mac salad I’ve had and the chicken was out of this world. The portions are generous too. I was stuffed. This place is a must while in Hana.

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I truly loved this trip and every moment of exploration. Hana is a place where most only go for a night or two but I could easily stay for a week and still not get in all the sights to be seen.

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The Sweet Taste of Freedom and the Hope in Goodbye

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Freedom has a multitude of various meanings depending on who you are speaking to and their personal experience with it. Starting out on this venture is expanding mine.  I can’t say I was completely embracing of the thought that I may need to let go of so many things I wanted to keep, things I’ve worked hard for, and ultimately value, in order to have hands that are open and able to receive whatever is coming. To be bluntly honest I’m still hoping that what I’m going to get even if it’s in experiences, outweighs all that I’ve given up. I have no idea of exactly what’s coming even next week and I have no words to explain what an odd feeling that is. But what a thrilling thing hope is. It’s a feeling that is at its peak, pours over spilling on those around you giving the entire group an excitement and anticipation for only God knows what’s around the corner.

In order to have open hands to receive what’s to come I realized I needed to let go of what I was already clenching tightly on to. I needed to free myself up from all the securities most of us grow so accustomed to. I had a good size studio apartment that was just a five-minute bike ride to the nearest beach on the north shore of Oahu. It had everything I needed, and not to mention I thoughtfully and carefully worked on its aesthetics to make it the cutest coziest nest of a place for me to come home to and feel relaxed after a long hard day of work. I had globe lights and twinkle lights strung throughout to give off the softest most comforting lighting, I had saved money and searched the island for a while to find real wood antique and/or rustic pieces that would go well in my space, there were flowers everywhere, and sentimental, some even handmade items that just made my space feel warm and inviting. I loved having people over and letting them enjoy the warmth and comfort of the place I lived while I enjoyed their company. I had worked hard for years to have the ability to create a second home on Oahu and the initial thought of giving it all up to physically have nothing but a suitcase was not appealing to say the least.

As I began going thru my closest and selling my clothes, giving a ton of things away I thought people would need or just enjoy, selling my furniture some that had stories behind them or I had built myself, the feeling of freedom began bubbling up. Wow, I was in the midst of creating an abundance of room for what could be the wildest, riskiest, but most abundantly blessed moments of my life and getting rid of all these things I had accumulated to just be free was the most liberated I’ve felt to date. I now have nothing tying me down. Everything I wanted to sell I sold and for the prices I asked for. Even down to my car. I remember telling God “Okay God this is what I want to make selling my car. This is what will make me feel good about selling it.” Down to the penny God showed up. I got a call from a friend back home and he asked me how I was doing in the process and if selling everything was going well. I told him the details of what I asked for and what I received. I’ll always remember his response. “Melanie, do you realize every single thing you asked for you got?! Down to the penny you got it.” It was just another clearly defined moment that reconfirmed this was exactly what God wanted me to do. He was showing up, going before me and paving the path one stepping stone at a time.

As all this was happening, one of the sweetest things to come out this was my friends seeing how God was parting the red sea so I could walk thru and the elation and joy they had for me. There are moments when I don’t know who is more excited, me or one of my friends.

One of my most cherished possessions are my relationships. I am constantly in awe of the amazing, strong, faithful, trustworthy, loving, honest people I have surrounding me. My community is an incredible one and saying goodbye is never easy. It is incredible to see how each one is cheering me on and over joyed, waiting in just as much if not more expectancy for what’s to come. These goodbyes are difficult but it’s a great thing to know that they are difficult because what I have in these relationships are rare treasures. I’m not so much saying goodbye as much as saying I will miss you until I see you again.

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The Prayerful Beginnings

And there I sat, amongst at least a couple dozen women but feeling utterly singled out. It felt as if the speaker was speaking directly to me, to my soul that had felt dormant for months, maybe years. I suddenly had a flash back to that funny commercial of the man sitting in his t-shirt and underwear on his worn in couch eating Cheetos with the crumbs piling up on his rounded-out belly.  The man on the TV pointing directly at him telling him to get off the couch, put the Cheetos down, and go exercise, go live. As I sat on the floor hearing this person tell me to “choose life”, I knew it was just the confirmation I needed at that very moment. I was determined to forge ahead and choose life.

I have been working in corporate America for almost 10 years now. Right out of college I knew I needed to get a foothold into a career that would pay off my student loans and build a foundation of financial stability. After all, isn’t that the American dream? Go to college, get a respectable good paying job, get married, have children, buy a house, and be in a position of being independent and self- sufficient. I don’t think any of those things are bad, and many people do have a significant sense of purpose and fulfillment in them. I too felt a certain sense of accomplishment from graduating college, getting into a reputable career that paid decent money, and purchasing my own house that literally had a white picket fence. What I have accomplished up to this point were all things that were within my control, and I did it! I felt good. But what do you do when the things that are outside of your control don’t fall into place the way you always assumed they would? When you are left with expectations that just weren’t met; when the life you thought you would have, the life you expected either never happened or it just fell apart before your very eyes?

To add on to the fact that I haven’t started a family, after 10 years in a career that I haven’t loved for the past 6, the heaviness from the lack of fulfillment started to bare its weight. I rarely found much solace in friends who could share in this same experience. When I would look around me I didn’t see many if any women my age is this specific situation. Most of my friends are well into a marriage or relationship and/or have children who naturally shift one’s life path and priorities. What I did come to realize is even though my life looked very different from most there is still a uniting common thread between so many and that is having expectations that haven’t been met and the feeling of disappointment that comes from it. What do you do when you find yourself in this place? When the life you are living is so different than the life you so badly wanted. Well I still don’t have an all-encompassing answer, but I prayed.

God, what am I supposed to be doing; am I still in the right place? I can’t see Your plan at all, sometimes I can’t even hear Your voice. My life just isn’t making sense to me. Is there something that I missed along the way? I have this guttural yearning, this unquenched desire, a feeling, that there could be so much more to my life and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve been surviving and having fun in moments, but unsure if I’ve really lived for years now. I’ve been in such a monotonous routine on a daily basis. You haven’t given me a family yet to pour into so what is it You want me to do? What do You have for me? Please tell me if I am completely off in my desires and they stem from any selfish sense of entitlement. Is it wrong of me to want more? To crave something deeper?  I want to be able to completely surrender to Your will, even if it brings more difficulties than I think I can bare, or it leaves me without my deepest wants. After all, I am not owed anything. On top of that I have already been blessed with more than I deserve. I realize all these things. Regardless, here I am desperately searching for more.

Am I alone in this? Has anyone else felt like they weren’t choosing to live their life but rather they were waking up every morning feeling like they were on auto pilot? And I don’t just mean some mornings, I mean MOST mornings. I was overcome with the realization that some mornings my soul never even really woke up, like I was completing my daily routine half asleep, with eyes only half open and that was just so I wouldn’t trip.

I have prayed so many prayers similar to this over the past few years and then, one day, I received what I saw as an answer. We had heard rumors that the company was going to close its doors in Hawaii for months and finally one day we all got called into meetings with or managers at the same time and were told our office is officially closing its doors in 9 months. We had an option of applying and taking a job in a handful of states on the mainland or we could severe ties with the company. Any time I considered following my career that I no longer loved, leaving the place I lived and I fell in love with to move back to the mainland, well the very thought repelled me greatly. I cringed; I couldn’t handle even thinking of continuing my life in this zombie-like status. It felt safe but it just didn’t feel right. What a surreal experience, to realize that I felt safer taking the risky route and it was riskier and more unsettling taking the safe one. I knew I was being prompted to not take the safe route. I was being asked to let it all go, take the risk, and follow a path not yet revealed. Step by step, enter into the unknown. I decided to sell everything I owned in Hawaii; I bought my first plane ticket, squeezed my friends and family tight and left. I was off to see and experience the world, and find my way, along the way.

Here we go God, it’s just me and You. Please hold my hand tightly; I’m following Your lead.

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Photos by Sunny Golden Photography