My time in Hawaii~ Kelsey Stratford

Visiting Hawaii was and wasn’t something I was prepared for or expecting. With it being another state that makes up the US 50, I thought it would be similar to any other state that sits on the mainland. While it was similar in how they drive their cars and how they pay taxes, many natives and locals to the islands of Hawaii do in fact lead very different lives than I was expecting. From the moment we landed on the island of Maui and I walked out of the jet way and into the airport to the open breezeway, sun setting and wind grazing past everyone, I knew this place was going to be very different. After getting to our hotel, which seemed to much resemble Disney World times ten (due to the fact that the week of Christmas and New Years are their busiest two weeks of the year), no one was able to sleep due to the time difference. Luckily for us, it made leaving the hotel at 2:30 am the next morning to make the drive to Haleakala state park a little bit easier. In that drive up the side of the Haleakala (inactive) volcano, we rested, we chatted, and we layered up for the Hawaiian cold that was about 30 degrees at the summit of the volcano. With 3 pairs of pants on, 4 jackets, a hat and gloves we took to the lookout, along with the other 200 people that were all there to watch the sun wake up. After staring at the ghostly horizon for 30-45 minutes, the sun finally started to peer through and kiss everything it touched, creating golden moments for everyone around. This was something that I didn’t know I wanted to experience, until I had actually experienced it and it was totally worth it. Plus, the bike ride we took down the side of the mountain wasn’t too bad either. In the following days, we got to experience an open-air church on Christmas Eve, as well as a lovely 9 hours in the car. This was for our “Road to Hana” road trip, which essentially took us around the island along the coast to multiple beaches and classic Hawaiian places to eat. From waterfalls to black sand beaches to cows to the ends of rainbows, this was truly one of the best ways to get to know the island. But, before we knew it we were switching islands to the island of Kauai, which was dominated by an immediately slower pace and not much more than a lush green vastness of trees and grasses. With this island being the second wettest spot on earth, it made ATV’ing through the jungles and mud something unexpected but all the more fascinating to see where numerous movies had been filmed. As if seeing those movie locations wasn’t enough, we got to take a helicopter over the island and land next to the waterfall that was in the opening film of Jurassic Park, just like they did in the movie in 1993. This was by far the best way to see the island as a whole and the amount that it has to offer. Unlike other states, this is one that thrives off of tourists supporting their economy. Without tourists like us visiting constantly, many of the kind and helpful people I met along the way who were more than eager to share their home with me, would be without a job. Some of the locals may harp and bark on the tourism industry and dumb tourists that they see come through, but without the tourism their islands wouldn’t nearly be what they are today. After us being ‘that family’ that tried to squeeze as many touristy things as possible into a brief 7-day stretch, when it finally came time to do nothing for a few days, I must say I was a little bit relieved yet sad. Although waking up a 6:00 am everyday while on ‘vacation’ was no one’s idea of relaxing, it contributed to some unforgettable experiences that made leaving all the more difficult.