Tag: Aloha

Hiking the Wa’ahila Ridge Trail

Hiking the

Sometimes, I get overly ambitious.  This morning and I woke up and said I wanted to go for a hike. Leave it to my boyfriend (and Hawaii local) Jonathan to take that sentiment to a whole new level and bring me to the Wa’ahila State Recreation Area to the Ridge Trail.

I knew it was going to be a somewhat difficult hike from the beginning, as to get to the trail head, we had to drive up and up Saint Louis Heights, a notoriously steep neighborhood. Tucked in the back of Ruth Street was the trail head.

Ridge

Legend has it that the Wa’ahila Ridge trail is home to the sleeping giant of Manoa, Chief Kauhi. Because of a lover’s spat between the beautiful princess Manoa, the gods eternally condemned Kauhi to spend the rest of his days contemplating aloha (grace) and pono (righteousness) along the top of Wa’ahila Ridge.

The trail is easy to follow with pink ribbons delineating your course. The entirety of the trail to the summit Mt. Olympus will take about 4 hours, but a great 2 hour (4 mile round trip) hike offers sweeping views of Honolulu.

The landscapes of Hawaii always surprise me. One minute you’re sweating as if in a desert, the next you’re in a breezy pine forest. This is where your hike begins.

FullSizeRender (3)

About a half-mile incline later, you’re in the middle of the valley face-to-face with some up and downhill boulder climbing. You certainly won’t need rappelling equipment, but there is some real rock climbing involved in this trail. I would never attempt this hike in the rain or right after it rains, as the ridge can be slippery and one false move will plummet you over the cliff.

Going down!
Going down!

Luckily after the boulder climbing ends, the trial evens out and twists and turns through some of the densest strawberry guava tree forests I’ve ever seen. None of the trees were fruiting at the moment, but I’ll be sure to come back when I can get my fill of those sweet tropical fruits!

Through the thicket, onward and upward
Through the thicket, onward and upward

Next you’ll be snaking your way up the mountain, taking the trail marked on the left through some more pines and visible roots. The good news is that the hardest part of the hike is over. Ready yourself for some fun and funky landscapes and amazing views.

Me and my pup Pono goofing around
Me and my pup Pono goofing around

After taking a water break and posing in this cave, it was up we went. Just a mile further will lead you to a grassy clearing where you can bask in the glory of a hard-earned view of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.

I think I see my house! Just kidding, it's behind that crater on the left.
I think I see my house! Just kidding, it’s behind that crater on the left.

This is where we stopped, 2 miles up. You can keep trekking onward to Mt. Olympus for stunning views of the windward side. It’s so steep, you have to climb a rope to get up!

For this hike, I would definitely recommend going when it’s dry and not too rainy. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and save energy for the hike down. Boulder climbing going down isn’t always easy on the quads and knees.

O’ahu pleases once again with a hike that was challenging enough to get me out of my head and into a space to enjoy nature.

The non-stick figure girl’s guide to looking sexy in Hawaii

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I’m not skinny. I live in Hawaii where the average temperature is around 80 degrees year-round. That means when the temperature’s rising, so is the pressure to look your best.

Unlike stick-thin model types and avid surfers (whom I adore and am jealous of, by the way), I weigh  200 pounds at 5’9″. Bikini weather year-round is scary for a plus-sized lady like myself. How will I hide my cellulite without looking like a librarian?

Here are some do’s and don’ts for looking sexy in paradise, or just about anywhere you find yourself:

DO play up your natural attributes:

icecream

For the love of God, we don’t need anymore Kim Kardashians running around. Ditch the lip collagen debate you know you’ve been having with yourself. Save your smoky eye for a night out at the club. During the day, go light on the makeup: a little mascara, powder, blush and lip gloss is all you need. If you have curls leftover from a day at the beach, re purpose them with a high ponytail.

DO keep it classy and sassy:

Keep it Classy

The last thing you want to be called is cheap, am I right? As much as you think your butt hanging out at Safeway is heaven-sent, for heaven’s sake, cover up! Have some pride in how you look when you go out. You don’t have to dress to the nines to go to the grocery store, but a well-dressed person exudes confidence and authority. Dress well and you will earn the respect you deserve!

DON’T be afraid to show some skin:

SHow some skin

Shake what your mamma gave you! Just because you have a little cellulite or don’t have a perfectly flat stomach doesn’t mean you’re not sexy. Break out those short shorts and show off a little leg. In fact, I think imperfect bodies are way more interesting, and often times more sexy, than perfect ones!

DO accessorize:

Break out those hats, watches, belts, purses and anything else that completes your outfit. Believe me, the little touches make a big difference. A nice belt across the waist creates the illusion of a smaller figure while hats and jewelry brim with fun and excitement!

Don't forget to

DON’T be afraid to have your own style:

WORLD YOU LOVE

Not everyone so easily fits into the mold of what’s cool and trendy. For me fashion is about being confident and loving what you wear. On the islands, the attire is more laid-back. This is one of my go-to outfits: Jean shorts, a loose-fitting tee, trucker hat, and of course, peace sign!

Hope you found this post fun and inspiring! Not get out there and start looking your sexiest!

The Colors of Hawaii

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing I love the most about living in Hawaii, but one thing’s for sure: the colors here top the list. I never knew life could be so vibrant, beautiful and colorful. Here are some photos that I’ve taken in the past few months that show just how diverse and the color spectrum is here on a daily basis:

KohalaThis photo was just a typical sunset at Kohala Beach on O’ahu, but I love the orange and black contrast.

hiking
Hiking the Kuliouo Ridge Trail

There’s so much greenery in Hawaii all times of year. This was taken in February. The reason why we get so many rainbows is because it rains nearly every day and it’s sunny a lot, too. In order to get that lush green tropical rain forest, we have to endure our share of rain storms.

View from the top at Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail
View from the top at Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Sometimes cloudy days lend themselves to great shots. Here’s the payoff view from the top of Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail on the east side of O’ahu. I think the most stunning colors are the water and greenery.

Ahi Sashimi Salad at Kona Brewing Company
Ahi Sashimi Salad at Kona Brewing Company

I hate to tell you, but if your Ahi Tuna isn’t that color, you’re just not living. This Ahi Tuna salad at Kona Brewing Company in Hawaii Kai was worth every penny of its $22 price tag. I love the various colors. It’s truly a work of art!

Waikiki Sunset
Waikiki Sunset

Before moving to Hawaii, I felt amazed and jealous of all those sunset shots I’d see floating around Instagram. Then one day while casually walking down the street in Waikiki, I looked to my left and saw that it was so easy to capture the beauty that is Hawaii. The shadows and natural back lighting make photographing beautiful sunsets a no-brainer. I love the clouds’ indigo/deep purple hues in the background.

Diamond Head View
Diamond Head View

It’s almost hard to accept how beautiful the colors in this moment were. I was treated to a spectacular sunset this evening and the cotton candy sky against verdant green Diamond Head were nearly enough to make me weep.

My absolute favorite
My absolute favorite at Waikiki Beach

Here’s a rule of thumb: when the sun dips into the sky, wait around 10 or 15 minutes and see what happens. Patience was a virtue this night as I captured the most ethereal, stunning color spectrum I’ve ever seen. I still can’t believe it’s real.

sistersAt the Kaneohe Sand Bar, the contrast of light blue and dark blue ocean waters against the dramatic backdrop of the Ko’olau Mountain Range is something to behold.

Koko Marina
Koko Marina

Like I mentioned before, sometimes cloudy skies give way to amazing shots. I just adore the color of the water, the white boat and the ominous clouds over the mountains. Paradise.

Rainbow from home
Rainbow from home

No Hawaiian photo shoot is complete without at least one photo of a rainbow. When you least expect it, you look up into the ordinary sky (well, ordinary by Hawaii’s standards) and see a vibrant rainbow. There’s a reason why the rainbow is on the Hawaii license plate. No matter how commonplace rainbows might be, I’m still thrilled to see one and I’m often taken aback at how colorful and peaceful they make the atmosphere.

Revelations by Twilight

This is a piece I wrote for Matador U’s Advanced Travel Writing program. The theme was write about a time you were lost, either metaphorically or physically. I wrote about moving to Maui: the reason behind my move, the very unwarm welcome I received and how I found myself on the other side.  All the details are true and are highly personal and sensitive to me. Please have a read and enjoy the ride.

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Living and working on the Big Island for six months took its toll on me.

I found some semblance of home on a 3-acre tropical agriculture farm on the eastern side of the Big Island, Hawaii. Pahoa, our little jungle town, promised exotic adventures and a rotating door of interesting, but not always good, people.

Because of its unique location amongst O’hia and Albizia trees, Pahoa attracted a certain demographic of people who ran away and hid from their problems. The Big Island: the perfect place to lose and then find yourself again – if you were lucky. A lot of people stayed lost on the Big Island, succumbing to their narcotic of choice, driving around drunk and reckless, putting others’ in harm’s way.

I needed an escape. I booked a side trip to the neighbor island Maui for a breath of fresh air, or perspective, or both.

I didn’t know a soul on Maui, so I logged onto couch surfing and sent out a handful of requests. The first person to respond was a surfer named Frank. His profile picture piqued my interest. He stood in front of a cascading waterfall, both hands behind his back, looking into the distance. His blond ponytail hung over his chiseled, tan back. Frank, the stereotypical hunky surfer, would be my host around Maui for the next 5 days.

I couldn’t contain my excitement. I packed my sarong, a few swimsuits, my cutest sundresses, a hippie headband and oversized sunglasses.  My friends dropped me off at the airport, waved bon voyage and off I went to meet Frank.

A 45 minute flight later dropped me into windy Maui. Frank picked me up at the airport in his rugged, four wheel drive truck. He didn’t have a shirt on. My heart was in my throat.

“Aloha! Welcome to Maui,” Frank said.

I felt punch-drunk. Who was this dreamy man? I wondered incredulously.

“I thought we’d pick up a six pack and head north,” Frank said.

Now he’s done it, I thought. I’m officially hooked.

I silenced every moral fiber in my body telling me not to get too involved. I didn’t want a one-night stand. If this went somewhere, anywhere – north– it would all be over. I’d be his lovesick sidekick in a dirty truck.

So what? I reasoned with myself. Life is made for wild adventures, hungry love and bad decisions. I resigned myself to head north, or wherever the hell else Frank had in mind.

A whirlwind of romantic adventures encompassed the next 5 days. We sipped wine on a cliff overlooking Ironwoods Beach, climbed forbidden trails in ‘Iao Valley, had sex in his cramped studio, snorkeled the best reefs on island, and cooked breakfast in the nude while chatting about surfing. We lied in bed, fingers interlocked, talking about eventually wanting to settle into a relationship. I secretly hoped he’d want that with me.

My last day in Maui, as Frank drove me to the airport, I told him I wanted to see him again. He gave me a kiss goodbye and promised to keep in touch.

I arrived back to the farm in Pahoa, glowing. Everyone knew I had a fabulous time and it showed.

“I’m moving to Maui,” I announced. I’m famous for making bold, rash decisions in the heat of the moment.

“You are? That’s so awesome Jill!” my friend Brandan said.

A few people supporting my assertion rendered it official: I was going to move to Maui.

I flew home to Chicago a week or two later to gather some final belongings and visit with family. I still hadn’t heard anything from Frank after I texted him about my impending move. The silence killed me; but, I knew I had to get off the Big Island. Maui seemed to be the next logical step.

“You don’t know anyone there, Jill,” my mom said.

“Well, I have a few friends,” I lied. I shuffled my feet around the fact that my only lifeline was Frank, a romantic acquaintance.

A few days before my move, I received a text from Frank.

“So, you moving to Maui? Do you need a place to stay when you land?”

Besides myself, I agreed to let Frank pick me up from the airport. I’d stay with him until I found a place to live. I secretly hoped, though, that we would pick up where we left off: in the heat of romance.

My parents dropped me off at O’Hare and waved goodbye, wishing me good luck.

When I arrived at the terminal, my flight had been delayed. Instead of landing at 5 p.m., just in time for an amazing Maui sunset, I’d arrive at 10 p.m.

I texted Frank the change of plans. No response from him right away, but it didn’t matter, because my flight was boarding.

I zoned out for the next 5 hours, trying to get through the long flight while containing my excitement about seeing Frank again.

We touched down in Kahului, Maui in the darkness. I turned on my phone to check for a message from Frank.

“It’s kind of late. I’m going to have my friend Henry pick you up,” Frank texted.

Who is Henry? I wondered. How was I supposed to find him?

I stood outside of the airport, “looking” for Henry. I had no idea what he looked like, what he would be driving…nothing.

After about fifteen minutes, panic started to settle in. What have I done? Why would I trust a guy I met once to come get me without making a backup plan? I didn’t even have cash for a taxi or a hotel reservation.

Wearing a giant backpack with 2 suitcases in tow, I realized that I was utterly lost. Abandoned by the only person I thought I knew on island, I stood at the airport in tears. I knew Frank wasn’t coming. I also knew that the romance I thought would reignite the moment my foot touched Maui soil had crashed and burned.

Suddenly, a truck pulled up.

“Jill? Is that you?” Henry screamed with his head out the window.

“Yeah! Are you Henry?” I screamed back.

“Yeah! Get on in!” Henry said.

Henry turned out to be Frank’s best friend and my saving grace during a hard moment. We drove to Henry’s apartment in the mountains, making casual, albeit awkward small talk.

“I don’t know what happened to Frank, but he asked me to pick you up. We’ll get with him in the morning,” Henry said.

“Fair enough. Where can I sleep? I’m exhausted,” I asked.

Henry motioned toward the only bed in his apartment.

“You can sleep in there with me. I don’t bite,” he said.

Here we go, I thought. The only person willing to take me in for the night wanted to get me in bed – literally. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I reluctantly agreed.

“Okay, but no funny stuff. And I mean it,” I said.

That night, we slept, perfect strangers, side by side. Nothing funny happened.

I woke up to a note on the counter from Henry who had already left for the day.

“Jill – It’s been so nice to meet you! I think you should leave today. Here’s the number to Banana Bungalow Hostel. They usually have plenty of rooms at a good rate. Take care and see you around. –Henry”

Angry about everything that happened to me since arriving, I tried calling Frank outright to ask him why he pinned me off on his friend. He didn’t answer, so I resorted to a text war.

It turned out that Frank “double-booked” his couch surfers and didn’t have room for anyone else. Instead of letting me know, he thought it best to completely ignore me. I angrily accused him of abandoning me and treating me like an unwanted burden. He called me an ungrateful bitch, saying the island would spit me out in 6 months, at the most.

I checked into the youth hostel and rented a car. Hurt by my unwanted “welcome” to Maui, I felt stupid, useless and cast aside. I knew that I was just another notch in a surfer dude’s belt.

Deflated, I drove north in my rental car, this time by myself. I marveled at the way the waves broke on Maui’s North Shore, feeling anxiety about my decision to move all the way here for a guy. What a joke it turned out to be.

I pulled into Ho’okipa Beach, the windsurfing capital of the world. Sunset would be soon.

Taking my place on the rocks near the shoreline, I put my head in my hands and wept.

I had the beach to myself. Between sobs, I asked Maui aloud:

“Please give me a sign Maui. This is too hard. Too much. Please show me a sign that I am where I’m supposed to be,” I said.

I couldn’t handle any more curve balls. Awful and lonely aptly described my first few days in paradise.

I promised Maui to show respect, to be Pono (to do what’s right) and to live with Aloha. I needed to know that everything would be okay.

As I sat there, offering myself up to the island while watching the Pacific rolling in, eight large green sea turtles crawled onto shore. In Hawaii, honu, or turtles, are symbolic of good luck. As if answering my prayers for a sign that things will work out how they’re supposed to, the turtles emerged from the sea to rest.

A few days earlier, I met Kristy, a restaurant owner from Atlanta, at the bar. We were two lonely souls who connected over strong Mai Tais. She gave me advice about being a free woman, following your intuition and scoping out the best possible scenario for yourself.

“It’s all about just riding the horse,” she said.  “Sometimes instead of trying to control everything, you need to let go and let things happen. Sit up on the saddle and ride it. That’s life.”

Her words rung in my ears as the honu continued to creep onto the sand. I couldn’t live my Maui life for some jerky surfer guy. I needed to get back on the horse, sit up on the saddle and ride it – for myself.

I looked to the turtles who rested after their endless, difficult miles at sea. I relaxed into myself and began to trust in my own tumultuous journey. I walked back to my car, illuminated by Maui’s twilight revelations, just as the sun dipped into the horizon.

Reconnecting with Aloha

I am back island side after 2 long months of traveling, visiting family and friends around the mainland, and making a trip to Thailand.

What a whirlwind year! When I think of it all, it almost makes me crazy to think of all the times I’ve taken off, landed, stuck my thumb out for a ride (still need to return that favor when I see hitchhikers) and laid my head to rest in various parts of the world.

That’s a whole lotta travel!

With the stresses of moving halfway across the world to Maui, I have found that it’s been a bit of an adjustment to come back to Hawaiian time and the Hawaiian way. I’ve officially been here one week and I’m just now starting to slip back into the ways of Aloha. What do I mean by that?

Moving automatically makes you self-driven, operating in survival mode, ready to throw elbows against competitors and nay-sayers. I know this is the sort of attitude I developed, and I want to flush it down the toilet. I already managed to piss off one friend by calling him out for not picking me up at the airport. Though I think we both over-reacted, I can’t afford to make enemies before I even make friends. That’s not my lot in life.

Detoxing from the mainland takes some time. When I was gone from Hawaii the first time around, it took me almost 3 weeks to be born-again. I arrived and I looked haggard. My skin had faded to a pasty white and I surely put on some pounds from eating so much red meat back home (yummy but not good for my body or complexion). I was wound up from the mainland, riddled with anxiety and nerves and I was overall a big mess. I guess you can say much of the same this time around.

I have a lot riding on this move. I sold my car back home, I said goodbye to my friends and family…I jetted off into the unknown where I only knew one person (who probably seriously hates me now, but what can I do?) and I’m attempting to carve out a life for myself. For now, more question marks than answers are in front of me. I’m nervous that I’m burning through money too fast, spending more than I’m making and wondering if I’m getting the “best deal.”

But then it occurred to me that no matter where I am in life, that’s where I’m supposed to be. So what if I’m a little uncomfortable to start and a bit lonely? Worrying about making friends isn’t going to help me make them. Worrying that I won’t have enough money to survive here isn’t going to make me money to survive here. Thinking it’s all about me without counting my blessing is my biggest mistake yet.

With coming to the islands and living aloha, you respect and give blessings and thanks for everything you have in your life. You live with love, awareness, humility and kindness. Instead of worrying with negativity, you anticipate with positive energy. Instead of blaming, you appreciate. Instead of being out for yourself and your survival, you see the world with new eyes, eyes that help you see that the world is a product of your mindset. If you treat it poorly, it will treat you poorly in return.

It will take me more time still to figure out my role here on Maui. I need to continuously be grateful for all of the opportunities afforded to me, have follow through, be committed and do my best. I need to smile more than I furrow my brow, quit worrying so much, and appreciate the natural beauty around me. If something this beautiful can exist from behind my eyes, than I have to know things will be okay:

Sunset at Ho’okipa Beach. Photo by author

 

I sat on the beach the other night, alone, worried. As I was sitting there on the rocks, I had a conversation aloud with Maui about how hard this last week has been for me, and even though I’m strong, I can’t handle too many more curve balls. I  admitted that I’m lonely and constantly going over negative thoughts in my head. I promised to have respect for the island and to be pono (do what’s right).

As I sat there and offered all of myself up to the island, watching the Pacific rolling in and the sun dipping into the clouds, eight large green sea turtles began to crawl onto shore. In Hawaii, honu, or turtles, are symbolic of good luck. As if answering my prayers for a sign that things will work out how they’re supposed to, almost ten turtles emerged from the sea onto the shore to “rest.”

Photo by author

I felt so humbled and blessed at the same time. Never before had I seen so many of God’s beautiful creatures up close and in one place: and they were crawling toward me! I am going to forever remember that special moment for inspiration when times are lonely and hard: that good luck is here with me always, I just have to be wise enough to believe it.

Mahalo ke akua!

A Hawaiian Hui Hou

I left the Big Island to travel to the mainland to see my sister who just had a baby. I am an auntie for the first time! It’s a boy: Thorston Sanderson Kozak Grosse, 9 lbs, 5 oz., given life the au natural way.

I had to say goodbye to the Big Island and the jungle for many reasons. The biggest of them all was money. While traveling full-time this year, I had to keep a keen eye on my budget and plan for when it would be time to get back to work and make more money. That time is rapidly approaching, but like I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been given the INCREDIBLE opportunity to travel the world and pick somewhere to make my home.

Another reason I left the jungle is because it was time for me to re-integrate myself into society. Though I loved my kooky little jungle family, it was becoming a drag to hitch-hike to the nearest store (while my perfectly good VW Beetle lay dormant in my parents’ driveway some 4,000 miles away) that was five miles away. The mosquitoes became ALMOST too much to bare, and I was in desperate need of my belongings de-molding.

A bamboo hut I called home for a few months

In any case, Hawaii is my home and I will be returning in a month when I’ve settle my affairs back on the mainland.

I dream of a life in Hawaii: learning more about organic farming, sustainability, getting into my body and becoming more acquainted with mother ocean.

My last day on Big Island was emotional. I spent my last afternoon basking in the Hawaiian sun at my local beach, Isaac Hale State Park, affectionately dubbed “Pohoiki” by locals because it’s right at the end of Pohoiki Road. It was almost like any other Saturday down at the beach: families having picnics together, surfers catching waves, dogs and keiki (children) running about. But then something special caught my eye.

I saw the most beautiful bamboo canoe. I was so enthralled by its size. Never had I seen such a gigantic canoe that stunned me where I stood. Usually I only see battered fishing boats and some kayaks going into the boat ramp at the beach, but this day was different.

Traditional Hawaiian canoe

I noticed there was a sea burial ceremony going on in the midst of the burrito guy selling his fish tacos and the families enjoying some fun in the sun. The services were taking place under a small tent in the middle of all the action, and after the Hawaiian priest said his blessings, it was time for the canoe to set sail and release the ashes into the mighty Pacific.

If there’s one thing I learned about Hawaiians, it’s their celebration of life. A burial service, instead of being a solemn event, its na ho‘ohiwahiwa o ho‘öla, which means celebrating life. As the canoe glided into the ocean, I watched the family members gather around the shore to say goodbye to their loved ones. They were dressed in casual but tasteful island ware and looked serene and happy.

A woman from shore says goodbye

I sat on the shore and watched 8 Hawaiian men row the canoe with the ashes out to sea. Those at the beach that day swimming and surfing took a moment to respect the life of the departed. As the canoe rowed further into the distance, people from the party let loose red roses into the water, carefully placing them down, watching the canoe row further on still.

I sat there floored. It was the most beautiful ceremony I’ve ever witnessed. Not only was it traditional with the canoe and ashes being scattered into the ocean, but the deceased was being honored amongst the living, the Hawaiians, locals and visitors all enjoying life and their Saturday together. It was such a proper last afternoon in the Big Island.

A red rose memory

I struggled leaving that day, but was an appropriate goodbye filled with much aloha. Aloha is technically a word to mean hello, goodbye and express sentiments of love, but I felt that it wasn’t goodbye, just see you later. I know many of the family members had to have felt the same way as they celebrated their loved one’s life. In Hawaiian Hui Hou means see you later. I know I will call Hawaii my home in the near future, and I hope that one day those at Pohoiki will be reunited with their beloved family member. We will all come together again later.