LOST AND FOUND
(Early October 2017)
Soundtrack: Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
The journey to Hawaii is a very long one. 6 am wake up call, 40 minutes ride to the airport, 3 different planes, 16 hours of travel and 1 hour of waiting after landing. I crossed half the world to get here and I have never been this far west from home. It feels odd and quietly exciting. It’s dark when we land. I can see the lights of Hawaii shining through the sky but it is impossible to truly grasp how it looks like. I am so tired I only dream of a warm bed to sleep in and leave the rest for tomorrow. Laina picks me up at the airport and drives me to the hostel. Everything is pretty dark everywhere so I won’t see much of the island tonight. Once we reach the hostel, she introduces me to everyone and after a quick tour around the place I can finally go to sleep.
My first official day on Maui is already full of adventures, a baptism by fire pretty much. In the morning I take things slow, unpack, chat with everyone and go buy groceries at the local store. When I enter the store, my nose is immediately filled with the smell of everything: fresh local fruits, seeds and spices to buy in bulk, rice, flour, local pineapples, avocados and bananas. Everything is organic and everything looks delicious. I only buy the strict minimum for now but I know I’ll be coming back regularly. In the afternoon, I drive with Sabrina, Léonie and Iza, three girls from the hostel, and Micke who also stays at the hostel, to a place called Makena State Park, where they have beaches called Big Beach and Little Beach and where every Sunday there is a gathering of people who spend the day on the beach just enjoying life until the sun sets. All they told me is that it’s a “hippie thing” and clothing is optional. I don’t know what to expect really but the drive itself is already magical. I get a first real glimpse of the island landscapes, music is blasting in the car, it is crazy hot and I can’t help but have a huge smile on my face. We reach Little Beach and it is much more than I could have expected. Lots of people are gathered in small groups, drinking beer, some are naked but not a lot, there is a drumming circle where people are playing music that can be heard everywhere across the beach, people dancing to the music, naked children running free, people smoking and other swimming… I envy them for being so free and uninhibited, fully comfortable with who they are and how they look or at least enough to walk and dance around naked. At sunset, fire dancers light up their fire sticks and put on a little show and the music and dancing intensifies. Someone starts howling at the moon and everyone howls back in unison. This is quite incredible, literally. The night ends early though and at 7 pm, the police comes down and nicely asks us to leave, as they do every Sunday. We end our evening sneaking in a fancy hotel to use the hot tub before heading back to the hostel. I can’t quite realize yet that I am here on Maui and that this is my life now.
On my second day, I get a text from my parents to tell me that my dad’s mum passed away. She was 92 years old and very tired by a recent vascular accident and she didn’t have the strength to fight anymore. I have lost two grandparents in the last 12 months and both times I was halfway across the world and alone. In that moment it dawns on me how unfair life can be. I’ve been close to home most of my life and everything was fine and on the rare occasions I go away, I don’t get to say goodbye to some of the people I love most. My dad tells us not to be sad, that his mum was 92, which is 8 years older than average and that this might just be the start of a new adventure for her. I hope he is right and wherever she goes from there she reunites with the love of her life, my grandpa, who died 20 years ago.
There is a beach called Paia Bay ten minutes walk away from the hostel and I decide to head there the next day to see what it looks like. There is a lot of waves and I am too afraid to swim but I spend a lot of time there on my own, watching a group of kids boogy boarding. I am amazed by how fearless they look, sliding on their boards and falling in the water. I’d like to be more like them: young, without a care in the world and brave. Before I leave the beach I see a perfect double rainbow. It shines so intensely that all the colors can be distinguished, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, in a perfect semi circle. I wonder how it can be that I get to be so happy and experience so much magic and at the same time so saddened by the recent loss that hit my family. This is without a doubt the greatest and most life changing experience of my life and yet in the moment my feelings are completely mixed up. I am excited to be here and amazed by everything I see, without quite realizing yet that I am on Maui. I am heartbroken for yet another goodbye I didn’t get to have. I feel lonely and yet I am surrounded by people I am growing fond off by the minute and finally I feel oh so guilty for wanting to stay here and experience more. I go back to the beach on my own the next day, and walk further to a place called baby beach, where a reef barrier creates a sort of lagoon protected from the waves where it is safe for kids (and adults) to swim. I see another rainbow and before I make it back, I get caught by heavy tropical rain. I am entirely soaked in a matter of minutes but luckily I run into Jeremy and Laura, who also stay at the hostel and they drive me back. That night, Iza, Léo, Sabrina and I cook our first family dinner together. A new tradition that we hope will stick. We play music while we cook and the song “Unwritten” from Natasha Bedingfield comes on. How fitting! But in that moment I realize I do not feel joy, or sadness for that matter, I just feel kind of numb, a spectator to my own life again. I can’t quite appreciate everything that I am living or feel the gratitude that it deserves and while this realization should make me really sad, I don’t feel that either. I just feel a bit lost. The next day I try to think about all the things I’d like to accomplish in the remaining of my time here. I’d like to learn how to surf, I’d like to do yoga with Iza every morning, I’d like to get a tattoo that symbolizes my trip and my awakening as my true self. If I manage to do all of that, maybe I’ll discover even more about who I truly am.
The days that follow are filled with adventures. On Friday, Iza and I go with David and Devin, two other guests from the hostel for a small camping trip. We first drive with Devin to an apartment he wants to rent for a few months and then drive David to pick up a car that he has rented for a few days. After that we all head to Makena State Park, to Big Beach where I went on my first day and spend the rest of the afternoon there. The waves are so big on one side of the beach that the lifeguards ask us to stay away from the water if we don’t want to get hurt. Thankfully, on the other side of the beach we can swim. We stay in the ocean for hours, just playing in the waves. I am having so much fun that I laugh like I haven’t laugh in a while, real, heartfelt, belly laughs! After our day in the sun, we decide to go watch the sunset and have dinner somewhere. Since we’re full of salt and sand, we first need to find a shower. There is nothing around us but fancy resorts so after driving for a while we just sneak into the Four Season to use their outdoor shower. Iza and I cross the entire lobby and pool area trying not to draw attention. We do our best to act like we belong but clearly we aren’t fooling anyone. The place is huge though, so nobody seems to really care that we are here. After a while, we finally find the showers, wash ourselves and rush back to the car: mischief managed! The four of us have dinner at a restaurant called Hunuhununukunukuapua’a. It’s the name of a fish local to Hawaii. The sunset is amazing, the food is good and the company is perfect. We sneak into a Hula dance show and walk around the huge resort, amazed by how gigantic it is. We camp under the stars that night at Little Beach. The moon shines so bright we can see really clearly. I fall asleep to the sound of the waves breaking on the shore.
The next morning Iza and I wake up early. The beach is almost deserted and we go for an early swim to start the day. I skype with my family that is reunited for my grandmother’s funeral which is happening on that day. I try my best to hold my tears when I speak with them. I haven’t told anyone here on Maui about her passing away. I didn’t know anyone very well yet and I didn’t want to burden them with my grief. But also, mostly, selfishly, I didn’t want them to look at me differently, I didn’t want this to define my arrival on Maui. I didn’t want anyone to feel bad or sorry for me and if I am entirely honest, I didn’t want to feel judge for still wanting to enjoy my time here in the midst of all of this. I feel pretty shitty about wanting to be selfish in that regard, but sometimes it is just easier to pretend that everything is fine. And sadly, I’ve become a pretty good pretender last year.
We drop Iza back at the hostel and Devin, David and I head out for a second day of adventuring. We visit a botanical garden, tour around the island a bit and then David and I drive to Lahaina for what will be a 36 hour birthday celebration. It’s already early morning in France and birthday wishes have started coming in. Lahaina is a very cute, touristy town with lots of shops and restaurants. We walk around a bit and end up in a photo gallery for a photographer called Peter Lik. They are having a little celebration for the reveal of his latest shot which turns out to be a picture of a sunflower field in Provence, somewhere close to home. We are offered some wine and beer and I am blown away by the beauty that is captured and magnified by the photographer. It reminds me that no matter how fucked up the world seems to be, there is pure magic to be found everywhere, if you look close enough. After that we eat at the best burger on Maui (voted 13 years in a row) and end the night camping on a cliff over the ocean.
When I wake up the next morning, it is as if the stars aligned for my birthday. The weather is perfect and the view is amazing. We head to Honolua Bay for some snorkeling. It is just a little rock beach hidden behind what looks like an enchanted forest: giant hundred year old trees create a protected space where the sun pierces through the leaves and light and shade dance among the branches. There are wild roosters running free and hundreds of birds singing in the trees. My parents call me to wish me a happy birthday right before I get in the water. I swim for hours, watching hundreds of multicolored, tropical fishes. I see a few Hunus and spot several sea turtles. I tag along with them for a while and feel blessed to experience all of this on my birthday. Once we get out of the water, David and I feed the chickens some seeds. As they are pretty used to human contact, they come eat directly in our hands. And suddenly, as if I were channeling my inner Disney princess, a little sparrow lands on my open fingers to grab a seed before flying away again. During the hours that follow, I keep on finding him directly from my hand. It isn’t much, yet it is a pretty magical moment all together. The day ends with a dinner in Paia with Sab, Léo, Iza, Erin, Aske, Mallory and David, our little family from the hostel. After these 36 hours, I feel so spoiled by all the love I have received, all the people that thought of me and went out of their ways to make me happy and make sure I had the most perfect birthday. The next two days are spent hiking, once in the Haleakala crater and once hunting a waterfall on the road to Hana. I could go on and on about all the crazy adventures I have been on in my little time here but my words would never do justice to all the beauty and magic of this place. I guess you’ll have to experience it by yourself to really comprehend the magnitude of Maui’s power over your heart and soul.
People have asked me a lot what brought me here and how I ended up on Maui, and the truth is, I don’t know. In a way, I arrived here somehow by accident. I knew I wanted to travel for a while longer and I knew I wanted it to be somewhere warm. Then I thought of Hawaii, it resonated in me as a place I should visit but I didn’t really do any research on the islands and where to go. I met Laina in Canada and through a collection of unexpected events, I hopped on a plane that landed here. It is as if I got lost somewhere along my journey and ended up on Maui, and lost is exactly how I felt in the beginning. But in a matter of days, I have found everything anyone could hope for. My time on Maui has been all about love. Love for this truly amazing place that I am just starting to discover, love for nature and everything it has to offer, love for Maui and the unique way she has to call you in and make you want to stay forever, love for myself and the person I have turned into through this life changing journey, love for the friends I have met here and that became my everything on the island, love for the little family we’ve built here in a matter of days and love for how we feel true happiness for each other just at the knowledge that the other one is happy or had an amazing day, love for all the amazing things we get the chance to do together, love for every hike, every day at the beach, every waterfall hunt and hidden Hawaiian treasure, love for my family that I miss everyday and my own siblings that I wish were here to experience all of this with me, love for my grandmother to whom I didn’t get to say goodbye but who, I know deep down in my heart, is happy for me, love for this life I am living and for being reminded of the fact that in the end, it is all about love.
Sometimes someone stumps of your heart and shatters it into a million pieces and you forget for a moment. Sometimes life crushes your soul and you loose hope for an instant. For a second, a week, a month you feel as if you’ll never love again. For a while you think you can’t go on and it hurts oh so very much. But somehow, somewhere deep inside yourself, you find the strength to carry on and little by little you rebuild yourself and grow strong again. You don’t really realize it at first, it sorts of just happens to you without you noticing and one morning you wake up and your heart is on fire. And from this day forward, you love again. And all it really took was a little spark that you kept safe and buried deep inside you. Because the truth is, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that you’ll never love again, you’ll never let go of that little spark of hope that someday, you will! It’s a fucked up world out there, and there is so much to get scared of but if you look close enough, you’ll find magic everywhere. Magic in a beautiful sunset, magic in a moment of laughter with someone you love, when you laugh so hard your belly hurts, magic in accomplishing something you didn’t think you could, magic in these rare moments when you feel like you really belong…
Most days on Maui end with rain, sometimes just a few drops, other times pouring tropical rain, but every day almost, rain and sun team up to create a beautiful rainbow, as if to remind us to embrace the rain as well, for it is beautiful and essential, as if to highlight that, as say they say in that movie (The fault in our stars), “If you want the rainbow, you have to deal with the rain” and as the proverb says, “life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning how to dance in the rain“.
So… who’s in?
Till next time,
Disclaimer: Not all pictures below are from me, some are from Sabrina, others from Marine and Myra.