Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by the stunning beauty and destructive fury of volcanoes. Having previously travelled to the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui decades ago, it had been a bucket list dream to visit the Big Island of Hawaii where all the volcanic activity occurs and this summer I made my dream come true.
My daughter accompanied me on this trip of a lifetime and we enjoyed ourselves so much that we didn’t want to come home. We first spent two days in San Francisco to adjust gradually to the time change and while there, toured Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz prison. I had busted out of there once before but this was my daughter’s first time behind bars. Dinner with some of my cousins whom I rarely get to see was an added bonus.
From there, Hawaii beckoned and after five hours over the Pacific, we landed in Maui and then changed planes to continue on to Kona on the Big Island. What awaited us was as spectacular as I had hoped it would be. Vistas our eyes had never seen before unfolded around us in the form of lush vegetation contrasting against lifeless fields of centuries old lava. I felt as if we had been transported to another planet. It took a while for it to sink in that I was finally where I wanted most to be in this world.
We had the good fortune of being driven to our hotel by Robert, one of the nicest taxi drivers I have ever met. He immediately agreed to be our transport around the island and took us wherever we wanted to go. He was at our beck and call with a hearty “you bet” whenever we needed him. At our resort we found a beautiful landscape, more lava fields and a complete absence of city noise that we can’t escape at home. No traffic sounds, no planes roaring overhead, no sirens and no stress. Only the chirping of birds and the sound of the sea as our private, sandy beach beckoned.
One day was devoted to exploring the island on a 13-hour guided tour that took us to a coffee plantation, down into lava tubes, a black sand beach complete with lounging sea turtles and the capper for me was reaching the summit of Mount Kilauea where the view into the caldera was like being on the surface of the moon. The experience was so overwhelming that I had trouble holding back the tears. I had made it. It was my Eureka moment. From there we visited a lychee fruit farm and a cascading waterfall before driving through Hilo and then back to our resort on the Kona side via a highway that passed between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Our tour guide, Justin, was informative and possessed an acerbic sense of humour which only added to the exhilarating experience that this day was.
Yet, into every trip a little reality must come. And by that I mean cell phones. Everywhere. Held by everyone no matter where they were. On the beach, by the pool, at meals, strolling through town, at the bar. I was half expecting to see someone in the pool doing the backstroke while sending a text. And yes, I had mine with me and often wish I hadn’t.
While I was able to reassure everyone at home that I hadn’t fallen into a crater, I couldn’t help but remember a time when you went away and were really away. You didn’t drag bits and pieces of home with you and only re-established contact when you returned. Now, instead of enjoying the scenery, we tend to be obsessed with “screenery” and simply can’t break that connection for a while in order to truly be on vacation. Perhaps tech moderation while on vacation can give you the best of both worlds so you can rest and relax without that fear of missing out that plagues us today.
The only snag in our dream vacation was a nine-hour flight delay from Los Angeles to Montreal, but we were kept well advised by our airline as the day wore on and were nicely compensated for the inconvenience. If only the toddler in the seat across from us hadn’t screamed and whined the entire flight home, those 5 ½ hours might have been a pleasant ending to a perfect vacation.
But that is all forgotten now and in my mind I am back on Kilauea’s summit with a tear in my eye and a smile from ear to ear. And one day I will return. Kauai awaits.