I just returned from a week in Kauai. You might be saying to yourself, “Wait, I thought you were going to Europe?” And you are correct. That’s still happening (next week!). But before heading across the Atlantic, we headed across the Pacific to make some memories with my husband’s family. Thanks to my father-in-law’s extreme generosity–and after a year of enough bumps and bruises to go around–the Longhurst family gathered on Kauai for a week of sand and surf.
This will probably come a surprise to no one, but I am not the most relaxed traveler. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling (obvi), but it is usually a frenzied affair with me creating complicated itineraries in order to pack in as much as possible. I don’t want to miss anything! According to my watch, on average I walk 20-25K steps per day when I travel–compared to an average of 7-9K in my normal life. (It took a lot of self-control to not list my normal average as 10K, which is actually my daily goal.)
But this week I made an intentional effort to NOT be a travel maniac, and instead to just try to appreciate whatever came my way each day. In my more zen state, I discovered that the island offered many teachers and I learned many things.
Rivers and Waterfalls
From the rivers and waterfalls, that over thousands of years had cut their way through the valleys around them, I learned the power of persistence.
The Nā Pali Coastline
From the weathered cliffs of the breathtaking Nā Pali coastline, whose jagged shape is the result of wind and winter waves chipping away at them, I learned that wrinkles are beautiful and not to fear the character that comes with aging and life experience.
Green Sea Turtles
We got up early one morning to go to Poipu beach to see if we could see some turtles. They sleep on the sand overnight and then head back into the water when the sun rises. We got to see 5 miraculous turtles! From the turtles I learned the importance of stillness and slowness, especially in the mornings.
For more about these amazing and endangered turtles, check out this link.
The roosters, bless them. These guys are definitely the mascots of Kauai. They are everywhere and crow constantly–not just at dawn. From the roosters I learned the importance of raising your voice when you have something to say, and to say it boldly and with purpose, even if others might find it inconvenient.
From the Kauai flowers I learned that there are many ways to be a flower, just like there are many ways to be a woman, man, mother, father, leader, citizen, and a human. Embrace your uniqueness, and also make space for the uniqueness of others.
On the industrial side of the island, there is a beach named “Glass Beach.” The sand here is actually little bits of sea glass left over from a time when glass bottles were dumped into the ocean. It is quite lovely–the little bits of sea glass shimmer in the sunlight. While I could definitely appreciate the special beauty of this beach, let’s all agree that dumping garbage into the ocean is never okay. Sitting on this beach and watching the waves ripple across the glass, I realized that we can’t always choose the way we are treated by other people. However, something that was once an abuse or a trauma can be made into something beautiful as you break it down over time.
When you go to a tropical island, you hope for lots of sunshine. But we found out it rains a fair amount on Kauai. In fact, I would say it rained almost every day. Not all day, but I would say everything got a good soak at least once a day. It was because of the rain and the clouds that the island is a lush, green Eden. Just like the island needs both blue skies and gray skies to nurture its ecosystems, we need times of joy as well as darker, challenging times in order to grow.
If you think I’m about to tell you I learned that the waves are the earth breathing . . . well, you’re wrong. I learned that the waves are sneaky, naughty little devils who are out to get you.
There I was, innocently boogie boarding with my daughter. I was having a grand time and feeling very alive, but thought that I’d probably had enough. My daughter, Cora, and I decided that we would ride one more big wave and then I was going to be done for the day. So we waited for a nice, juicy wave to come along.
Before I continue, I think it’s important to describe what I was wearing. I was wearing a very modest, black one-piece swimming suit. In terms of coverage, I was probably the most covered woman on the entire beach. Maybe the entire island.
So along comes this wave, and it’s a big one, and it takes me and my little boogie board and tumbles us around like we are in a washing machine. Finally it’s over and I stand up, gasping and wiping the tangled mermaid hair out of my eyes, just in time to look down and notice that my swimming suit has been pulled down and my left breast is fully exposed. Now my previous, pendulous breasts would probably have just followed the downward momentum of the suit and kept the essentials covered. But nothing gets my new, post-mastectomy boobs down. These girls stand up no matter what, come wind or wave, for better or for worse (thanks Dr. Min).
So I get things put back in order just in time to be hit from behind by another wave, tossed around again, only to stand up and discover that my right breast, not wanting my left breast to have all of the glory, has now burst forth to enjoy its own moment the sun. And this is all happening right of front of all three of Matt’s brothers and . . . his dad (not to mention everyone else on the beach).
What did I learn from this experience, you ask? While it might be tempting for me to say that the waves taught me I should stay in my beach chair with my book where it’s safe, when I really thought about it, that’s not how I felt at all. I am happy that I was out there in the turquoise water living my life, boobs out, because you just never know how much life you really have left. Carpe diem, people. Carpe diem.
For more travel adventures, check out Off the Beaten Path in Progreso, Mexico: 8 Amazing Things to Do