The First Few Waves
I never really made formal plans to go to Hawaii. Even though the Aloha State would be the culmination of Project Fifty (see “Forty-Nine,” August 2012), I wasn’t convinced I would really go. What I would tell me friends, when asked what I would do at the end of my summer on the Bighorn National Forest, I would offer, “If nothing else materializes, I’ll go to Hawaii.” My motivation ebbed and flowed, even if I did have a one-way ticket in my back pocket. Clearly they sensed my hesitation as their attempts to provide their perspective on the idea warned me of how expensive the cost of living is and how pricy food and accommodations would be.
As the days until the flight grew closer, and I was still 1800 miles away from my departure terminal, the waves of anticipation nudged me farther into the rising tide of excitement about the prospect of just getting on a plane and going. I decided to make some initial plans, in case I found myself using the ticket. Knowing only that I didn’t want to be in a high-rise on Waikiki, I turned to AirBnB to see what was possible. I wanted accommodations that fit my style, my budget, and my desired introduction to the Aloha State. I opted against packing myself into a multi-story condo. I avoided a bedroom in a garage apartment. I wanted this adventure to be the climax of decades of travel and hope and I refused to settle for the same experience as everyone else on the islands. So, I did not choose a location on the island. Instead, I would sleep in the harbor aboard a sailing vessel.
The Motion of the Ocean
Shortly after my first steps aboard the Rosalie Claire, Planet Earth throws Chile a curve ball. An 8.3 earthquake sends ripple effects across the Pacific Ocean headed my way. Within my first few hours in paradise, alerts go up throughout the island chain advising to watch for additional maritime updates in the coming hours. How would that affect my reservation for tonight? According to the captain, a woman who I would love to be in another lifetime, if a force of nature may be on its way, we will put to sea and ride it out. Well, alright then. I will go to sea and let the fates determine my course. The odds that I even would get here were infinitesimal. In fact, this entire journey from the high mountains to the tropical islands felt impromptu. (Sometime I’ll tell you about the wildfire I dodged.) Survive a tsunami? Sure, I’m ready. Bring it.
By this evening, reports are expecting wave heights of a meter or two at the most, just enough to rock me to sleep as I watch out my porthole facing the dock. My view bobs a foot or two above the surface of the ocean. I sleep serenely, gently lulled by the lofting and lifting of the Chilean waves. The tiny space of my cabin barely allows me to stretch out my body to its full length. The width of my berth measures about half the length. Nonetheless, this spot, the day’s threat, the true sense of adventure that my unique accommodations and impetuous plans offer are precisely the experience I crave. Project Fifty demands more than the ordinary, it demands a tidal wave of exhilaration, and Hawaii does not disappoint.