Mind & Soul

Reclaiming My Mind

Me standing on top of Mauna Kea

So it's been 5 months since I boarded a plane bound for the Big Island of Hawai'i. That's 5 months for me to ruminate on what were my great takeaways from that adventure and any wisdom it imparted before I hopped on a flight to return home.

And you know what? I'm not sure if I have any great takeaways. And I certainly don't feel any more wise.

Long-time readers of my blog may recall how when I traveled to the City of Lights to celebrate a milestone birthday 5 years ago, I came back with some important insights, even if they weren't the ones I went there for. I wrote about them once or twice, plus I've shared quite a few photos over the past few years, highlighting my flashes of joy and introspection that came later.

So why hasn't the same happened for this trip?

It's not like I get to travel often for my birthday, and this was my first 10+ hour flight. And trust me, that alone was definitely anxiety-inducing.

And yet ... I have no wisdom to share. No epiphanies to reveal. No doubts have been put to rest.

Unless ...

The lack of all of the above is, in itself, a part of the lesson. Hmmm, let me think this through for a moment.

Maybe I'm grasping at straws, but is it possible that my biggest takeaway from my holiday on an island paradise was to just ... dare I say it ... relax and enjoy myself?

Could it have been that simple?

Sure, I went in with a helluva itinerary. (It's the J in my INFJ, don't judge.) And from the beginning, it was helpful and wonderfully suited for me. But after 2 days, I had to adapt to the changing circumstances due to catching a cold, still waking up on Eastern Daylight Time, and the general fatigue of trying to force a feeling of letting go when I really wasn't.

Don't get me wrong. I am eternally grateful for all of the amazing experiences I had while visiting Hawai'i this year, including but not limited to:

Of course, I didn't get to everything on my list due to the constant pivoting and, well, my tendency to try to squeeze far too much into my itinerary. I regret not trying as much of the local cuisine as I wanted to, and never getting a chance to see any of the breathtaking waterfalls that you see in all the pictures.

Ki'i at the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau or Place of Refuge by Candace Nicholson

But in exchange for those regrets, I got to have the experience of renting a car for the first time while on vacation (most of the time I rely on public transportation), having my ears screaming for hours on end due to so many changes in elevation in a short period of time (thank you Old Saddle Road), and supporting a few local artists and artisans at the Hilo Farmers Market (I wasn't sure if I'd be able to fit in a visit).

However, those minor tradeoffs did not prepare me for the biggest disappointment and sweetest moment of my entire trip. Just like my trip to Paris had its dour moments that threatened to siphon off the joy of my birthday trip, Hawai'i offered up a similar, but more frightening experience.

Long story short. I sadly got into a minor fender bender with a parked car while heading back to my hostel one day. Needless to say, the situation was not ideal, but it could have been so much worse. Obviously I wasn't happy to be the source of the trouble any more than I was happy to be on the receiving end of good old-fashioned prejudice coming from the owner of the other car.

Like I said, I usually rely on public transportation when I travel, but I splurged this time in hopes of getting a chance to enjoy more of the sights. I'm a really great driver with a ton of experience behind the wheel -- I've driven across the U.S. twice, and I've been on more road trips than the average person born after 1975. But that small accident really shook me and knocked my confidence pretty hard.

Thankfully, I had my mother to give me a pep talk, a reasonable insurance company to help me manage the situation, and a more-kind-than-expected rental car service to help put me at ease. Yet, before any of the ease could take root, I decided to scuttle my plans for the following day and stay local.

The day after the accident, I left the rental car parked at the hostel and just walked around the tourist-centered town of Kailua-Kona. And in doing so, I may have had the most remarkable day of the entire trip -- which was already filled to the brim with remarkable days.

Circling back to my original claim: For that one day, I just relaxed and enjoyed myself. How about that?

No itinerary. No plans. No sense of time wasted. That day, I walked to a cute coffeeshop that had a huge wraparound porch for customers to sit and enjoy their drinks in the outdoors while taking in an amazing view of the ocean just on the other side of Ali'i Drive. It was there I people-watched, wrote in my journal, let my thoughts wander about anything and everything, people-watched some more, and even sketched a silly drawing of my view of the ocean as the morning slowly drifted by.

I didn't worry about the time, and as a result, as time passed by so did the tension in my shoulders, neck and back. And I assure you, dear reader, the only time that usually happens for me while on vacation is when I step into an independent bookstore.

My silly sketch of the view at Kona Haven Cafe by Candace Nicholson

The change was so noticeable and profound that it is possibly the one truly life-changing moment of my entire birthday celebration this year -- and keep in mind, I went stargazing on the highest peak in the Pacific Ocean only 3 days before.

And I suppose it is that moment that has left me wondering for the past 5 months about the great takeaways from this trip. There is a part of me looking for a deeper message to that day, but I don't know if there is one. Is it possible that the grand wisdom I was looking for was simply ... be still and contentment will find you?

Is that the spirit of Hawai'i everyone talks about feeling when they visit? Is that feeling why so many mainlanders are compelled to pack up everything and relocate to the island after one visit?

Sure, the lesson came at a price, but most lessons do, don't they?

I took up space on that porch just languishing the day away for about 3 hours before I decided to go and grab a bite. And even after I left and was a tad frustrated at my inability to decide on where to eat, contentment found me again as a small trio of tourists invited me to join them at the bar at a local hotspot.

These complete strangers told me about their participation in the Hilo marathon over the weekend, and how much they love Minnesota, but they don't love the Minnesota weather. I gobbled up their funny stories and my fish tacos eagerly, then said goodbye as they left to head back to their hotel. Then I tipped the bartender generously, and slowly walked back to my hostel, sightseeing and people-watching along the way.

I may or may not have purchased a few souvenirs on the way back, but I know I kept that feeling of contentment that told me that everything would be OK. If not for tomorrow, at least for today.

And it was this moment, this experience that I want to not only remember for years to come, but if possible, recreate whenever I feel it's necessary right here at home. It was taking that time out from my schedule, my stress, and my ambition to feel as if I was truly living my best life that somehow led me to living my best life simply by sitting still.

And in that inaction, I learned how to reclaim my power, my peace, and my mind. And that feels like one helluva of a lesson.

An adventurous one having fun off the Kona coast by Candace Nicholson

Top Image: Me standing on top of Mauna Kea | Second Image: Ki'i statues at the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau or Place of Refuge by Candace Nicholson | Third Image: My silly sketch of the view at Kona Haven Cafe by Candace Nicholson | Bottom Image: An adventurous one having fun off the Kona coast by Candace Nicholson

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