All of the Cambodian Smiles

The Khmer people of Cambodia are literally some of the nicest, most genuine, giving, selfless people I’ve ever met. They are always smiling and laughing and joking with each other. They have hearts of gold and are honest and sincere. Below are only a smattering of my experiences of this so far, but these stories certainly warm my heart in times of travel stress.

When I went on a four-hour horseback ride through the countryside near Siem Reap, every single child (some pantless), would stop whatever it is they were doing (kicking balls around, helping mom cook, playing with the dogs) and run out to the road, beaming and yelling “Hello-lady-how-are-youuuu!!!!” while waving their little arms frantically. Just so excited to see me! They don’t even know who I am! I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face.

Two days into my trip, as I’ve written about, I got food poisoning. It sucked. But early one morning when I was in the lobby of the guesthouse, attempting to dump spoonfuls of sugar down the narrow mouth of my water bottle (rehydration fluid recipe courtesy of Dr. Ronald Fritz, thanks Dad) and the sugar granules were landing anywhere but in the water bottle, the adorable dining room attendant brilliantly helped me by fashioning a makeshift funnel out of a napkin. She didn’t speak much English at all, but she could see I was struggling and close to tears in my hazy state, and she reached out and helped me with a very ingenious solution.

Everyone just wants to help. Here I am, sitting at a little guesthouse in a town with a name I can’t pronounce, typing this up on the front desk attendant’s laptop. He was all too eager to have me use it since my phone wouldn’t connect to the internet for whatever reason, and I desperately needed to search plane tickets and e-mail home. He then gave me a water bottle, adjusted the fan so it would blow on me, and later shyly asked what my name was so we could be “Facebook friend.” My heart is glowing.

Anytime we eat somewhere with Gabe’s local friends, they always offer for me to try whatever they ordered before they touch it. “Loh-ren, do you want to try?” It’s the sweetest thing. Or if we’re at a stand by the road buying coconuts or local fruit, they make sure to ask “Loh-ren, you want?” before they purchase one for themselves.

My server one evening at Il Forno, an amazing Italian restaurant in Siem Reap, struck up a conversation with me as I was paying my bill, asking if I was traveling alone and where I was from and if I had siblings and what I did for work and how old I was. She was so un-shy and curious, such a delight to talk with. People here care about you and your story instantly, even if they met you only a moment ago. I’ve been back twice to visit with her at the restaurant. 

And although there have been a few occasions on this trip where I’ve felt a little bit isolated from certain people around me, I’ve never felt lonely, because I can literally walk the streets and smile at anyone and they return it with the largest, most genuine smile. I instantly feel at home in a city I’ve never been to before. It’s all because of these amazing people.

I could do well to take a page from their book. What are these boundaries and walls I have put up in my life back home? Barriers between me and my friends, my family? I’ve always been a private person that way. I’ve never liked to open up, because I dislike attention focused on me. The Khmer people help reinforce the realization just how unnecessary these barriers are. Life is meant to be shared and lived and absorbed from the people around us. We are all connected in the human experience. And we all have unique stories to share. What’s the worst that could happen when you open up to someone and attempt to connect?

So my goal for the rest of this trip: BREAK DOWN THE FRICKIN’ BARRIERS. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m sure I’ll be meeting and talking with plenty of strangers, locals and travelers alike. A smile is an instant connection. Share it. Boom.

News Update: iPhone Falls to a Vomit-y Grave Amidst First 48 Hours of Epic Journey through Southeast Asia

Well, I’m going to say that this trip has certainly had it’s way with me already – but best to get the nasty stuff out of the way early on, no? Not more than 36 hours had passed in Cambodia before I found myself vomiting, rather violently, into a quarter gallon Ziploc snack bag, unfortunately at the expense of my cherished dried pear chips still nestled there, about 3.5 hours into a wobbly 7 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. I blame the roadside mango slices. It couldn’t have been anything else.

Now, this sucks, as I’m a girl who loves food. I’m not picky in the traditional sense, but picky in that I want to eat as locally and authentically as possible (preferably healthfully as well, but that can be thrown to the wayside if I’m presented with an exciting dining opportunity). I don’t like to settle for something just to fill my stomach. I like food that means something. Eating and trying new restaurants is probably my favorite part of travel.

But none of that matters when you’re sprawled on your guesthouse bed for the second 36 hours of your trip, puking your guts into a trash bin on the floor. Why, cruel world? Gone was any appetite, in the heart of a city where I had the chance to dine on amazing food of all types of cuisine for a mere fraction of what I would pay in the U.S. This was only the second time in my life when I’d had food poisoning (the first being a rather unfortunate incident with Indian food from the beloved North Dining Hall of Notre Dame – the night before the last presentation I would ever give in college). I don’t remember it sucking this much. But I won’t go into details. It sucked, but I let it suck, I embraced the suckiness, tried to push my mind past the inevitable suck, and attempted to look forward to the rest of the trip when I would be back to 100% and frolicking around Cambodia and Thailand.

But I do have to insert one more “side” story that accompanies the food poisoning incident. Which is more and more hilarious and less painful as time passes. It involves the death of my iPhone 6, which unfortunately was my sole means of photo-taking on this journey, as well as my only computer. In the midst of said food poisoning session, I woke up in the middle of the night around 1 a.m., a bit dazed, confused, dehydrated because I couldn’t keep any water down, head pounding, stomach roiling, and blearily started reaching around the bed for my phone (which I had been texting on a few hours before, and left next to my pillow within easy reach before falling back asleep). No phone in the bed. Ok, did I leave it in the bathroom? Nope. This is getting ridiculous. Checked luggage. Checked bed again. Checked under the bed. To the side of the bed. Everywhere. Then I froze. No way. My vomit “bucket” was still perched next to my bed, full of the watery remnants of my stomach. It was barely 7″by 7″ wide. No way did my phone fall into the vomit bucket. I grabbed the bucket. Couldn’t see anything in it. Ok. Tilted it to the side a little to see better. Holy shit. 

My F***ING iPhone was in the vomit bucket.

Now, I was in a rather fragile physical and emotional state. So forgive me for bursting into tears as I grabbed the phone and started frantically pressing buttons. Which, as I later learned, is not the way to handle a submerged and potentially water-damaged (vomit-damaged?) phone. But I didn’t know any better. There’s no class taught on this stuff! How was I supposed to know you turn it off immediately to prevent it from shorting?? I just wanted to see the familiar comfort of my home screen! PLEASE! Sure, it popped on. But the screen would switch to the bright white apple and then off. Shit. It continued to behave the same the next three times I tried to access the home screen. Then, nada. Zip. Gone.

Well, ok. Yes, I tried the bag-of-dry-rice trick. Yes, I spent painful hours laying in bed, nauseous and crying like a baby over my lost connection to home and the death of my travel-planning-and-documenting buddy. Yes, I spent too many minutes contemplating the crazy misfortune and bad luck that of all the places for me to push my phone in my sickness-induced sleep coma, it had to land in my tiny vomit bucket. And then I had to go and short it. But, with some consoling, I managed to reorient my priorities, get my shit together, and realize that this trip was way more important and bigger than anything that could be captured by a phone.

So, I’m kind of over it now. It’s pretty funny. Still stings a little. But you know what doesn’t hurt anymore? My head or my stomach! SO, my next posts are certainly going to be about the amazingness that is Cambodia, because I’ve already fallen in love with the Kingdom of Wonder. Much more to come, my friends. And yes, luckily my wonderful travel buddy, Gabe, happened to have an old extra iPhone of his in his luggage that he has passed on to me, so I do have some way to communicate with friends and fam. Sometimes luck has your back. As we’ve seen, sometimes it doesn’t. But now, bring on the rest of this trip! I’m ready for ya.

Solo, & Yet So High

5,300 feet high, to be exact. But let me get to that later.

Solo Hiking

I really, really hate watching plans slip through the cracks. I’ve learned to deal with this in two different ways. 1) Don’t plan too much, because then you’re less likely to be disappointed. This is an emotionally safe, and yet fairly uninteresting, way to go about life. The second way I’ve learned to deal with the issue of dissolving plans is 2) Do everything in your power to make shit happen. Don’t accept setbacks and obstacles as “signs” not to follow through with something, or as a reason to change the goal. Accept them as the strength-building exercises that they are, and do what you want to do. Get ‘er done.

This second option is pretty empowering. Every new place I move to, every new adventure I take, every new person I meet, all remind me just how true it is that we are the authors of our own life. We ultimately make our decisions on a day-to-day basis, which in turn dictates our life situations. We decide our attitudes (for the most part, I understand there are exceptions and struggles) every morning when we get up, and we can let the little things bother us, or we can find the other little things in our life to savor and celebrate. If there’s something that we want to do/see get done, and it’s proving difficult or challenging to arrange/plan/make sense of, we have to keep in mind that the only thing that’s standing in your way is…(ahem, we’ve all heard it before) you.

This makes me both giddy and a little terrified, because it means there’s really no excuse to let things/people/situations linger in your life that are making you unhappy or that are unfulfilling. It can be a challenge to accept that and to take the necessary steps forward on your own path. It also makes me giddy because it means we can do anything we set our minds to!

This was a bit of a long introduction to a really amazing experience I want to share that I had this past weekend. I’ve been wanting to do a Mount Pilchuck sunrise hike in the North Cascades for a few weeks, and there’s been a few obstacles to completing it. Whenever I tried to plan it, something usually popped up, typically work-related, which I understand, and I’m appreciative that I even have work to keep me busy, especially a job I love. But a couple of days ago, when I realized I had a chance to do this hike, with plenty of time off and a chance to catch the right ferry off the island, it was go time. The other relevant portion of this experience was that I was going to be doing it solo. I wouldn’t have minded company. But I threw my plans together last minute, and it would’ve been a bit hectic to expect someone else to hop on board with only minutes to pack. I’m fairly independent, and I frequently thrive on the high of making last minute decisions to do what I consider reasonably epic things, especially when I’m doing it all by myself. I hope to forever live my life as a go-getter.

So I packed all of the necessary hiking things into my adventure van Saturday morning, scurried down to the dock to work a whale watch and spend the afternoon talking about the wonders of transient killer whales with fascinating passengers from all over, and got off work just in time to catch the 6:30 ferry off island. And then…she gone. Once I got to Anacortes, fueled up Blue-y, and headed east into the mountains, the setting sun started to light up the world around me. I was stoked that the next time I was going to see that pretty orange glowing ball again would be from the top of a mountain. I arrived at the trailhead for Mount Pilchuck around 9:15, settled into my bed that I’d prepared in the back of the van, and got ready for about 6 hours of sleep…..

Casual 3:30 a.m. wake-up. I blearily stuffed last minute supplies into my daypack. Chugged some water. Strapped on a headlamp and laced up dem boots. After locating the trailhead (which was way more difficult than I thought even though it was right off of the parking lot, but I’ll blame the pitch-blackness of 4 a.m…), I set about to climbing.

And then it was climb, climb, climb, basically through pitch darkness, sliced open only by the narrow beam of my headlamp, with no sounds but the occasional trickling of streams and some strained breathing. Sure, the small percentage of rocks and stones in front of me  that I could see were very beautiful…but I knew the darkness around me was hiding some mystical forest beauty. What I loved so much about this night hike, though, was that because I couldn’t see anything much around me, I was so focused on what was right in front of me. It was refreshing. My brain didn’t wander to unrelated topics (a first for me!), because it was pretty much mush from having woken up so gosh dang early. So for a good hour or so, I kept on trudging up and through the forest, essentially in zen mode, trying to ignore the heavy dispute my leg muscles were having with my brain and focus on the anticipation of what was to come.

Around 5 a.m., the sky started lightening just the tiniest bit. Soft grays painted the horizon line as I emerged above the forest into a clearing, which I still couldn’t see properly. Below me in the distance I saw flickering lights from the towns I had driven through last night, and I could sort of make out the silhouette of the Cascades. But still, the peak of Mount Pilchuck loomed up to my right, and I knew I had a ways to go.

Soon enough, I was able to peel off my headlamp and let the coming dawn light my path. I could finally revel in the sheer magnitude of the mountains and wide open sky that made up the landscape around me. My legs had stopped rebelling and I instead embraced the feelings of pain and muscle soreness, grateful that I had quads that could power me through the last few hundred feet. I knew I was getting close. I was 1.5 hours in, and there couldn’t be much more to it.

My arrival to the summit sort of unfolded in progressively more epic steps. First, I reached the ridge, where I could finally look down over the other side of Mount Pilchuck. I turned a corner and saw some hardy backpackers had chased sunset the previous night in order to sleep on top of the mountain and catch sunrise at a more reasonable schedule. Their tents were looking down on one of the most epic vistas I had ever encountered. But I passed this by to scramble up a few more boulders, with the Mount Pilchuck fire lookout on my left and the slowly warming sky glowing on my right. I settled in to wait, watching the world light up around me. When the sun finally crept over the Cascades, I felt chills, the kind you get when you know this is one of those rare moments that you’ll never forget.

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It’s Time

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Illuminate

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Mount Pilchuck Fire Lookout

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Mount Baker from the Fire Lookout

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Pastel Skies

Hell. Yeah. More people need to solo hike. It’s like solo travel, which I’ve had my fair share of, and though it might seem uncomfortable and unnatural to some people, it really and truly opens your eyes to what you and you alone can accomplish for yourself. You overcome the obstacles, you figure out the solutions. It takes you to some cool places, and forces you out of your comfort zone. You meet cool people (like Lauren, a new friend I met from Seattle who was enjoying the sunrise with her friends and snapped some incredible photos of the morning!).

So, solo, I hiked, so high. 5,300′ to the summit. 3 miles each way. And although I had to hike back down later that morning, I still felt on top of the world.

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Courtesy of my new friend Lauren and her amazing photography skills

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Post-Hike High

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Post-Hike Indulgence

A New Kind of Island Life – From Maui to San Juan Island

I said aloha to Maui about 6 weeks ago….the goodbye kind of aloha. Which is sad. But change in itself isn’t sad. It’s exciting and life-giving and sometimes earth-shatteringly stressful (moving off a remote island chain and realizing how much junk you’ve accumulated and can’t take with you is just that, STAH-RESSSS-FULLL). And when you leave one island for another, it’s inevitable that things will be changing.

And you better embrace that shit, or you’ll drive yourself crazy with why‘s and what if‘s. Nah. No time for that.

I’m not talking about a Maui-to-Kauai kind of island swap. Although that would’ve been sweet and I would’ve already turned purple from an absurd level of acai bowl consumption.

We’re talking about, you know, a minuscule 2,700 mile step over the Pacific Ocean to the Pacific Northwest. This is a Maui-to-San Juan Island kind of island swap. A much bigger change, with the driving force being an awesome new job as a naturalist up here. The fam is 8 hours away by car instead of 7 by plane. Eating local now means no more mangos or avocados or pineapples or lilikoi but lots of apples and cherries and Walla Walla wine. I will no longer get weird looks wearing my cowboy boots out and about (not that I minded being a wannabe paniolo in Makawao). People actually know what I’m talking about when I say I’m from Coeur d’Alene, not automatically assuming that I grew up on a potato farm or a corn field (seriously, it’s not Iowa). It’s a shift from mahi mahi and ahi on the menu to crab and shrimp.

So, the San Juan Islands form this amazing archipelago in the northwest corner of the U.S. Think the literal Pacific Northwest. Right in the corner of Washington. Just a quick boat ride from Canada. I moved for the job, yes, and it’s amazing and I love it. But one of the most exciting things about this summer is that it’s the first time I’m experiencing a proper, full Pacific Northwest summer since before I hopped in an overstuffed minivan to head cross-country to college (fun note: that same minivan is now my camping/road-tripping adventure buddy).

Notre Dame was great, and I was blessed with so many amazing opportunities for travel and studying abroad and volunteer work – cage-diving with great whites, surfing in Bali, road-tripping New Zealand, and working as a bartender in rural South Africa were among the highlights – I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. But, it also put me far away from the happy little corner of the U.S. that I grew up in. That’s the great thing about travel. When you come back, you realize how much you’ve changed, but you remember what it was that makes you who you are.

And being back up here, even on an island that’s still a ways from home, is like a blast from the past with a crazy spin that feels like a window to my future. The other day I was driving across the island, from harbor to harbor, windows down and a refreshing San Juan Island (SJI) breeze blowing in, and I felt the weirdest, happiest sensation that took me straight back to my childhood. It was a combo of the summer heat, the dry air, the smell of the pine trees…I can’t pinpoint it, but it felt like summer as it should be, like a summer I haven’t experienced in six years. No humidity, and none of that I-know-it’s-June-but-it’s-winter-because-you’re-in-the-southern-hemisphere vibe. PURE PACIFIC NORTHWEST SUMMER.

So stoked.

I wanted to wrap this up with a just a brief synopsis of island life here in the PNW versus island life on Maui. I’m still on an island. People still operate on island time. And there’s boats aplenty, thank gooooodness. But it’s the key differences that make both of these experiences so unique and magical for me.

Days Off – Usually Involve Saltwater or Hiking

Whether we’re cliff jumping into the clearest, bluest oceans in Maui, or paddle boarding around Roche Harbor and drinking beer, days off are best spent adventuring outside with friends. It don’t matter the island you’re on.

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Maui – Hitting the Road to Hana (Venus Pools)

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PNW – Paddle-boarding Roche Harbor

Camping Style

Camping in Maui is like a gentle introduction to life outside. Forgot your tent? Whatever, set up a hammock. Or, like me, toss a sleeping pad in the bed of a pick-up and hope it doesn’t drizzle like it always does in Hana.

But in the Northwest, you need to prepare a bit more unless you feel like freezing your little tushy off. Tents and down sleeping bags and socks (gross) recommended.

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Maui – Palms and ocean waves

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Maui – Prepare for sandy everything

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PNW – Cascades National Park, cold, dense, beautiful

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PNW – Down sweaters and chacos

Hiking

In Maui, you generally hike with the goal of getting to a waterfall or beautiful ocean pools. Sometimes not (like the Pali hike). But there’s waterfall hikes a plenty.

San Juans? Plenty of hiking on the island, but also super easy to cruise on over to the Olympics or the Cascades and get your fix of glaciers and beautiful peaks.

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Maui – Hiking up sea cliffs on nearby Molokai with Dad

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Maui – Waterfalls are to Maui like corn fields are to Indiana

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PNW – Epic mountain vistas

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PNW – Snow

What You Do In (or On) the Water

Maui is a saltwater lover’s paradise. Everyone becomes a mermaid there whether you like it or not. Surf, dive, snorkel, swim, body surf, boogie board, spearfish, boat, cliff jump, tide pool, paddleboard, kayak, get your drink and dance on while jammin’ on a Marty Dread cruise…Maui life is tied to the ocean.

San Juan Island life? Not so much getting in the water unless you’re competing in the log-rolling contest on the Fourth of July in Roche Harbor. The Salish Sea plays a huge part in life out here, and my line of work in particular. You can go whale watching. You can go kayaking. You can still paddle board, if you know what you’re doing. But you don’t really want to be getting your feetsies wet here. It’s cold. 

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Maui – Surf

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Maui – Dive

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Maui – Swim

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PNW – Boat around the islands

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PNW – Go shrimpin’

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PNW – Fishing, duh.

What You See in the Water

My favorite part! So different up here. But the ocean is full of magical creatures no matter where you are. Still collecting photos of creatures up here – think orcas, harbor seals, harbor porpoises, humpback’s, minke’s, sea birds galore…

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Maui – Green Sea Turtle

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Maui – WHALE SHARKS

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Maui – Humpbacks 🙂

Harbor Life

I love harbors. I love boats. It seems like there’s a lot more activity going on in the harbors down in Maui, in general. You got multiple fishing trips leaving at 6 a.m. About 15-20 snorkel trips leaving in the 7 -8 a.m. range and then again for another round in the afternoon. You got whale watches all day in whale season. You got sunset and dinner cruises in the evenings. If you’re fancy like the Ali’i Nui, you even got a party cruise at 9 p.m.

Friday Harbor life is a lot more chill. Prepping and cleaning the boats are easier since they stay cleaner for longer (since you aren’t dunking a bunch of people into the water to snorkel and then bringing them back on board, serving them lunch, and watching them dribble ketchup and lettuce and bean salad all over the deck you spent an hour scrubbing yesterday). Not a whole lot of sea spray to worry about either.

Both harbors are beautiful and charming.

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Maui – 6 a.m. at Ma’alaea Harbor 🙂

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PNW – 9 p.m. at Friday Harbor

What You Do When Watching Sunsets on Beaches

Sunsets are a big thing on any island, most likely because there’s always a west side to watch them on 🙂

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Maui – Drink and…Whatever

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PNW – Drink and Bonfire

Work Life

Being a naturalist means a lot of things, perhaps most importantly an educator and environmental activist. In Maui, it meant a lot of lifeguarding. It also means being a solid crew member and working with captains of all personalities.

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Lifeguard

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Naturalist

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Maui – Learning to drive

I’m in love with both places. Left a bit of my heart in Maui. But I’m re-finding a bit of myself up here on the San Juans. Come discover the magic for yourself and visit!

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Welcoming the sun on the south side of Kauai

 

Saying goodbye to the sun on the west side of San Juan Island

what it means to stay put – a whole year in Maui

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Work work work work work

I’ve spent the past year working as a marine naturalist for the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) on the little patch of paradise known as Maui. It’s been an incredible year, all smooshed full of highs and lows and ups and downs and cheap wine and raging expensive rent. In my mind it started out as a transition place, some time set aside for me to do something fun and new while I made futile attempts to assemble”life plans” and face all of these so-called “problems” that are preventing me from figuring out my life purpose (drama queen). But cut me some slack, I’m just like every other twenty-something, wanting to make these years meaningful and worthwhile. Last spring, I had just returned from 9 months abroad, not quite fulfilling a yearlong position as a homeschool teacher at a home for children in South Africa – I decided I was moving in a different direction. I didn’t know that direction was thousands of miles over the Pacific Ocean, towards the most isolated island chain in the world. I got the job offer to work for PWF while frantically applying for any and every job that moved and I jumped in headfirst, so to speak, desperate to get going and out of my hometown once again. I was dealing with feelings of disappointment in myself for not fitting well with my volunteer experience abroad, but I had at least accepted it and was ready to tackle this new venture. Happy and a little mystified, I arrived on Maui last May, not even sure what exactly I would be doing as a naturalist. If anything, it would be a fun way to spend the summer while I tried to figure out what was next.

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Happy, happy feelings – surrounded by my fellow summer 2015 newbies ❤ (May 2015)

That was my plan. Three months in Maui, playing in the ocean, working on a snorkel boat, maybe going on a few wild adventures while spending evenings and days off applying for grants, jobs, internships. Because of course, the way I saw it, I had to always be applying for something, seeking the next thing, always wanting to be one step ahead and have a back-up plan. But something miraculous happened in the midst of all of my planning. I found that I was happy right where I was. And I wasn’t in any rush to leave. And the plans sort of crumbled. Cool.

I hadn’t felt this way, probably ever. For me, it’s always been go-go-go, always what’s next. I don’t know if it was the way I was brought up, or pressure I put on myself, or the environment I found myself surrounded by in college that molded my mindset. I’ve always thrived on trying new things and gaining new experiences, but my ability to follow through and commit for a certain length of time is usually lacking. Most things I’ve tried would last for a few months, max, and I generally knew that going into it. Summer internships. Trips abroad. Even student clubs. I just have trouble committing for much longer than that, because in my head, that means saying no and slamming the door in the face of a million other fun potential escapades and opportunities. There’s so many beautiful places and things to see in the world! So, I avoided this by hopping around, telling myself I do it to build my resume, see new places, meet new people.

There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve met incredible people doing what I’ve done and have been blessed with so many wonderful stories and experiences. But for the past year, I’ve had the chance and, more importantly, the drive, to stay in one place, improve at my job, sign a six-month lease and stay even longer, get a library card, buy a car and a surfboard, build relationships and strengthen old ones. I’ve hosted visitors, played tour guide, and done plenty of solo expeditions. I was able to call Maui home and really feel like it was the truth. This whole staying put thing worked wonders on my restless self, and I felt the healing warmth of community and routine seep into my skin and keep me grounded. Plus, I was surrounded by beautiful people – coworkers, roommates, friends (they truly made the experience, and I LOVE THEM SO MUCH, thank you friends!) – and an island that never stopped chucking new experiences and adventures (politely) at my face.

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One of the coolest experiences of my life, swimming with a whale shark (July 2015)

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A whole new world

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One of my best friends visited me in April 2016, my inspiration to get scuba certified!

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Another day at work with Hawaiian spinner dolphins 🙂

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The whales that inspired me to continue in outdoor education – North Pacific Humpbacks

Now, I’m facing the relative unknown again, on the brink of leaving for the summer. I’m going to do something I know I’ll love (giving whale watches!), in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I’m ready for a change. I’m not sure if this is me transitioning out of Maui, or just taking a break. Right now, I’ll try to be content with not knowing. I’m going to embrace the mess and let life handle the hard stuff.

Maui introduced me to amazing new skills and opportunities – scuba and free diving, lifeguarding for swimmers of literally all abilities, narrating whale watches, teaching people how to snorkel and giving them tours of coral reefs, hiking to waterfalls, camping in jungles, touring Air Force observatories…the list goes on and on. I’ve grown so much this past year, both in maturity and intellect. People keep describing Maui as a place of  healing. For a lot of people who move to the island, it’s a stopover on their path that allows them to recharge, reassess life goals, have some fun and not take life too seriously for a bit…some time to take a break from the “real world.”

But for others, it becomes the real world. There’s nothing fake or temporary about this place. It’s here, and always will be. You can live and build your life here, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Sometimes you might need to leave. Family. Jobs. Love. Island fever. Whatever it may be. And I guess that’s me right now – I felt the call to take that jump back over the Pacific Ocean to our beautiful mainland. But the beautiful thing is that I know I’ll return, whether it’s in four months, a year, or ten…for a visit or for a few years. This island is stamped on my soul, and I’m forever drenched in gratitude (and saltwater).

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The world’s most inspirational and kind-hearted coworkers (and the bad-assiest, too)

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Beautiful people ❤