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SAYING YES TO HAWAII By Ellen Donker

This time I didn’t overthink my decision




I admit that I am a homebody. I don’t especially invite change, even when I know it’s good for me. Change creates a certain level of discomfort, and who wants that? Yet we’re told over and over to get comfortable with discomfort if we want to grow.


In December, Shelley, one of my college besties, texted me, inviting me to join her and her husband in Hawaii for a week. Shelley has a number of homes and is always traveling among them. When our college book group of four plans our next Zoom meeting, we often have to shift the time based on Shelley’s ever-changing time zone. It’s a hard life, we tell her, but lucky for those of us who get to visit her wherever she happens to be.


Of course, I thought of a dozen reasons why my husband, Rob, and I couldn’t go to Hawaii: The flight is too far. I had too much work. Our beloved cat Oliver would miss us. Truthfully, it’s just easier to stay put.


On the other hand, we had never been to Hawaii and this could be our only opportunity. Suddenly, I was thinking, “Why not?” and began researching flights. Soon enough, a plan started taking shape: We would fly into Honolulu and explore the island of Oahu for a few days before flying to Kona on the big island to stay with Shelley and her husband, Tom.


My stepdaughter, Leah, who had lived on Oahu for four years, gave us a driving itinerary with stops at her favorite places. I watched a bunch of videos with travel advice – one of my favorite ways to research trips – so I could visualize where we’d be going.


Rob and I left the morning of February 12. We took an 11-and-a-half-hour direct flight to Honolulu, which ended up departing five hours late. But we landed just as the sun set (there’s a five-hour time difference) and thus began our vacation. We drove up and down the east coast of Oahu, stopped to hike to a lookout point where we saw whales breaching the water, visited a Buddhist temple, and went to a beach in search of green sea turtles, which we never did find. One of the trip’s highlights was visiting the naval base at Pearl Harbor where World War II began for the United States in 1941.


Landing in Kona a few days later, we understood why Tom had dubbed the area a lunar landscape. Beyond the airport, the island featured a deserted, flat landscape with endless miles of churned-up black volcanic rock against the backdrop of a turquoise sea. The highway signs warned of wild animal and donkey crossings.


Once we reached Shelley and Tom’s place, the lava rock was replaced with gentle rolling hills, blooming tropical plants and herds of goats munching on whatever flora they could reach. We immediately changed into our bathing suits and took to the beach for the last rays of the day. Shelley had packed several coolers with all types of seafood and salads, so we ate dinner at makeshift dining tables topped with beach towels, glasses of wine in hand, facing the

Pacific Ocean as the sun set into the great beyond.


The rest of our days were packed with excursions around Hawaii, including tours of a sea salt farm and a Kona coffee plantation. I even played pickleball for the first time, putting aside my self-consciousness about my lack of skill and fear of hitting the ball into an adjacent court. It turns out I liked the game and may even buy some paddles now that I’m home.


Am I glad that I said yes to Shelley’s text? Absolutely! True, the flights were long; the air travel unpredictable and tense; I had a lot of work to make up and Oliver did miss us. But the chance to go somewhere new, be with dear friends in a different setting and experience beauty around every corner was priceless.


Maybe I’m not quite the homebody I thought I was.

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