There was much more resistance than typical on my way to the bus station. Usually, when I am embarking on a traveling adventure I am excited and ready to get the hell out of New Hampshire for a little while. Traveling had become my escape and a way to excite myself with something new after what always seems like a day to day, mundane existence. But, this time was different.
I couldn’t see my life after this trip. Whenever I thought of my future, there was nothing that came to me after Hawaii. I attributed this to my increased ability to really “stay in the moment” and be present and not always fast forwarding to the future, worrying, and missing out on the actual experience. But my imagination had gotten the best of me as well (it’s really hard to shut off sometimes!) and I thought maybe this was the Universe’s way of telling me this trip would be the end of my life. I used to love to fly but as time has gone on, it makes me increasingly uncomfortable, as if I have developed claustrophobia in the last few years. Maybe I’d be going down on the plane or be in the wrong place at the wrong time and see the darker side of Maui. But who knows ~ I was still going and in my heart, I knew I had to go.
My boyfriend stood next to me, loyal and protective, as we waited for the bus driver to load my suitcase onto the bus. We held each other, kissed each other, looked into each other’s eyes and prepared to be separated by almost 5,000 miles. I got onto the bus, him walking back to his car. It was time.
Getting to the airport and through security was largely uneventful. Once on the plane, I realized I was sitting in the middle seat between two strangers. This flight would be almost six hours to Pheonix, Arizona. I had been to Pheonix a handful of times and felt a comfortability knowing I was going to a familiar place for my layover.
Typical pleasantries of getting on the plane and getting comfortable in your seat. There was not much conversation initially; the lady on my right quickly pulled out her computer and started to peruse Facebook and her email, impulsively and compulsively switching from one window to the next on autopilot; the gentleman on my left fell asleep almost immediately, his head cocked back at a strange angle and his mouth dropped open. I decided to watch some movies on the tablet I brought, which was a great way to pass the time. For a few minutes, I forgot I was cruising at 40,000 feet in a tiny tin box with a hundred other people, squished in like sardines in a can. I amused myself with the hilarity of what it would look like if you took away our shelter and we were all just flying through the air, seated, and moving at 600mph. Ha!
The inevitable conversation had begun. Who do you think it was first? The woman to my right who was sucked into social media or the gentleman to my left snoozing like he was taking a nap in his backyard on a sunny afternoon? It was the guy to the left ~ the lady was still immersed in what she was finding online.
He spoke exasperatedly like he was continually out of breath. He constantly was smiling and laughing after everything he said like he was making profound statements that anyone would agree with. His eye contact was intense but friendly. He worked for a small toy company and traveled a lot and went into detail explaining his extensive and seemingly strenuous work trips to China in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. We talked about good food, travel, places we’d like to visit eventually. And at times I had clearly tried to end the conversation so I could return to my movie but he continued to talk enthusiastically as ever, smiling and laughing with deep breaths and that smile.
Just like that he quickly changed focus and started to work on business – just like that he was back to a stranger I was sandwiched next to on a plane. The woman and I spoke briefly, following the same path of conversation as with the man. Jobs, kids, travel. She worked with focus groups and was happy to be away from her children for a length of time. “A whole five hours of being able to check out Facebook and do some work, totally interrupted. It’s heaven.” She asked me about my traveling plans and seemed almost surprised I was going to Maui solo. “Well, you’re obviously a very friendly person and will have no problem traveling on your own!” Oddly enough, this gave me some reassurance even though we had only exchanged a handful of sentences.
As the plane was landing my connecting flight was supposed to be boarding. This had never happened to me before and I started to panic. I usually had plenty of time for connecting flights. I rushed off the plane, saying goodbye and good luck to my seatmates. A little bit of chaos entered my body but I reminded myself that everything would work out the way it should. Regardless, I rushed to my next gate, completely out of breath. And I rushed for no reason ~ it was so hot in Phoenix that we could not board the plane. We had to wait until the plane cooled down a little bit like it had just lost its temper. I giggled to myself and went to find food.
I eagerly awaited boarding, at times almost to the American Airlines lady scanning boarding passes when the pilot would appear from the depths to announce we had to hold off because the temperature was rising again. Eventually, we all boarded, and I was nervous to see who I would be sitting next to. There was tangible stress in the hot, thick air as the passengers got settled.
I ended up sitting next to a wonderful couple. They were high school sweethearts but with an extensive siesta that included other marriages and children before reconvening again in the 40’s. The husband had lived in Maui with his family for many years, so they visited quite often after moving to Chicago. They were incredibly gracious as if we were on their personal jet that I just happened to be on, catching a quick lift to Maui. The lady downed two small bottles of wine and the conversation began.
We realized we both had an interest in Ashtanga yoga, meditation, and I told her about yoga nidra and she encouraged acupuncture because it was so healing for her. By the end of at least an hour and a half of talking, she insisted I take her number in case I ended up needing anything while on the island. I did not object and appreciated the motherly gesture.
I saved her number in my phone, excited to have felt a little warmth from this person. There really is nothing like motherly concern. At times, my Mother’s meddling as I viewed it in the past, was smothering and frustrating. And at this point in my life after so many years without parents, I think I would find it equally as frustrating and annoying. But oddly enough, I also miss this connection with my Mother.
She had mastered the balance between calling to make sure I’m still alive and smiling and giving me enough space and acceptance to create my own life. She knew when to stop calling and let me have my own experiences, honoring the need for me to develop my own sense of capability and independence. This started to trump her impulsive, almost selfish need for reassurance that I was okay. She would occasionally make that call, and I could tell in her voice she was trying not to call – to honor that agreement we had of me being my own person and giving me space. After all, in her senior yearbook, she wrote her biggest pet peeve was “pushy people” and I knew that was the last thing she wanted to be.
After putting the woman’s number in my phone, her husband grabbed my suitcase from the overhead compartment and they were off. I was stuck by the window, standing up but crouched and squished under the panel above me as were many other passengers, eager to vacate the plane. As I waited, I smiled to myself knowing my day of travel was over and I was in Maui.
The airport was something out of the 1970’s. To the right were the gates, enclosed with big glass windows and air conditioned, and on the left, it was open with the hot, humid air blowing in. Everything was brown and beige, and if it was beige it was on its way to being brown. Despite the mediocre, worn airport the weather was beautiful. Everyone from the plane moved down the hall in a hoard, some of us excited, some of us moving with intense purpose and focus, and some of us, like me, wandering along and taking in the freedom of movement after such a long flight.
The view was not spectacular as I walked to the exit. It looked like the center of the airport; white buildings, trucks, and loading docks, the trucks moving around in the small enclosed area what seemed like a little too fast as if driven by a seasoned employee. The air was thick and dense and it felt like water droplets were sticking to every part of my clothing.
The rental car place did not have any two-door Jeeps left, so the rented me a four-door Jeep, huge, truly American. Oversized, beefy, and it seemed lifted. I took my time adjusting everything, feeling relieved I had made it this far, but also nervous to drive this huge vehicle in an unknown place. I put my big girl pants on, took a deep breath, looked both ways to make sure I was not going to run anyone over and shifted into drive. Slowly pressing on the gas, cautiously as you do when first driving an alien vehicle, but nothing happened. A little more pressure, expecting it to come to life and roar forward. Noe. It revved but just sat in its parking space. I could feel my cheeks flush and anxiety rise within my chest. I impulsively pushed on the gas pedal out of nervousness and this time it revved even louder, jerking forward up on its tires but still not driving forward. I let off the gas and it rocked back complacently into place. What the fuck, what the fuck?!
I looked down and realized the parking brake was on, a small smile spreading across my lips at my silly mistake but realizing and remembering things like this seem to be par for the course on new adventures.
I found my hotel, just down the road. The check in woman almost sickeningly sweet. I told her I was going to check out the Haleakala Crater in the morning and that I would be going to bed early to get up at the suggested time to leave: 3:30 am. For the few minutes, we were talking, I don’t’ think she stopped smiling, but it was a genuinely sweet smile. She was not native Hawaiian, but maybe mulatto with long, dark, frizzy curly hair. Innocently sweet, beautiful, kind, attentive.
Setting off to my room, the dorky side of myself emerged as I was excited to see what my room would look like; the layout, the furniture, the extras (a stocked fridge, a safe, a hair dryer?), and of course what shampoo and conditioner would be complimentary. After the longest day of travel I have ever endured (especially alone) and a six hour time change, when I opened the door to the hotel room the king sized bed glowed with a golden light around it and from somewhere in the room angels started to sing while a harp played.