I just turned 42 years old, can you believe it? I can’t! Ha-ha! I suddenly feel younger, I swear it! I just got back from my very first solo vacation. I haven’t traveled in many years, at least not air travel. Road trips are usually my best option, but a work pal insisted one day, “You can’t take it with you so you better just go do it!” and so I did! I can’t believe that I did it! Seriously! Pretty much every single step of this felt like the most wild and ridiculous thing ever. From buying the plane tickets to booking my first air bnb, my visit to the Big Island at first seemed like I was merely writing a tale of fiction. After all, I’ve been assigned to build a complicated foreign travel itinerary as a job application more than once in the past. This was none of that, but you can see how it felt unreal and like it wouldn’t happen because of that. Ha-ha!
I researched, I planned, I prepared. I spoke to a travel expert at my local AAA office for free and they gave me fantastic advice! It completely changed how I was going to do this whole vacation. They suggested I split my time by lodging on both sides of the island. In Hilo, I stayed in a sweet cottage surrounded by lush and serene tropical greenery and wildlife. On the Kona side, I was right on the coast and could hear the ocean waves at night (and see them from the balcony). I had no idea how different, and how enjoyable both sides would be. I had no idea what it would even be like to travel and vacation like this on my own. I knew I was good on my own in the usual day to day sort of ways, but this seemed like a mountain that I wasn’t sure I was ready to climb.
When I told folks about my plans their reactions were equal parts excitement and shock. Men seemed more positive/excited, women seemed more concerned, but would still cheer me on. And I get it! I’m an incredibly anxious person even when I’m at home in my pajamas. However, in my odd type of wisdom, I know that I need to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to learn and grow. If I’m learning and growing I feel more connected to the world and myself. But a vacation? Like, to relax? Way outside my comfort zone! I have that old Irish work ethic that just won’t quit, though depression sure fucks with me/it whenever it feels like it. Such is life. The real mind fuck for me was also financial. I had struggled so much for so long, that to have even a lil’ something set aside for this specifically, well, it felt very guilty and shameful. I was even able to buy my lil’ bro a bed a few weeks ago, so it’s not like I was hurting. Growing up poor fucks with you forever, what can ya do?! Pro-tip: if you buy your ticket 54 days before departure, it’s supposed to be the cheapest, period. I’ve done it a few time now.
I had visited Hawaii previously, and stayed in Hana on Maui, and it was what I call the only relaxing vacation I’d ever had. I was married then, and it was a blissful time there as well, but just the air there and nature really captured my heart and healed my soul. Going back there felt safe, but I knew exactly where I had to go. There is a seahorse preserve called Ocean Rider in Kona on the Big Island that I saw in Via (AAA) magazine over ten years ago. It was instantly at the top of my bucket list. When my work pal pushed me to take a break for myself, I had to see if I could make this happen!
The last time I was on an airplane was my birthday 2013 and it was for just one night in Minneapolis. I had a whimsy-embracing boyfriend who was enamored with American malls, so they took us to the Mall of America, I found it charming and hilarious, whatever. Air travel for any person of size is nerve-wracking. Even when you follow all of the rules and jump through every possible hoop you can still be subjected to inhumane treatment from shitty people. It’s a fact. I have 62″ hips and DD boobs, but not all airplane seats are created equal. Most are shrinking! I booked on Alaska because I always had good experiences with them when I used to travel for a previous career, and they had the best direct flights from the San Jose, CA airport. I checked into my flight the day before and noticed that the middle seat of my row was empty and tried to book it, but it wouldn’t let me. It said it was reserved in case a disabled person needed it. When I got to the gate they said the flight was pretty full and would offer a free checked bag to the first ten volunteers. I took the opportunity and asked some questions about that middle seat. They suggested I buy it but I was worried about not getting a refund if the flight did, in fact, sell out (per their customer of size policy). It was $328 for the seat but I was terrified of getting kicked off by some dickhead for being too fat if I didn’t buy it. I was handed the phone to reservations and they booked it for me and the gate agent was able to print a boarding pass for that seat.
I was so nervous!
I boarded the flight the flight without issue. I worked in retail for over ten years, so when I’m already anxious and in a crowded or public space, I try to turn that customer service version of myself on as a sort of armor. It usually works, but nothing is foolproof. Any time I step onto a place I make eye contact with the flight crew and give a big smile and thank them, and then immediately say, “May I borrow a seatbelt extender? I’m in 23F.” Which usually gets a quick response, but this one required my having to flag down the attendant at the other end of the plane per the first attendant’s instructions. I found my seat, with no luggage to place overhead for this leg, and turned around and the attendant saw me so I smiled and mouthed “extender” and gestured as though putting on a seatbelt. It worked! No questions asked!
Now I was pretty nervous, but I was also giddy-excited! “How could this even be real?” I kept thinking to myself. And then as the flight was about to take off I noticed the guy sitting on the aisle of my row had stored his bag beneath the middle seat. No biggie, I have short legs, and I’m far from fussy. So I minded my business and read my little tarot booklet I had brought with me to read until I could turn on my Kindle. Soon they announced our meal options and all of that. I quickly perused the menu and was delighted to see a simple breakfast sandwich since it had been awhile since my morning coffee and the flight was just shy of 6 hours. Aisle-guy didn’t order anything, but soon pulled out a large sweaty bag of smelly food. It was likely very delicious, but the smell of certain foods does overpower even the most enthusiastic of foodies when it comes to being stuck on an airplane. I was sort of WTF about it but also just trying to be chill so as not to get myself riled up and penalized for telling someone off. Ha-ha! Then aisle-guy gets up and I go back to my book (I was rereading Persuasion by Jane Austen, PBS is airing a new version in January and I wanted to be fresh).
Soon enough though, aisle-wife appears! She sits in the middle seat that I paid for and tells me, “We’re only going to share food, so it’s okay” I smile in return, but let her know, “I paid for that seat though” and she just smiled back and pointed to her food. I repeat it again, but she ignores me. I try to see if any of the flight attendants might be able to help, but there are none to be found. I take a deep breath and hope that it is just a quick meal break and I’ll have that seat back. Truth be told, I didn’t actually need that middle seat. I don’t know the measurements, but Alaska’s seat fit my ass perfectly! None of that hip pinching torture I’ve had elsewhere. I’ve had major issues with other seats where a leg will go numb or a pinch will cause a leg cramp/spasm, it’s really awful. I did think to snap a couple of stealthy photos of the happy couple as they were elbow deep in their vittles, but I didn’t need to in the end. Aisle-wife didn’t just stay for a quick meal, but for a few hours of a nearly 6 hour flight. By the time I saw an attendant again they were only picking up trash and seemed unwilling to take notice of me at all (I did not hit the call button, I just couldn’t!). I try to let it go and promise myself to call customer care and ask for my refund as soon as I can.
We landed in Kona and it felt great to not have to worry about getting my overhead luggage down, it’s such a scary moment for klutzy-me! I’m terrified of losing control of my bag or grabbing it so awkwardly that I give someone permanent brain damage (not all fears are rational). Once I get off the plane the warmth and scent of the Kona air enveloped me. I find that I can’t stop smiling, or squinting, as it’s just noon and the sun is high and hot overhead. I put on my “vacation shades” and head to baggage claim. I wait all of 3 minutes and grab my suitcase (Samsonite, silver, simple roller style – $40 at Ross!) and head where it seems everyone is heading. I soon realize that where most folks are heading isn’t where I need to be. Ugh! The Kona airport is almost entirely outside, even the gates. There was nowhere for me to get out of the sun (had not yet applied sunscreen) and heat unless I crossed the street to what looked like a little snack bar or lunch area. I really just needed to get my bearings but a cold ginger ale was a nice treat! So I enjoyed myself, took my time, figured out where I needed to be, but then still checked with the cashier to be sure it was the correct shuttle stop I was about to walk to. I recycled my can and off I went to pickup my rental car.
Once I was in my lil’ car (Honda Accord), I was ready to hit the road! I love to drive, especially on scenic roads. I’ve driven in Ireland on the opposite side of the road as well, only took me a minute to get the hang of it. In Hawaii the two things I really noticed what that the highways are really just regular roads with nicer paving, and that the speed limit changes more often than any I’ve seen ever. Ha-ha! Luckily the rental car had one of those digital speedometers that show your exact speed, so I was able to keep it steady, mostly. It was thrilling, to say the least, to see the lush green landscape rise up before me as I headed toward the east coast of the island. At one point what little traffic there was slowed for what at first looked like a farmer’s market or shanty town but more political. I soon realized it was likely a basecamp for the protesters trying to prevent the construction of an unwanted and unneeded observatory. The ground there was mostly black and massive chunks sort of plunked here and there, which I realized soon after was old lava flow. In total I drove about 2 hours to my lodging, though a wrong turn added about ten minutes to that as it became incredibly rural very quick and I had to backtrack to get out.
Once I reached my lodging point I was greeted by Sharon & Mark, the hosts of my first ever Air BNB experience. They are an older couple and very friendly and warm. When I complimented the artwork in the cottage I was staying in Sharon insisted upon showing me her entire house and art collection. I was delighted! Big, old, gorgeous Polynesian carved pieces of wood, stone, some oil paintings, beautiful pieces of furniture, I was blown away. Sharon said if I was into art she’d love to show me some of her favorite spots in the area if I had time and didn’t mind some driving. So we hopped into my rental and she showed me her favorite nature spots and even this huge yard with these massive modern sculptures all over! It was breathtaking, all of it! I mean, I was truly awed and speechless!
While driving, I asked Sharon about how she ended up on the big island, as I did most white people I encountered there. I know I visited and vacationed there as a tourist, I have a lot of conflicting feelings about that. I am a firm believer that the people of Hawaii should be given their land and country back under their own control entirely. I also understand what colonizers have done to their land and culture and economy and there is a lot I don’t understand as well, and I wanted to be respectful of that. I visited the Big Island in part due to the commitment to preserve all of the natural life there and healing the environmental impacts of humans on our planet. Sharon and I talked about this and she shared that the locals call white people Haole (pronounced Howl-y) and that the locals have their own schools in order to preserve their language and culture. Sharon also shared stories of her youth and how she met her current husband of over forty years. Her life stories were incredible! She spoke very matter of factly about the hardships she endured without any bitterness or fear in her eyes. She was 19 or so and alone and living in Greenwich Village in New York in 1963! Whatta wild time! She talked of being homeless, getting robbed and raped many times around that time. I wanna say she had already been married and divorced once by that point, too. She spun yarns as I drove the windy roads around Hilo, captivated by both the contents of her tales and the beauty that is natural Hawaii!
When we got back from our drive, of nearly 2 hours, I was still in that giddy-excited mode but definitely felt the need to wind down and let Sharon know that I would likely stay in for the night. She was kind enough to warn me about the frogs, they are very vocal and loud, but make the cutest boPEEEP sound. She had gifted me a massive avocado and a huge lemon, as well as a slice of cheesecake with fresh strawberries on top. As she handed it to me she apologized that the tip of the slice had broken off but assured me it was still there, just not intact. She gets it! Ha-ha! Later on she came to get me so I could see the big cruise ship all lit up in the bay, it was a pretty sight to behold. I cannot even explain to another human how touched and blown away I was by their generosity and warm welcome. I took this time to unpack a bit and think about what I might do the next day.
You see, I had tickets for the last two days of my trip, but the first two were wide open. Sharon had suggested I visit the volcano and surrounding crater areas, and then told me how best to get there and what to look for and how to avoid the crowds. I had thought not to go to the volcano, but she really convinced me. My lil’ cottage was just that and just steps from the main house. It reminded me of my last apartment that was an in-law studio. The cottage was breezy and light and surrounded by nature. Sharon & Mark had these gorgeous golden Buddha statues throughout the garden. I was captivated! When I was finally ready to get some sleep is just about when I realized that the frogs wouldn’t be taking a break any time soon. Ha-ha! It seems this species, though I never saw them in the flesh, was nocturnal through and through. The air smelled so lovely and lush and green, and the breeze was gentle enough to leave the windows open. I struggled to fall asleep and finally fished out my ear plugs (linked to my faves) for that purpose. I slept.
When I awoke the next day I assumed it had only been a couple of hours, but I felt…something entirely new that I am not sure I had ever felt before. I felt refreshed! I sincerely thought that whole waking of revived and refreshed was a fucking myth! I’ve had insomnia since I was 12. **Shrug** I got up and called the airline about that refund, they didn’t even want the pics I’d taken, they were genuinely upset on my behalf about the aisle-couple abusing my paid for seat. Ha-ha! My flight also wasn’t 100% sold out, so either way I was getting that refund, yay! With that off my mind I quickly got dressed and headed into downtown Hilo for my first morning’s espresso! Now, any true barista will tell you, it’s not easy to find a good proper cup of the good stuff when you travel. We all have our own little eccentricities and tricks, if you will, and you get used to that and kind of quiver when you can’t have your thing. So I did some research the day before and had sussed out a hopefully good place. The Surf Break Cafe welcomed me without pretense or judgement, just a couple of screen doors and some solid espresso! The surfer-bodied woman who served me was curt, but when they heard my order gave me a look of respect. My order? Four shots of espresso with honey and 2% milk. I have it every single day, that is my baseline (if you’re shocked, you don’t know much about coffee or caffeine, but I do). Once I sat down with my cup I perused my facebook and what not and the barista asked if everything was okay and I let them know that I was very happy. I soon left to stroll along the other shops that lined the shoreline.
I wandered into this boutique that had these gorgeous wooden sculptures in the window along with some batik clothing. When I walked in the woman at the counter greeted me immediately, “Good morning! I saw you at the cafe but didn’t want to disturb you. I love your dress, where did you get it? I love that you have it belted, you’re doing that whole Queen Latifah thing I love it!” Friends, by “The Queen Latifah Thing” she meant embracing and not hiding my figure, so by belting my dress (that came with a belt, though not the one I wore that day) I was letting her know that I was feeling good about my body, or so she explained. Cool! “Well, she is definitely my queen!” I replied and offered to write down eShakti for her. She then sheepishly asked, “I would really love to show you some things, would you mind?” “Oh I would love that, thank you!” I responded, politely but without expectation. I’m a big fat lady in a foreign place, I know better than to expect let alone believe that a random shop would have my size in anything. At first I was shown some tops that were very much not my size and I calmly said so and also implied that I wasn’t afraid of a bold print (I was wearing a bright red dress with giant flowers on it after all). She took my hint and showed me some absolutely gorgeous mumus/kaftans (I’m not sure of the distinction) on the far wall and I fell in love with one immediately. She set me up in a fitting room but I honestly just threw it over my dress as my only concern was the length. It fit perfectly, length too, and I bought it. She asked where I was from, when I said San Jose she exclaimed, “I’m from Los Gatos!” a neighboring town, though now very much upscale. It is a small world, friends. My new friend Georgia left Los Gatos just 2 days before the big earthquake of ’89 and said her rent back then was all of $250 a month. I told her it would break her heart if she knew what I paid for a one bedroom in San Jose. She agreed. Ha-ha!
With my new kaftan in hand, though very lovingly wrapped and bagged, I popped into a couple of other shops but ended up heading back to my cottage to check in with my hosts. Sharon had insisted I check in with them before heading to the volcano because they had a book and binoculars they wanted me to borrow for this purpose. They really thought of everything! Mark even sat down and went over the maps with me and showed me where the roads are still closed from last year’s eruptions. And with that I headed out on the road to the Volcanoes National Park! The drive there was uneventful and parking was easy, $25 to park but it’s the only way to get access to the Chain of Craters Road, which was where I was really headed. I stopped in the visitor’s center to watch the videos Mark had told me about, though I found his description far more interesting. I also found some awesome postcards to send to some friends back on the mainland. I also ventured across the way to the historic Volcano House which had a lush and fern-filled path that gave me a moment to take a happy af selfie or ten! Ha-ha! I was blissed out already and had no idea how much I would see soon after. Since the eruption last year, that happened mostly underground, the crater itself has drained, so there’s not much to see even in the best spots. I was more interested in what the lava had done anyway, so I headed to Chain of Craters Road.
Mark had told me that I would be driving along like normal, not even thinking or expecting a thing, when suddenly the landscape would change and turn post apocalyptic. He was not wrong! It was incredible! Though even the otherwise regular bits were lovely with trees and ferns, I have such a revived love of ferns! Once everything turned black and chaotic looking I became enrapt! Mouth agape, both hands on the steering wheel, eyes as wide as they could go, I was in absolute awe! I was alone, mind you, but couldn’t keep myself from exclaiming often, “OHMIGOSH!” “HOW IS THIS REAL?!” ” THIS IS AMAZING!” “FUCK YOU HOW IS THIS EVEN REAL?!” and “WOOOOW!” about a million times, for sure. I pulled over often to snap some photos, but honestly it is the being there that has the impact. You cannot fathom what it feels like to be surrounded by the craggy, dark, relentless old lava flow. And these were not very old at all, mere months really. When I reached as far as I could go, due to closures from last years flows, I headed back and was a little bummed as it was getting dark sooner than I had expected. Really I was out on that drive for far longer than I realized, but I was determined to make it to this local’s haunt at sunset where Sharon & Mark had insisted I had the best timing in the world to make it to.
Old lava flows, mesmerizing!
It was a race against the sun and as always, I lost. Still, I had to get to “Uncle Robert’s” or I’d regret it, or so I was told by my hosts’ friends on my way out earlier that day. Part farmer’s market, part locals party, I saw all walks of life that warm October evening. I was a bit overwhelmed, okay very, but soon I chose to wander rather than be encumbered by a beverage straight away (I thought maybe a cocktail would loosen me up, but I didn’t imbibe). There were many locals, but lots of young Haole too, mostly of the blond dreadlock wearing sort. There was an exotic mixture of aromas in the air that took me straight back to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury in the 90’s, in my teens, rebelliously exploring drug culture and befriending the houseless veterans there. It gave me a quick smile but also reminded me that I’m a visitor and I needed to be mindful of that. I needed to eat so I picked an asian food vendor that offered many items for a fixed price, though they seemed disappointed that my appetite didn’t match my body size. Ha-ha! I headed to the picnic tables to sit down to eat, but even the few moments I sat was met with a lot of unsteadiness of the table when people would get up or sit down that made me decide to wait. In need of a refreshing beverage and in want of something sweet, I hit up the smoothie booth before heading back to my car.
There was a live Hawaiian band that kicked all kinds of asses, I mean they played songs I hadn’t heard since I was a kid (Elvira, by the Oakridge Boys! WHAT?!), along with Hawaiian language classics. There was a dance floor filled with drunken baby boomers tripping the light fantastic without a care in the world, I was only slightly envious. At one point I discovered a poet, dressed as a classic turn of the 20th century poet might, hammering away at an old typewriter with a sign, “Poetry! Any price, any topic!” The writer in me swooned! I wanted to see what this youth could produce in his fancy dress and vintage typewriter. Ha-ha! But I soon discovered that as the hipster goes, so does the…is it wrong to call them Coachella bitches?! They were the type of young women that take up all of the space in the room (tent in this case) with their shallow judgements marinated in allllllll of the white privilege of ones so blond, so well-off, and so tan. Awash in my own disgust, I walked away and wandered around the other vendor booths hoping they’d leave and I could swoop in with my odd writerly request. I had wanted to request a poem of the beauty of solitude. Ha! Once I got change to pay for the poetry I was hoping to purchase, I wound my way back to his booth but he was gone and an odd young couple sat sharing his very small chair eating a meal on their laps, sitting back to back. I found the whole thing quite off putting but let it go. I bought some small stones for luck (rose quartz, tiger eye, and others) and made my way back into the darkness and to my car.
It was very very dark! They don’t have streetlights along the side of the road on the Big Island, at least not on the south Hilo side. It made the drive a lil’ spooky, which I was very much into. I was concerned about finding my way back to the cottage but I had the route down pretty well by then and had no trouble at all. I made it back about 9:30 pm Island time, which is 3 hours earlier than my usual California (PST) time. I reheated my plate and having finished my smoothie on the way, grabbed an apple and watched the new Jenny Slate standup on Netflix. Yep, even in paradise, they had Netflix! Ha-ha! Yes, the frogs were singing their love songs outside, as I was attempting my second Hawaiian slumber…earplugs are very much recommended! Ha!
The next morning I had to set out a lil’ early to make it to my seahorse preserve tour on the Kona side at noon. This was what I had come for! I said my quick but sad goodbye to Mark as Sharon was out on some business that morning. Then I popped into the Surf Break Cafe once again and the barista remembered my drink, perfectly! I complimented her skills and her shop and then minded my own damned business like you should in a coffee shop! Ha-ha! Just me? Wev! I hit the road pretty quickly and got to the preserve about 30 minutes before the tour began. I perused the gift shop and awkwardly hung out as it was super hot and the sun extra bright that day. There was a lot less trees and foliage on the Kona side of the Big Island, so much less shade. I had fared well with my new mineral sunscreen the day before at the volcanoes, but was nervous about the seahorse tour because they make you wash up to your elbows and I didn’t know if we’d be in direct sun or not for the tour itself. I had one thing on my mind SEAHORSES!
Just before my tour, so anxious!
The sign out front of the preserve.
My tour group consisted of about thirty people of varying age and size, but all were excited to be there. First they showed us this pit of nasty looking water where they breed a specific type of tiny shrimp for the seahorses. Next we walked into this canopied area outside with these big covered vats. The vats were filled with varying stages of nutrient enriched water or growing seahorses. They shared a lot about their diet, habitat and what the preserve is doing to give nature an assist since they shared that seahorses will be extinct in the next ten years. TEN YEARS?! Had I put off this trip would I have ever been able to even experience this?! Who knows?! But I can honestly say that no one was as excited to be there as I was, seriously! Even the 3 year old who was too small to hold a seahorse was not as excited as I was. We got to feed them and when I poured the cup of tiny shrimp into the vat and saw those gorgeous orangey-golden little heads pook up above the water and actually look at me?!?! I wept! It was so beautiful! They can see 10 feet out of the water, and they were really giving me a lot of attention!
At the end of the outdoor portion of the tour we lined up to hold one. I was trembling! This was what I had been dreaming of for over ten years! When it was nearly my turn the rad fatty (IMO, IDK how they self identify) beside me offered to take pics with my phone, I wept with gratitude. When it was my turn the tour leader said very loudly, “Wow you’re shaking…I didn’t realize I was making someone’s dreams come true today!” and he laughed, but he did make my dreams come true that day. I held a seahorse, or rather, a beautiful seahorse held my finger for an extended period of time that felt like time stopped and it was incredible! After this he took it away and we were lead into the aquarium room which held many different species of seahorse! The cashier of the gift shop had given me a tip to look for “Dot” the white seahorse with blush on her cheeks. Um…Hello Femme! YES! So when I saw her I loudly exclaimed, “There you are Dot!” and the entire room looked hella confused. Ha-ha! I turned very red and apologized and then explained to no one in particular and went back to visiting with those precious creatures. Yes, I was the last one to leave, did you have to ask? Ha! I bought a few magnets for my fridge in the gift shop but that experience was everything! I needed to decompress a bit after the tour and headed out to the beach that is literally at the edge of the parking lot and snapped some pics. BLISS!
Yep! That’s my chubby lil’ hands with a beautiful seahorse curled around a finger!
Next on my agenda was finding my second air bnb for the week. It was only 2.5 miles from the preserve! Perfect! I popped into a taco bell drive thru and hit up the condo I’d be staying in. It was plush! Very modern, with nice island touches in the decor. The balcony was big and the view of the pool and trees and ocean were lovely! I ate my food and sort of just chilled for a bit. Once I realized that the pool was in fact completely empty and it was only 3:30 pm I got my swimsuit on and headed down.
I had not been swimming in about 4 years, maybe more. To have a big swimming pool all to myself seemed unreal! The water was perfect and clean and completely clear. I had zero thoughts about my looks or giant ass being seen by the hundreds of condos whose windows and balconies faced the pool. ZERO! I had no hesitations about jumping in, either! Ha! It was marvelous! I did all the things I’ve wanted to do in a pool for ages. Just silly and fun and for no reason at all other than to do it. Somersaults and twists, funny front strokes and allllll the floating. Such serene floating as I have not experienced before! As I went to the shallow end for a bit of a break, I saw something in the water but it didn’t register what at first. When I scooped it up I realized it was a teeeeeny-tiny frog! There was chlorine in the water and I was certain the lil’ frog wouldn’t survive, but it did and it clung to my hand a good long time. I figured it might think I’d eat it so I gently coaxed it off my hand and onto the stones beside the pool. It chilled there way too long and I felt responsible for it so, eventually, after more swimming, I picked the frog back up and placed it in a moist spot beside some ferns and moss. It seemed good with that and leapt right in. I then laid out on a lounge chair to drip dry and bask in the afternoon’s not yet faded memories.
That evening, after a delightful shower in the walk-in, rainfall type shower in the condo, I poured myself some prosecco and orange juice and just hung out on the balcony writing postcards until it was too dark. I text some fun selfies to friends, “Wish you were here!” and then relaxed inside the rest of the night. It was the first moment I had wished I wasn’t alone on vacation. It would have been nice to having someone to laugh with is all, I wasn’t necessarily feeling lonely. Eventually I had a snack and watched a movie and went to bed. I had a helluva time figuring out the remote controls for everything there. It was kind of hilarious until it was just plain old annoying. Oh well.
The following morning was my birthday. I had no plans until that night, but I had wanted to try to see some sea turtles as they are popular attractions on that part of the island. I grabbed my morning cuppa in town, at Kona Coffee & Tea (2nd place winner for their Kona Coffee), and though the owner gave me props on my order, “I respect your straightforward nature” their shots were on the sharp side for my taste, but the caramel sauce I ordered made it all go down smoothly. I hit the road to seek out some turtles! I visited 3 known spots and saw zero turtles. In fact at one scenic lookout point, as I was taking a selfie and texting a friend, this family came up and were just way too “All American” for me and I got the hell outta there. I’m not sure why, but I felt triggered. I popped into some roadside thrift shops on the way and bought nothing. There was something in the pit of my stomach that was not happy and it had nothing to do with appetite. I ignored that feeling until it made me miserable. I started to cry in the car on my way back to the condo. I didn’t know why and even now I can’t say for certain. I was just hit with this massive wave of terrible sadness. So I went back to the condo to try to calm down. That didn’t work so I made an appointment for a massage. That mostly worked. Ha-ha! I was still a little tense and a lot nervous about my plans for that evening. So I decided to plan my swim gear and what to take with me that night, hoping that would alleviate some of my tension and anxiety.
I had originally thought that I would get to dine in all these neat places on my vacation, but the truth of it is I wasn’t hungry for most of the trip. My first day I stopped at a grocery store and bought some apples, orange juice, and that bottle of prosecco. I had an apple a day, and coffee of course, sometimes a little snack but honestly I didn’t want much. I’m glad that I could acknowledge that and move on and continue to enjoy myself. I know that if I was with someone that would have been a very different situation all together. As I have a history of not eating when I’m stressed, I was able to check in with myself without troubling others or having to over explain what was going on. I just went about my days without a care and that was awesome! None of it was intentional, and when I was hungry I just ate. Radical! Ha-ha!
So, for the evening of my birthday, while some would go out with a bang and paint the town red, I chose to snorkel, for the very first time, in the moonlight, with manta rays. I was most nervous about the snorkeling part. I can swim, not necessarily a strong swimmer in the surfer sense of it, but I do okay. I had never worn a wet suit and had never used or even tried snorkel gear. In my mind I was in the hands of professionals and everything would be okay until it wasn’t and I could just opt out if miserable. I honestly didn’t know what the fuck to expect at all. I could only think about what an experience it would be and how wild it all seemed. Even on my way there nothing seemed real, but I had had a rough mental health day, so that was surely shaping my perspective at the time.
Obligatory photo of food on a plate
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