Like a little kid discovering the joys of a cupcake shop for the first time, his head was glued to the airplane window. His hat turned backwards and lips smacking as he chewed on a couple pieces of gum, there was such a wide-eyed sense of wonder, although all he could see were the clouds enveloping the plane. However, it was only a matter of time, as the flight attendants had now taken their seats for the final descent. That wide-eyed wonder was only enhanced as the plane descended from the clouds and the initial sight involved white ocean caps, turquoise waters, miles of sandy beaches, and green plains. Is this the sight of a child’s first airplane ride? Nope, not even close. Rather, it’s the typical sight of most of my flights to new destinations, of which my childlike wonder was intensified on my most recent flight, as I flew into Maui’s OGG Airport, setting foot on my 47th U.S. state, Hawaii.
Have you ever had an experience like this, where there just seems to be this over-the-top embellishment of a destination, where everyone just seems to praise it, saying the same thing over and over again, and you wonder if people will ever just shut up about it? “OMG, I just adore _______. It is the best place in the world and how could anyone not just love it. And the sunsets, OMFG, the sunsets.” Everyone, has an experience or destination that they can relate with me on this, right? Right? It’s always something of an elusive destination that it seems like everyone has been to, except for you, yet you’re somewhat reluctant to go, because what if you go, and your expectations are so high, that you just hate it?
That one destination for me has been, Hawaii, and more specifically, Maui. Having worked in travel for nearly five years and spending the last couple years on the west coast, I at times wondered if I had a complex. A lot of my conversations went a little something like this: “Hey Spencer, just returned from a week of bliss on Maui and wanted to ask you, when you were there…Oh shit, you haven’t been to Hawaii have you?” Others have been less tactful. “Spencer, you mean to tell me that you post sunset photos like every other day and you haven’t been to Hawaii? Didn’t Hawaii create sunsets?” While not one to visit highly publicized destinations (Even if my weakness is Vegas), I kept putting off Hawaii, as if it was like the act of going to the dentist.
“This trip is stupid ridiculous.” That was the text to my best friend 48 hours into Maui, and shortly after texting him that I would live in Hawaii in my lifetime. If you know me, then you know that such a statement is the highest compliment. My true feelings of a place (And perhaps a person), is my willingness to live with them. I have never spent less then two full days in a destination and concluded that I would live there. It took a couple weeks with San Francisco, numerous visits to Seattle, but never 48 hours.
When asked why it is that I love South Africa so much, my response has often been that it is because it takes all of my favorite travel experiences, and puts them in one place. I’m finding that that’s my same response to Maui. It takes everything that I love about food, nightlife, adventure, people, road trips, wilderness, and wildlife, and mixes it into this beautiful melting pot. But it goes deeper than that. There is something deeply fascinating about the history and people of Hawaii that I think many vacationers overlook. That’s without even mentioning the Aloha Spirit, which I feel myself gravitating to, in part to seeing some of its correlations to other cultures, such as the southern hospitality of my North Carolina roots.
There are just some destinations that seem to get all the credit. These destinations seem to find their way into more movies, grace more magazine covers, and get more praise from those who have traveled there. This is sometimes over the top, giving us unrealistic expectations and leaving us underwhelmed. But sometimes, a destination comes along like that, and when we travel there, it not only meets, but far exceeds our expectations. We smile, we bask in it, and with a sliver of humility proclaim: “I get it. I finally get it.” Maui is that destination for me.
Is there a destination that’s had such an effect on your?