With a bang my eyes were open, the wheels were on the ground, and the lights in the cabin were on. It was 9:15 pm on a Thursday and my dad, my sister and I had just landed in Hawaii.
We walked through the terminal, eyes red and hair knotted, looking at all the families set to board the plane we’d just exited. Their vacations were over and you could see it on their faces. Sunburned noses and ocean dipped hair; frowns for what they would miss and smiles for what they’d just experienced. In a small way I envied them, for they’d already gone on their adventure. They were long passed all the anxiety and anticipation that sat so prominent in my stomach.
I took small steps towards the parking lot where our ride awaited us. My mind flashed through everything that could go wrong while my heart reasoned everything that could go right. But as we stood on the curb and a man named Henry pulled the car around to pick us up, I reminded myself that an adventure is all about the combination of both.
The ceiling creaked above me and I jolted awake. The sun was peaking in through the curtains and the tropics were alive with noise. I took in everything I could make sense of. The bed I laid in last night after arriving; the bedside table I set my phone on just before I fell asleep; the bamboo floor I was guided along by flashlight; the door that my aunt and uncle hugged me at before wishing me goodnight. Last night wasn’t just a dream, this adventure had truly begun.
The ceiling creaked again as morning conversation began to fill the floor above me. I wiggled myself out of bed, took a few necessary Snapchats, and took a good look at myself in the bamboo-framed mirror that hung in the bathroom.
“Here we go,” I said quietly, “you can do this.”
The weeks leading up to the trip had been mostly filled with anxiety. I’m a stickler for schedules and I thrive on details and organization. I also had a lot going on; commitments and responsibilities I felt uncomfortable putting on hold. But as the trip began to take shape, quickly morphing from a dream to an idea to a reality, I realized I had to leave both quandaries behind. So, as I slipped into the flip-flops I left outside the door and made my way down the sandy path that looped around to the “lanai” or living room, I took a deep breath, knowing I was heading straight into the mouth of the unknown.
“Good morning,” I said timidly. Heads turned and smiled shyly. Some I recognized, some I didn’t. I walked with an outstretched hand around the room, officially meeting the people I’d spend the next seven days with.
“Are you ready for your first adventure?” David, Alison’s dad, said to us. We all nodded, some more confidently than others, then we retreated back to our rooms to change.
“This way,” David said when we were all ready. He led us out the front gate and down to the lava rock that lined the coast. “Watch your step.”
For the next 40 minutes or so, we made our way along the rocks. Some slippery, some dry, some soft and warm and some tough and dangerous. David explained the two different types of lava, “pahoehoe” which was smooth, and “aa” which was rough and jagged.
“You know how aa got its name, right? It’s because when you walk on it with bare feet you go ‘ah! ah!’” (This was a joke, but it made it very easy to identify the difference between the two)
The walk was beautiful. Though I’d forgotten my camera, I took in the views with wonder and awe. A few times I had to stop and just absorb it all as I couldn’t help the overwhelming, “we are so not in Kansas anymore” moments that kept coming with every turn.
When we came to a stop, my dad immediately leaned in to me. “Oh boy,” he said, his voice laced with nerves. I looked up at him with confused eyes. “I think I know what we’re doing here,” he said with a deep breath. I shook my head, but before I could ask, Alison was standing in front of us with a bright smile.
“Alright, guys!” she said. I took a big gulp of my water and sat down to listen. “In life,” she continued, “we are often required to take risks to get what we want and to make our dreams come true. Sometimes we just have to jump.”
She gestured her head over to the cliff that lie about 50 feet from us, then waggled her eyebrows. I sat, silent and stunned, then looked over the edge.
No. No. No.
I see what you did there, but no.
I will not be jumping off any cliffs. I will not be plummeting to my death today. I appreciate the life lesson and physical manifestation of bravery, but no. I’m going to sit right here, I’ll see you all when(/if) you get back.
“Okay, Kim, you’re next!”
“You got this!”
The voices were coming from all around me. Some behind me, others in the water below me. I smiled shyly, politely declining…but then at some point I stood up, and at another I took off my bathing suit cover and shoes. Suddenly I was looking down at my sister in the water, my toes curled at the edge, eyes shifting in and out of focus. I had know idea how many feet lay between me and the water, the only measurement I could figure was that I was high.
I took a deep breath.
“Ready?” David said, his eye on the water, watching for the perfect moment. “Go!”
Without giving myself any more time to think, I jumped. A few seconds later, I was in the water, alive, refreshed, courageous. I looked up at the cliff, then I looked down at my tattoo and smiled. Who knew you could climb a mountain by jumping off a cliff?
After a quick climb up and a slow walk back, we took a seat on the beach, did a few “get to know you” exercises, then arrived back at the house to enjoy a nice breakfast together. Later that day we met back in the lanai to do some yoga, then walked back out along the lava rocks to watch the sunset.
And as our first full day in Hawaii came to a close, I took a long, deep breath. For even though the nerves still sat beneath the surface of my skin, I had a new kind of bravery that was beginning to take shape. If I knew I could jump, maybe I could do anything.