things to do in hawaii

How to Survive an Alison’s Adventure (Day 7)

Day 7

In a smooth transition from the previous day’s adventures, Day 7 of our trip started off with a morning yoga session where Deb introduced us to the Sanskrit term, “shanti” which means, “peace.”

“Shanti shanti shanti,” she said as the sun rose up over the ocean.

I let the words sink in as deep as they possibly could, knowing I’d need as much peace as possible. Today was the newly scheduled surf day, and I was already shaking.

Unlike our initial, crack of dawn attempt, our surf shenanigans were set to start around 11 a.m. (high tide), at a new location that promised waves. I slid into my bathing suit, envisioning not as many, though still a few possibilities of me falling, drowning, etc.

Emily and I took our seats next to each other in the car, both of us silently hoping there would be a simultaneous lack of waves for us and great waves for everyone else. This however, would prove as impossible as it seemed, because just under an hour later, we were wearing surf shoes, rash guards and listening to our instructor, Bear, give us a quick intro on the “need to know” of surfing.

I was doing everything I could not to cry, including looking into Bears eyes, which were so genuine I felt as though letting him down by not surfing would be equally as damaging as fulfilling one of my drowning prophecies.

He put a surfboard down on the ground and mimed a paddle out into the water and the proper way to jump up into a standing position once we were riding a wave.

“Who’s next?” he said, looking out at our oh-my-gosh-we’re-actually-about-to-surf faces.

One by one we lay down on the board, paddling our hands just above the sand and popping up into a balanced squat. When it came my turn, I glided up into the standing position and Bear clapped with a bright smile, “like butter!” he said. This filled me with both pride and dread. I hope this means I don’t have to stay out there longer…

“Alright, let’s go! Everyone grab a board and have Sam, Trae or I help you paddle out.”

I strapped the board to my right foot and timidly walked down to the water. Sam, one the assistant instructors, helped guide me out passed the rocks and then I paddled alongside Bear.

“Are you excited?” he said.

In the spirit of being open and honest, I turned to him and said, “No, mostly just terrified.”

I expected him to say, “You’re good,” or “don’t worry about it.” Something nonchalant and mildly encouraging that would have bounced right off me. But instead he slowed down the pace of our paddle and told me something I have no doubt will stick with me for a long time. “Nervous and excited are the same emotion in the body. It’s all about channeling that energy to the right place. You’re the boss out here, take it at your own pace.”

I nodded, more appreciative than I was able to express, and paddled out next to Alison, where she took this picture, perfectly capturing my still very prevalent fear.


But then, just like on that first day when I went from sitting firmly on a lava rock to literally jumping off a cliff, before I knew it was paddling through the water with Sam behind me saying, “Stand up! Stand up!”

Spoiler alert: I didn’t stand up…

that time.


That’s right folks, I totally shredded a two foot wave like my life depended on it. Sure, I looked confused. Worried. As if I had just been teleported onto a surf board without knowing how or why. But I did it. I surfed. Me. The girl who was not going to surf. And I had a great time.

I did end up feeling a little seasick after a few runs, which caused me to paddle in and take my initially desired seat: the beach. But I was immensely proud of myself for trying and was able to watch the rest of my family surf without a stitch of regret.


Upon arriving back at the house, we met in the yoga studio to do one of my favorite activities: crafts! Well, sort of. Going with the theme of the entire week, we were going to continue on with manifesting our dreams, ignoring limits and defying obstacles, by creating vision boards.

If you’ve never heard of or made a vision board of your own, it is essentially a visual representation of what you want in life. (Here’s a good article on it)


Before we went surfing, Jack encouraged us all to dream about doing well. To visualize ourselves succeeding, as it was the first step in actually doing so. Now, as you know, I wasn’t great at that, however, I understood the idea. Vision boards are the same concept.

So, Alison gave us all a piece of poster board, put a stack of magazines in the middle of the room, and told us to sift through them to find words, images or any visual manifestation of what we want in our lives, and glue it down on paper. Afterward, we all shared the what and the why of our individual boards, both to let ourselves say it out loud, and to allow others to then hold us accountable.

Keeping with that spirit, here’s mine:


It includes wishes to be strong, to fight for what I want, no matter how long it takes, to run 1000 miles, to fall in love and have a house and family of my own, and to never stop pursuing even my craziest ideas.

Upon arriving home I stuck it up on my wall and have every intention of achieving the impossible.

Speaking of impossible, let’s cut to back to Day 7, post vision board craft, at 8:00 pm.

I’m on a boat. It’s pouring down rain and I’m standing, shivering in a wet suit, dreaming of dry land. It will be worth it. I’m telling myself over and over and over. It will be worth it.

15 minutes later, I’m snorkeled up, laying face down in the rocking water, with my ankles resting on a pool noodle.

Really take a minute to picture that.

I’ll never know what I looked like, especially from their point of view.

They, of course, being the manta ray.

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Yup, that’s right. While laying face down in the water, these guys came within about 5 inches of us. Our boat would shine lights into the water, attracting plankton, which would in turn attract the manta ray like an ice cream cone would attract me: quickly and with a wide open mouth. Our feet rested on pool noodles so as not to accidentally kick the manta ray, and our hands held tightly onto a raft so as not to allow us the temptation to touch the manta ray. (Though if I stuck my tongue out, I swear I still could have. They were that close.)

To say it was unreal—well to be honest, that’s all there really is to say. It totally felt like I was looking through a glass at an aquarium rather than sharing the same air bubbles as a sea creature fondly known as “Amanda Ray.” Let’s just say there were multiple times I involuntarily screamed into my snorkel. And if I didn’t have the film footage and multiple witnesses to prove I was there, I’d probably chalk it up to another one of my weird dreams.

But then again, upon arriving back at the house and looking at my vision board, I was reminded that dreams, when taken seriously, can be far more than just dreams. That just as swimming with manta rays would have only (if ever) crossed my mind as an impossibility, the things I find myself constantly dreaming about can become that much more possible.

Read Day 8 here.

How to Survive an Alison’s Adventure (Day 5&6)

Day 5

On perhaps my most dreaded day of the entire trip, my sister and I awoke not to the rise of the sun, but to the sound of an alarm. At 5:15, we slipped out of bed and put on our bathing suits—we were going surfing and I was pretty sure I was going to throw up.

Two days earlier, when Alison initially announced that Monday was surf day, I cautiously asked if there were any alternative activities available.

“What about standup paddle boarding?” I asked nervously. “Is that an option?”

Being a less than superb swimmer and an active worrier, I had no interest in surfing. For days I had pictured myself falling and drowning and getting swept out to sea, as if Alison was going to drop us in the middle of 50-foot waves with a foam board and a slap on the butt. I am also extremely prone to seasickness. So as I pictured myself falling again and again, I also envisioned the motion of the waves rocking me all the way to the bathroom for the remainder of the night.

“You’re going to do great,” Alison said, looking at me in the rearview mirror, “I promise you’ll be totally fine.” But alas, there I was, dressed and (not so) ready to go, hands shaking in my lap as we made our way down to our intended surf spot.

Emily, a new friend from Canada, sat quietly beside me. The night before, as we were given a quick briefing on what to expect for surf day, she’d leaned in and asked me what my thoughts were. Turns out, she too was terrified. A long breath escaped my lungs in relief. I had been dreading surf day for weeks, and the fear of its arrival had only been matched by my admission to want to skip it. However, in the spirit of “jumping”, I had been honest with how I was feeling, which not only gave me the slightest bit more courage, but also gave those around me—like Emily—the slightest bit of comfort.

As we pulled up to the surf spot, our would be instructor, Bear, hopped out of his car with a frown. The water was flat as a pancake. I tried my best to hide my relief from everyone except Emily, who gave me the slightest smile when no one was looking.

“Alright,” Alison said, bummed, “new plan!”

We hopped back in the car and jetted over to a bay, our car now stocked with snorkels and fins. I walked out along the rocks to the water line with a boogie board and leftover anxiety, still the slightest bit scared for what we were about to do.

“Ready?” I said to Emily, and she nodded.


We swam out towards a building crowd. Swimmers and kayaks alike were gathering in the center of the bay, screaming and laughing with excitement. I held the boogie board out in front of me, steadily kicking my fins behind me.

“There they are!” someone shouted in front of me. My pace quickened.

“Look down now!”

I pushed my snorkel beneath the water and my ears popped. Suddenly I heard a high-pitched noise coming closer and closer. I turned my head and three dolphins were swimming right towards me. They moved smoothly, effortlessly and I was hypnotized. Once they were out of sight, I popped up out of the water with a bright smile.

“That was amazing!” I said

I rested on my boogie board, completely in awe. Wow, I thought. There were just three dolphins swimming right below me!! What a day. 

Fast forward an hour later, I’d seen over 100.

Excuse me while I let that sink in again. Yes, I did in fact swim with one hundred dolphins. Me. The person who doesn’t swim. What is life?


From the bay of (100!) dolphins we made a quick stop for some local organic ice cream, then spent the remainder of our afternoon snacking, laughing, and working as hard as this monk seal we found lounging on the beach.


Day 6

As far as I’m concerned any day that starts with carbs is going to be a good day. So as I sat around the breakfast table with people I’d grown to really care about, eating a scone at sunrise, I was loving my life.

By this point we were all very comfortable with each other and were not afraid to make a bit of a touristy scene when it came to properly documenting a good view. To give you an idea, allow me to introduce our group by way of shameless photograph.

First, there’s our leader, filmmaker, environmentalist, and all around superhero, Alison.


photo credit: @eemburton

And her parents: calm, gentle, and encouraging Deb


photo credit: @eemburton

And witty, kind and creative David


Then there’s YouTuber, adrenaline junkie, and dreadlock extraordinaire, Jack.


photo credit: @eemburton

Genuine, funny and caring Wayan


photo credit: @eemburton

Canadian photographer, peacemaker, and lover and appreciator of all things, Emily


photo credit: @alisonsadventures

There’s good-natured go-getter, undeniably adorable Sandy


And kind-hearted, courageous and soulful George

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Then, some faces you might already know:

My punny, caring and dad of all dads, Brian

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My wild and free ray of sunshine sister, Natalee

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And this chick with the orange shorts that kept following them around (a.k.a me!)

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We were an undeniable family, so much so that—as you may have noticed—we often posed the exact same way, and people constantly asked if we wanted our picture taken together (which we almost always obliged) (in the exact same pose).


On this day, we took in the sights of yet another breathtaking beach, unique in topography but not in grandeur to those we’d seen before, and we also got a little lesson in survival.

For those of you who don’t know, Alison had a very unique upbringing, the likes of which gave her the slightest advantage (if one can exist) on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid a few years back. So as we took a seat under a shady tree a little ways up the shoreline from the water, she stood up with her signature enthusiasm.

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“So we’ve just been dropped here,” she said, pulling us into an imaginary scenario, “and we need to use what we can find around us to survive the night. Do you know what the four most important tools for survival are, and in what order?”

*pauses in case you’re the kind of person that wants to make they’re own guess.*

Answer Key:

  1. Shelter
  2. Water
  3. Heat
  4. Food

Alison then walked us through the Jurassic Park-esque landscape, pointing out different materials we could use for shelter, what to look for in terms of food, some key facts about tropical plants and some basic survival tips we could take with us to any terrain.

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Afterwards we walked back over to our camp—which included a minor trek across a river—and set up for a relaxing afternoon on the beach.

Again we split off into the napping and non-napping, the swimming, the tanning, the exploring, or in my case, the writing. I took a seat up against a tree, pulled out my notebook and let my mind spill out onto the page.

One thought that kept coming up was about a conversation we had in the car a few days prior. I was sat in the middle of the backseat between Natalee and Emily, with Alison and Jack riding in the front. Emily had asked Alison how she defines her—some could argue unorthodox—profession.

Alison kind of laughed, and bobbled her head around, her face revealing she’d not only been asked this question many times before, but has also spent a good amount of time pondering the answer herself. She said she usually sums it up to “filmmaker” as films are the center of what she does.

I remember sitting there quietly, wishing I could sum it up better, if only to be more apt to brag about her to my friends and family back home. But it wasn’t until I found myself under that tree that I felt as though I’d finally found the right word.


I played with it, threw it around my brain. I understood it wasn’t correct if taken in the logical sense. However, in the same thought that not all artists draw and not all athletes play baseball, I felt as though architect too could lend itself to interpretation.

The way I see it, she builds moments. Be it with her films, her adventures or her one on one conversations with you. She designs them, lays them out, and invites everyone to be a contractor in the steps that follow. On this adventure alone, she’d given us the tools to build ourselves up to be something bigger than we could have imagined. She’d reminded us that each of our lives is our own adventure and it is not only our job to live it, but also our great opportunity.

So as I sat there underneath that tree, watching the breeze sweep across the beach and the waves crash along the shore, I felt something I never would have expected in the chaotic weeks leading up to the trip: peace. For even though I was constantly being challenged to test my limits, I was starting to realize, that should I invite the possibility, I no longer had to have any.

Read Day 7 here.

How to Survive an Alison’s Adventure (Day 3&4)

Day 3

As the sun crept in the curtains for the second time, I yawned myself awake with the slightest smile. After all the buildup for this trip, I was undeniably amongst an adventure, and only my toes were wet.

In an attempt to keep hold of a little control of my responsibilities back home, I convinced my dad to get up early with me and go for a run. I was only 3 miles away from hitting the 500 mile mark of my 1000 mile goal for the year, and I figured there was no better place to do it than Hawaii. There was also no better way to celebrate than running straight into the ocean.

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We’d gone over the logistics of the day at dinner the night before, so before I made my way up for breakfast, I pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and packed my backpack with a water, a sweatshirt, a pair of pants, a hat, some snacks and some sunscreen.

Around 10 o’clock we took off for the Hawaii Volcano National Park, where we spent a few hours walking among more lava rocks.

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Our group of 11 spread out, walking along, taking pictures of the—for lack of a better word—off-putting landscape. It was as if we’d landed on another planet.

Miles and miles of lava rock lay all around us. The rough surface peppered with small green sprouts trying to poke their way towards the sky.

Missing from this leaves-you-speechless-landscape? Other people.  So much so that after a while it felt like maybe we were the last ones left on earth. Which made you wonder—were they going to kill us out here?

Luckily, the answer was no, though with the surrounding sights—such as a massive pit that used to be a lava lake, or the boiling steam vents that puffed smoke from the floor—it seemed it was not for lack of trying.

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After a long, still off-putting and yet awe striking walk back, we hopped in the car and drove to the Thurston Lava Tube, where we got to walk through a tunnel like formation that made my dad remember how much he hates tunnel like formations.

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(Can’t really blame him on this one, it looked like we’re willingly walking into our own demise)

As the sun began to set, we took our places to watch the lava of the Kilauea volcano begin to glow beneath seemingly thousands of bright stars.

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Then, as one always does beside a volcano, we had an enchilada tailgate party in the parking lot. #casual

Day 4

“Okay, guys” Alison said in the kitchen to start the day. We were all standing in our traditional circle, holding hands, cracking jokes and expressing words of gratitude towards one another as we did before every meal.

“The first day was water, yesterday was earth and today is…air?

We all looked around at each other, questioning. As usual, none of us knew the plan, and Alison was not one to give up a secret.

“It’s going to be awesome!” she said, and then we broke the circle and ate.

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About an hour later, we were at the top of a hill, stepping out into a jungle-esque landscape, with the slightest bit of rain dampening our shoulders.

“Has everyone seen the Hunger Games?” Alison asked casually. She then turned it over to a man named David, who emerged from a shed holding handmade bamboo bows and plastic arrows.

I took what became “my bow” in my hands, slightly shocked I would soon be able to add “do Hawaiian jungle archery” to my list of life accomplishments, and immediately missed my recently donated long hair that would have been more than capable of a Katniss braid. My imagination peaked up at the trees and the sky, wondering what we’d be shooting at, and my anxious mind wondered if I’d somehow manage to shoot one of my new friends.

“Line up,” David said encouragingly, “now take your stance, tilt your bow, draw your arrow back to your cheek, and fire.”

We all shot at a small, circular target, most of us making less than terrible attempts at hitting it. He then led us in and around the trees, taking us deeper into the jungle, further into his handmade obstacle course.  As we walked, I felt my brain flicker in and out of a story it was making up along the way, going from logic minded competitiveness to faux survival mode desperation. I have to feed my family, my mind would whisper before every shot, they’re counting on me.

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Over the next hour, we came face to face with stuffed bears, cork pigs, and a wild boar that rolled on a zip line.

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By the end I was more than happy with my performance and felt better equipped to, well, watch archery when it comes back around in the Olympics, as I now have a whole new appreciation for the required concentration and difficulty.

Then, after sharing a delicious tailgate lunch, we made our way back to the house, where we all made the decision only a true vacation can present you: nap in your bed or tan on the beach.

My sister and I chose the beach. She snorkeled and I let myself float in the water, looking up at the sky as it turned from light blue to light purple. Just before sunset, we took our place back out on the lava rocks to wish the sun a heartfelt Mahalo. It had given us another day full of adventure, and if we were lucky, would continue to do so in the days to come. So as it made it’s descent into the ocean, we offered it gratitude and love.  Then we all walked back up to the house side by side, wishing each other the same sentiments.

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Read Days 5 & 6 here.

How to Survive an Alison’s Adventure (Day 1&2)

Day 1

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.

Day 2

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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.”

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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.

Yeah, no.

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!”

“Go Kim!”

“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.

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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.

Read Days 3 & 4 here.

Pearls and Pie (Hawaii Day 7)

As the sun shone through the window on our 7th and final morning, I tried to pretend I didn’t feel it. Accepting that the sun was up meant accepting that our last day in Hawaii had begun, and I was nowhere near ready for that to be an accurate statement. But as with any bout of stubbornness, this one was eventually squelched by hunger. My family made our way down to the hotel restaurant around 9, all a little bit quieter than usual. We browsed our menus while staring longingly out at the beach we’d grown so familiar with and gave the waitress our order with sullen faces and low voices.

From there it was just a long series of “last times.”

“This is the last time we’ll eat at the hotel restaurant.”

“This is the last time we’ll burn our feet on the cement walking back from the hotel restaurant.”

“This is the last time I’ll pee in our toilet”

“This is the last time we’ll have beer and Oreos in our dining room.”

“This is the last time I’ll swipe our room key.”

“This is the last time we’ll leave our room.”

Overall the mood was pretty depressing, but that didn’t stop us from setting out to have a great last day. So, after we were all packed up, we left the best thank you we could think of for the hotel staff and made our way to Lahaina.


Our first stop was Hilo Hattie’s to get a pearl.

When we walked up to the counter, two women approached excitedly and handed my sister and I a pair of tongs.

“Pick the ugliest one,” they said of the oysters sitting in a bowl of water.

So, we dug through the whole pile, flipping and rotating each oyster until we each found one that seemed completely and totally hideous. Satisfied with our choices, the women set the oysters on a towel and told us to count down from three and then tap them with our tongs, while they simultaneously rang a bell and shouted “Aloha!” They then cracked open the oysters, dug through the insides and pulled out the pearls resting inside. As they removed them, everyone oohed and awed; my sister got a pink one, representing love and generosity and mine was white, signifying peace and truth.

After leaving Hilo Hattie’s we decided it was time for lunch, so we grabbed a table at Kimo’s and ate burgers and fish and chips while listening to a live band perform breezy rock classics. Then, to finish off what was already a perfect meal, we ordered 2 slices of Hula Pie a.k.a macadamia nut ice cream sat on top of an Oreo crust, all covered in hot fudge, whipped cream, and more macadamia nuts. If you’ve never had it, consider yourself currently living an incomplete life. Also, if you don’t think you’ll find yourself in Hawaii any time soon to try it, look up Duke’s in a few locations in California and tell them I sent you. They won’t care, because they have no idea who I am, but you can still tell them. Then after, ask for this:


After a couple more hours of shopping in Lahaina, we took one last look at the beach and then hopped in our car for the airport. The 40-minute drive was too quick and too quiet. Each of us stared out the window at the blue skies and green trees, watching people surf and smile and sunburn. We gazed at people setting up tents and hammocks, dreaming about the day we’d get to come back and do this all over again.

Our flight was set to take off at 9 p.m., so as we sat in our airport chairs, both smiling at the week we’d had and frowning at the week we’d miss, our Hawaiian sun set for a final time.

Then things got weird.

Due to the forward time jump on the flight home, we landed in San Francisco at 5:30 a.m. (2 a.m. Hawaii time) The lack of sleep was apparent instantly and the extremely modern, hipster space that is the San Francisco airport, did not help our condition. It had a yoga room and art deco chairs, a Nalgene bottle fill up station and water conserving faucets in the bathroom. It was all too much for my sleep-deprived brain to handle. Every new convenience I discovered made me want to cry, and after a while, I think it got to my head a little. While buying breakfast, I felt it necessary to wait 5 minutes in one line to buy a banana and 5 minutes in another to buy a muffin. Both restaurants sold both items, but I felt I deserved the best of both worlds.

Important lesson learned: I should probably never move to San Francisco. I don’t think my family would ever see me again. Every phone call they made to me would start with, “I can’t talk right now, I’m getting my knee caps massaged” or “Sorry, can I call you back after hamster yoga?”

Around 6:30, our final flight home to Los Angeles took off and I was awake for approximately 0 minutes of it. Which was impressive compared to the 50-minute nap I took on a 45-minute bus ride home from the airport.

When we finally walked through our front door, we found that everything was as we left it, and two days later, so were we, all back in our usual routines. And while we we’ve spent our first week back reminiscing on the week we had in paradise, I’m glad to be back in the routine. Weird, I know, but look at this way, the quicker I get back in the routine, the quicker I can start planning the next escape. Which is exactly what I’m going to do.

Fast Hips and Chocolate Chip Pancakes (Hawaii Day 6)

As any perfect Saturday morning would, this one started with pancakes.

The first day we arrived in Maui we noticed the restaurant, “Slappy Cakes,” across the street from our hotel, and after the past few days of early morning wake up calls, we thought Saturday would be perfect for a late pancake breakfast.

Now, this is not your ordinary pancake house. While there are a couple of house favorites on the menu, Slappy Cakes offers a unique, DIY pancake option, that allows you to choose your batter, fillings, toppings, and syrup, and then make the pancakes the way you want them, on the griddle installed in the middle of your table. The batter comes in a squirt bottle, giving you much more control over the shape of your pancakes, so we took the freedom and ran with it, first making hearts and squares, and then going full 4th of July theme with a United States map and a bald eagle. The way we saw it, there is no wrong way to thank the troops for everything they’ve done and continue to do for us. Showing patriotism in our pancakes may seem like a small gesture, but being able to sit comfortably and safely in a pancake house on a Saturday morning is a privilege we’ve been given thanks to their sacrifice.


Thank you.

Around 5:30 that night, I got laid by a buff Hawaiian man. Oh. Excuse me, lei’d.

As we walked into the Old Lahaina Luau, we were each given a purple lei and a Mai Tai before being led to our seats. Our waiter then informed us that the bar was open, dinner was at 6 and to enjoy a look around in the meantime.

5 minutes in, my brother came running over, informing us he’d bought a hand carved knife and was going back for a battle-axe. At first we laughed, but by the 20th minute, our group of 15 had purchased 2 knives, a battle-axe, 2 battle turtles, and 4 tikis. Needless to say, the men at that booth loved us.

Soon after, my sister and I asked a man to draw us. As in a caricature, not Leo Di’Caprio, naked Titanic style. Don’t get weird. I think the finished product really captures our essence: two girls with a hand carved knife that just got lei’d. A true classic.

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At 6 we all gathered around a pile of dirt. (Now you’re intrigued)

The traditional way of cooking a luau pig is underground on hot rocks. So as we congregated around the pile of dirt, two men began to dig. With each shovel full, the heat radiated stronger from underground. The men explained the complicated cooking process, including the 3 am start time, and lifted the platform holding the pig up onto their shoulders to carry it back and carve it.

After dinner, we were treated to a number of Hawaiian dances, featuring both men and women that told the story of Hawaiian culture. It was truly beautiful to watch. The passion the dancers had for sharing their culture was obvious; it wasn’t just a job to them, it was a genuine invitation into their culture.

Now for a brief, less serious, slightly inappropriate, bout of commentary on the dancers, let me just say: THOSE HIPS. Those lightning fast hula hips. Amazing. That is all.

We left the luau with an undeniable sense of happiness and wonder, so we made the obvious next move: raiding the sale on macadamia nuts at Longs Drugs.

I’m not kidding.

Knee deep in alcohol and Hawaiian culture, we bought 10 boxes of Hawaiian Host Macadamia Nuts. Then we called it a night.

We go so hard.

Read Day 7 here.

“Give Me the Drugs!!” said the Snorkeler (Hawaii Day 5)

I tend to be a bit of a worrier at times. In fact, it’s almost a hobby of mine to convince myself something bad is going to happen. That way, when everything goes smoothly it’s a nice surprise. I wouldn’t recommend this life strategy however. It’s a waste of Tums and Advil. Things are going to work out the way they’re supposed to and we just need to sit back and enjoy the ride. Well, sometimes. Let me immediately contradict myself by saying that “the ride” is exactly what had my stomach in knots the moment I woke up for Day 5 in Hawaii.

Snorkeling was on the agenda today and I’d been slightly dreading it since we booked the trip last year, as I am very prone to seasickness. For weeks I’d been picturing the boat ride. The constant back and forth of the waves. The up and down of the waves. The NEVERENDING motion of the waves.

I didn’t have a good track record. I’d been snorkeling once before and turned green 20 minutes in. I went below deck and asked if they had anything I could take, but when the woman behind the counter showed me an off brand pill, I went full addict on her and asked if they had anything stronger. She frowned and nodded, “yes, but it’s five dollars.” Somewhere deep in my mind, 5 dollars seemed ridiculous for two pills, but the 15 layers on top of that all screamed, woman in labor style, “YES, GIVE ME THE DRUGS WOMAN.”

With that memory in mind, I’d brought my own drugs to Hawaii and took the maximum dosage before boarding the boat. I’d decided to make it my mission not to get sick, not only for my own personal health and dignity, but also for my group’s sake. No one wants to be in the group with the girl barfing over the side of the S.S. You Shouldn’t Have Come. It shifts the whole dynamic of the trip. Suddenly every conversation is: “I want to help but I don’t know what to do,” “Should we hold her hair?” “How long do we have to stand here sympathetically staring at her hurling before we can enjoy the snorkeling trip we paid for?” “Does barf attract sharks?”

Thus, I had my mission and let me tell you, I was dedicated. After drugging up and elbowing my way to a seat on the top deck, I picked a gopher shaped cloud to stare at (I’d heard it helps to pick something still to focus on) and I rarely broke eye contact. I mean RARELY. I’d say round-trip, of the 5 hours spent on/in the ocean, I spent 3 hours looking at the cloud and 2 looking at fish.

Did I look weird? Probably.

Will I go down in many a stranger’s Hawaiian vacation memory as the girl who wouldn’t make eye contact with her family? Probably.

But did I get sick?! NO.

Mission accomplished.

Plus, when we were actually in the water, the snorkeling was unbelievable. There was so much to see in the reef below, it was almost impossible to look away. We must have taken 100 pictures with our underwater camera, including this one of a fish my sister aggressively stalked for an extended period of time.


(Restraining order pending)

A quick note about snorkeling: While yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea…to see (nailed it) you’d be surprised at how interesting your fellow snorkelers are to look at. Have you ever made eye contact with strangers in scuba masks? Well better first question, have you ever worn a scuba mask? It compete covers your mouth and eyebrows, make emotions completely unidentifiable. I’m going to be straight with you. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or how many times you’ve been snorkeling. Anyone and everyone in a scuba mask has dead eyes and breathes like Darth Vader.



Am I having fun? Or is there someone on the other end of the camera threatening me with a gun to look like I’m enjoying myself. No one will ever know.

(I was enjoying myself)

Read Day 6 here.

Koko, Chris and the Boar. (Hawaii Day 4)

Closed toed shoes were a requirement today, much to the disappointment of my flip flop loving toes. As I slid my socks on, I felt each freshly pedicured digit whimper beneath the confining fabric. It was like shutting the back door behind me and watching my dog stick her face up to the glass, begging for fresh air. Sorry. It’s just how it has to be right now. Stop licking the glass. STOP.

With 3 cars in our group now, each trip about town was like a parade of tourists. There was no hiding our constant, “look at that tree!” “look at that view!” “where are we?” “did we miss it?” “look, a chicken!” It’s funny how being a tourist is so much more fun than being a local surrounded by tourists. When you’re a tourist, everything is beautiful, fun and the greatest thing you’ve seen to date. When you’re a local, everything is exactly the same as it was yesterday and everyone driving slow to look around and say otherwise, is ruining your life.

Our first adventure of the day was zip lining. We pulled up to Skyline Adventures around 8:30, and the staff promptly gave us a complimentary water bottle. (Clearly they know the way to a tourist’s heart: free stuff.) They then loaded us into an open top, jeep-ish vehicle—reminiscent of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland—that bounced us around on a dirt road up to the check-in point. There we received our helmets and harnesses, before being reloaded into a van that drove us that rest of the way up to the first zip spot.

On the windy road up, our guides, Koko and Chris, gave us some background on Hawaiian zip lining and wildlife, including the native wild boar that has known to be spotted by zippers with a keen eye. I personally didn’t feel the need to see a wild boar; its name is aggressive enough for me to know we shouldn’t be friends. Think about it, how would you feel if I invited you over to meet my friend Stabyouintheface. “He’s a great guy,” I’d say. But something inside of you would think otherwise. Regardless, I nodded along, giving Koko the thumbs up that I’d keep my eyes open for a boar.

This was my second time zip lining, and as such I felt confident in the line’s ability to get me from one side to the other without feeding me to the wilderness. I wasn’t prepared however for the multitude of ways our guides would teach us to jump. We had the walk it out, the walk and jump, the run and jump, the run, jump, kick and smile back at the camera, and the trust fall. Each had its own adventure associated with it, none of which made us look this cool:


But I think that was somewhat of a strategy, Koko couldn’t teach us all of his moves.

As we walked between zip spots, Chris and Koko would teach us more and more about Hawaiian culture and I was continually impressed with how much they knew. On one walk in particular, after Chris ran ahead to use the restroom, we walked slowly with Koko as he told us about the origin of the Hawaiian Luau. It has been used for a variety of celebrations including the first birthday of a baby, because at one point disease was so widespread, that a full year of survival for a newborn was rare. I looked down, smiling as I thought about the preciousness of a baby, when all of a sudden, the bushes to my left started to shake. I threw my hands up to the side, not in a way that would have offered me any real type of defensive, in fact a bystander may have thought I was hastily beginning to hula dance, but it was in fact my attempted defense from the boar I believed for a split second or so to be lurking. I should have known better. This boar was actually just Chris hiding in the bushes and snorting his heartiest boar snort, successfully making his second boar scare of the day. I had to hand it to him though, the timing was perfect, every single defense was down. Hell I was smiling at the dirt thinking about babies! If there really had been a boar, it would have offed me before I even knew what was happening. Thankfully, there was no death by baby diversion, just a bunch of laughs and a temporary distrust of everything Koko and Chris said.

It was hard to hold a grudge though, especially when they were guiding you to places like this:


On the way back to the hotel, we spotted a beach that had tangly rooted trees lining the shores; two of which looked perfect for hanging a hammock. So, after we showered and ate dinner, we headed back over to catch the sunset.

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It was alright, I guess.

Read Day 5 here.

Sci-Fi & Shuffleboard (Hawaii Day 3)

It was another early morning at the Ka’anapali Shores Hotel, but this one started with an alarm clock. My sister, dad and I were up and out in front of the complex by 6 a.m. waiting to be picked up by our fishing guide, Brian (coincidentally, my dad’s name is Brian, but don’t worry, they are in fact two different people. This isn’t the part of the story where things go all sci-fi and we meet my dad’s long lost twin).


Before I continue, we have to take a little trip back in time. (Okay, so I lied, maybe we do get a little sci-fi in this one)

Our time travel will be brief, just a small trip back to yesterday, because there is a gaping hole in my day that I feel the need to share. If you’re a details person, you may have noticed the hole: 6 am wake up, a small workout, beach time, shower time, and then dinner in Lahaina at sunset (and you can figure sunset is at around 6 o’clock). That’s a 12-hour window from wake up until dinner. How long did I think I was on the beach? Just a casual 10 HOURS? It should have been clear that I left something out, but I missed it. I know, I know, we’re all clearly upset by this. This is a life-altering mistake and I’m sorry.

I blame this alien:


(Really, more sci-fi?) (Yes, can’t stop, won’t stop.)

The gaping hole. The missing piece of yesterday is not too much to get excited about. It was just a minor detail, a time waster. A totally casual activity I always do after a morning workout. It was just, you know, a bit of PARASAILING.

…Yeah. Not sure how I forgot that one. But yes, I parasailed a.k.a weightlessly soared through the Hawaiian sky and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

In case you’re wondering the schematics of it all, it was actually quite simple. Once harnessed up, we sat down on the back of the boat, the driver sped up so the wind caught the parachute, and we floated up into the air, just like that. Seriously. Stern of the boat to 1200 feet in the air in 15 seconds. Can you believe that?!

I couldn’t:


Now, just as we floated back down to the boat, let’s do that same with Day 3.

Back to my dad’s name twin but nothing freakier than that: Brian.

Brian picked us up in his white pickup truck, stocked full of poles and lures and bait and we made our way to one of his favorite fishing spots.

Now, I’ve fished my whole life, so I assumed I’d be able to pick up anything he gave me and knock ‘em dead, but that wasn’t the case. But due to the unpredictability of the ocean, the poles are much heavier duty thus heavier in weight compared to what I’m used to. As a result, I had to do some serious concentration to cast correctly. I was a lacrosse player making the game winning shot in the last minute of play. I was an eight-year-old girl sneaking up on a butterfly with a net. I was lumberjack, slicing up some wood in Alaska. I was—NAILING IT.

In total we caught 11 fish between the 4 of us. Of those 11, there were 7 different species, which I’ve listed completely accurately below.

  • Broom fish
  • Rock fish
  • Goat fish
  • Blue Eyed Something
  • Unknown Tri-color Dude
  • The Invasive Species
  • One good for eating if it was bigger, but it was a little runt that needed to go through fish puberty and blossom and stuff.

We headed back to the hotel at 11, and after being in the sun for 5 straight hours, I was ready to hide in the shade for a bit and have an Oreo…or 4.

That night, the rest of my family flew in from Oahu, almost doubling our group size, so we decided the only thing to do was have a barbecue and play shuffle board. And let me tell you something, you’ve never seen more enthusiastic shufflers (is that what they’re called?). Based on our cheers, you’d think we were on the verge of winning Olympic Gold, which we could have…if it was judged purely on spirit and amount of food consumed before play.

Eventually we decided to call it a night, figuring we had nothing left to prove on the court.

“Until tomorrow,” because tomorrow held adventures all its own.

Read Day 4 here.

Mahalo Sun, You’re Cool! (Hawaii Day 2)

The next morning my siblings and I woke up at 6:00 am and decided to get a little workout in. (Note: This early rise was unintentional, Maui is 3 hours behind California, so our bodies thought it was a breezy 9 o’clock, but let’s just keep that between us; the hotel workers and locals on the beach thought we were just immensely dedicated to our health, unhindered by the clutches of sleep and laziness, and I don’t want them to take back their friendly waves and nods of respect.)

After our workout, we were all feeling refreshed and energized, so we thought it best to lie on the beach for a few hours with the family to recover.

A noteworthy fact: I made my first appearance in ocean water since roughly 2008, and didn’t die. I did see a shark though. Just kidding, it was a whale. Just kidding it was a rock that I thought was a creature of the deep waiting to swallow me whole, but as previously stated, it was in fact a rock and it neglected to inflict any bodily harm. Obviously King Triton is looking out for me.

We spent a great deal of time on the beach that morning, each of us rotating from the water to the beach chairs and back again. And eventually my dad and I found ourselves knee deep in sand castle architectural plans, none of which upheld the constant onslaught of waves, unfortunately. So, with my dream of being a Beach League Architect crushed by a gnarly wave, literally, we headed back up to the hotel to shower. Once we’d all de-saltwatered our hair and de-sanded…everything else, we hopped in the car and were walking through the seaside shops of Lahaina by sunset.

Just as the sun kissed the water, we spotted a man walking atop the roof of a building, chanting in Hawaiian to the state flag. Once finished, he blew into a conch shell multiple times and let out a loud, powerful yell. In Hawaiian culture, this is a way of saying goodbye to the sun and saying thank you (Mahalo) for the day it provided. As I watched I felt truly welcomed not only into the state of Hawaii, but also into its immense culture. I just stood there in awe, which was good, because my first instinct was to put my fist in the air and yell something like, “YOU’RE COOL!” back up to him, which I’m almost positive would have got me kicked off the island. Or at least it should.

For dinner we sat at a horribly awful table inside Bubba Gumps. It overlooked the ocean and gave me a wide-open view of the last remnants of the sunset and let me feel the ocean breeze on my face as I ate good food with good people. WHAT A MISERABLE DAY.


I mean, who wants to look at this all day?

Read Day 3 here.