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Hawaii is not overrated. 

I stretched out on my sarong to avoid the sand, drenching the light fabric with warm ocean water dripping from my hair. That’s how you do it: soak in the sun, run into the waves, and lay out til you’re dry and hot again. I slipped on my Ray Bans and looked out to wave at D, my dreamboat playdate. He was tall, tan and handsome, just another local surfer dude (okay maybe a psychiatrist) with a million dollar smile and eager to make the most of our time together. It was another beach day in Hawaii, and I was enjoying every moment.

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I spent a wonderful couple of days on Oahu staying with my dear friend Joanna. On New Years Eve, we did the sunrise Pillbox hike despite the rain. Over seven years ago I first climbed up those mountains with friends and locals from U of H, I’ll never forget those views. It was pouring down rain, and it was still dark, and people thought I was crazy for attempting to Live IG the moment, but I tried. There’s something super rewarding about watching a sunrise you had to risk your life clambering up mudslides for. I witnessed more sunrises in the two weeks I was in Hawaii than I had for all of 2016. It was exactly what my soul needed.

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Stairway to Heaven is a visually stunning and infamously dangerous hike, so much so that it’s illegal to do and thus, of course, was on my Hawaii bucket list. Then one dusk, a bunch of us hiked up to Makua caves, the most dangerous hike for a sunset I’ve ever done. I’d say it was about an 85-degree incline and loose rocks all the way up to get to the lookout point and I was close to tears all the way up. “You know what’s crazy?!” I’d pant from the bottom of the group, “there’s nothing buffering us from a fall, if we fall we would actually die!!” “Yup, people do die!” they chirped back. I didn’t fall though, and when I found out that Stairway to Heaven was even more life-threatening I decided to cross it off my To Do list. It was pretty up there though.

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And then there was Maui.

Sometimes life is really awesome and trips turn out better than you could have ever planned them yourself. That was my Maui. I stood at the airport with my big Osprey backpack, looking for a black 4-runner with no plans or expectations for the few days I had there, besides Haleakala. There’s a huge dormant volcano in Maui called Haleakala, ‘House of the Sun’, and I was there to conquer it. To my great delight, my friend Christine and her husband Caleb, Maui locals, decided to join me last minute. I had packed and prepared to go on the three day, two night backpacking trip across the crater alone but the longer I go without company the more I overthink about life and no one needs me to start a third blog. Besides, there would be no cell reception and that’s the REAL sign of wilderness.

It turns out that Caleb is a captain at Trilogy and they put me on a day tour to Lanai! I hadn’t even heard of Lanai before I was up at 7am watching the sunrise on the catamaran, on my way there. Oh gosh, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Then I looked at all the couples snuggled up around me and I felt like the dude from Forgetting Sarah Marshall instead. Lanai is an island about an hour out from Maui, a great little spot for snorkeling and some unforgettable views. Trilogy gave a fantastic, smoothly operated trip and provided us with everything we needed to relax at the beach and back, like snorkel gear and booze. I highly recommend them. I even made friends with some locals and travelers, including a new friend from Switzerland. Now I have to go to Switzerland someday to visit.

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Early the next day, our mighty crew of three drove up to the summit of Haleakala to begin our trek. We quickly lost sight of other people. Soon were walking across a Martian landscape above the clouds, and I don’t remember much after that. Here are some excerpts from my diary:

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“I’m in a volcano crater. Haleakala is one of the world’s biggest volcanos and I’m in my tent in the center. What a way to begin the year! We hiked 10 miles today from the summit to Paiku. Tomorrow will be 6 miles to Hokua, the next campsite.” 

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“Day 2: Our bags were not much lighter. Damn it. It feels like Africa, with lone trees on the horizon…I found out that my pocket knife has TWEEZERS…after we set up the air got all misty and I realized that we were IN the clouds…did you know that green gummy bears are strawberry flavored?!…”

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We emerged into the lower parking lot on the third day, dirty and tired but all in one piece. I felt amazing, and I hope that high will stay with me into the new year for as long as possible. I even had time to visit and grab shaved ice with Joann and Cory before my flight, beloved friends of mine from college days. It was wonderful reuniting with girlfriends, meeting their husbands and seeing how their lives had unfolded in paradise. Life can go down so many different paths, and they let love lead the way.

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Back on Oahu, D picked me up from the airport and we headed straight to my Balinese Airbnb listing. It was exactly what I had wished for, simple and beautiful with terraces that overlooked downtown Honolulu and the beaches. “If this were real life, I’d totally date you,” he mumbled as I curled up beside him. “If this were real life, I’d let you try,” I laughed. We both smiled cause we knew that the lives we led were wonderful already, and I was flying out tomorrow.

 

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