What I learned.

We’re a few days post-trip and already back into the swing of things at work. I did get a freckled tan after-all, though slight, and I found trace amounts of sand in my CROC’s this morning when I slipped them on. It’s so wild how it takes forever for vacation to come and once it does, it happens quicker than the snap of your fingers; right back at it wondering when the next blip of magic will happen again.

This trip was different than all the rest. For the second time in my life, I traveled with both of my parents. The first time was a quick weekend road-trip to Wisconsin nearly a decade ago, so nothing like this. My mom has been my travel companion for the last 5+ years on most of my big trips but this year we wanted to gift my dad with the bragging rights of being able to say he’s been to all 50 states (supes jelly, dad!) and we did just that!

Along this journey, I learned a few things about myself, traveling, and DUN DUN DUN… my parents. I should get into the habit of writing my “What I Learned” post whilst in airport waiting room areas vs 4 days post-trip because I think this list would have been longer and written with much more enthusiasm than it will turn out to be.

Oh well, live and learn as they say. Here we go:

  • I don’t know how to relax. Relaxing is defined by: being less tense, less anxious; basically to chill TF out. By being on vacation, I suppose I do embody a sense of relaxation but not really. I’m always analyzing, always critiquing. Always making sure all the peoples are content enough; figuring out what we need to do next. Like, if I’m not paying attention to the schedule, who will? I had plenty of opportunities to relax on this vacation. Many moments were filled with sitting on the beach or poolside. Heck, I even had a 80 minute massage. But in those moments when one should relax, I felt even more overwhelmed with my thoughts. I had planned to read much more on this trip than I did but whenever I tried, my mind wandered. I couldn’t just lay down on the beach and do nothing because my brain was racing, I felt like I needed to be in the water. Laying still was too much work. How does that make sense? Even during my massage, I couldn’t help but wish I had a pen and paper to write down everything zooming by from one side to another in my head. How does one turn that all off and relax?
  • Waikiki/Oahu was a little more slummy than I expected. Before your mouth drops to the ground, here me out. Oahu is BEAUTIFUL. The sand and the water; the blues and all the other colors; the vibe and the air.. it’s legit beautiful AF. I just hadn’t mentally prepared to witness the level of homelessness that we’d seen. There are a lot more areas than I’m used to seeing that are run-down and not maintained. Entire communities with garbage laying around living in generalized filth; homeless community tents neighboring elementary schools, etc. But it’s everywhere else too, not just here. Every community in every state or country on most every continent will have this; it’s not new. It was just a bit more in your face than anywhere I’ve ever been. I should mention though, that I didn’t feel unsafe at all at any point. I think those that are homeless here are homeless by choice. The weather is beautiful year-round, tourists throw unused goods in the trash like it grows on trees; what is there to lose?
  • My dad and I aren’t suitable travel companions. Nope, we most certainly are not. When our day was planned to the minute, I was too structured and when I said we can do whatever for the next few hours, I was too nonchalant. There was no winning. This trip, I was sure was a perfect combo of planned and spontaneous. I had a handful of things planned for specific days and then other days were full of free-will opportunities and ideas galore. It probably would have been perfect for me and my mom but throwing my dad into the mixture just didn’t work. We made due though and we survived.
  • Love is complicated and relationships aren’t easy. Of course I already know this. I have my own complicated history in this department. But one thing I’ve always protected and never really taken time to analyze is that my parents love is complicated and their relationship isn’t easy. I think I’ve always held my parents up on this pedestal (and still do). They’ve been married for over 30 years and I’m well aware that it hasn’t been an easy 30+ years. We weren’t sheltered in our upbringing; we knew when tough times were a’ brewin’. But, they figured out how to make it work and I’m grateful for that. While it’s hard to admit, my parents as individuals are both flawed and they bring that into their relationship, just like the rest of us. What is wonderful though, is how they have figured out a way to still love each other during and through various ups and downs. On this trip, I observed my dad in a way that I’d never before, a way that I didn’t like; because it was something that seemed so familiar to me from my past. And I watched how my mom handled it. They know how to work through anything, it seems, as individuals and as a team. After all these years, they still love each other without an asterisks. And that, my friends, is love worth fighting for.
  • My mom is a saint. Yeah, she is. See the previous point for some context but besides that, she’s just way more chill than I’ll ever be. My dad can’t always control his emotions and I’m admittingly a bit high strung. But my mom is like, so cool. She doesn’t (or doesn’t seem to) hold grudges. When it’s time to do something or try something new, she’s down to do it. When I’m crying because I’m afraid I’m making things more difficult than they should be, she assures me that I am not. Saint Julie, she is.
  • My dad is hilarious. Like, he’s the kind of funny where he doesn’t even realize how humorous he is. When he does pull out his dad joke-esque one-liners, they are gold but what’s even better is when he’s not aware of it. I wish he could see himself the way I do. For examples of his classics, refer back to posts earlier this week or follow the hashtag #shitdadsays on Twitter.
  • There are far too many rich people/celebrities in Hawaii. We passed many homes of those that make more money than I could ever imagine in a life time. Bette Midler, Jackie Chan, and Carol Burnett to name a few. Did you know Bill Gates (and others) own entire blocks of real estate? Not necessary, my guy. Not necessary.
  • God is so good. I didn’t make as much of a point to do my daily devos as I had planned but I did manage to get in a few Elevation podcasts on the flight home and started reading a book a dear friend suggested called Not Safe by Mark Batterson. Outside of that, I found myself being a bit more deliberate with everything I saw and photographed on this trip. I had a few moments of solitude where I was just like 1. Is this my real life? and 2. Holy crap, God is an artist. While my parents took a break to rest, I meandered down the beach one day and walked to the end of a jetty-type thing that divided the shallow calm beach with the loud Pacific Ocean. As I stood at the end very end, all alone, I just let the waves hit me; let the salty water brush my arms. I admired how perfect the waves were. Sailboats dotted the horizon and I imagined whales and dolphins alike swimming beneath my favorite color of blue. How did He imagine all of this to reality? In my wildest dreams, I don’t think I could have.

Okay, that is all. Mahalo for reading!

Day 7/8: A hui hou, Hawaii!

Today. Yesterday? I’ve been awake the better part of 24 hours but I suppose it’s technically yesterday.. Anyway, my mom and I began our last few hours in Hawaii with massages as per a standing tradition we have.

If my dad tells this story, I’m sure it’ll make you laugh. He tells a tale of us coming back to the hotel room crawling on our knees because we were in so much pain. Supes dramatic but not totally wrong, lol.

I can only speak for myself, but I don’t get massages often and I made the mistake of telling the massage therapist that my lower back has been hurting so she mainly focused on that region of my body with some heavy deep tissue work. This hurt in the moment and yes, I felt like the hobbily old witch from Hansel & Gretel for about an hour afterwards, but I feel much better now.

If I can just make getting massages more of a habit than a once a year thing, I might get better results and loosen up my apparently really really tight hips. Our girl Shakira was right, hips don’t lie. HA. That joke was gold.

We hit up one more beach side restaurant recommendation at a place called Lulu’s Waikiki where the tables are tall in the chairs are short; the perfect combination if you ask me. This was one of my favorite places we’d been to and the aesthetic was really cool. Filled with all the nautical things of times passed like blue glass fishing buoys as lights, shipwrecked paddles on the walls, and old hand carved surfboards; it felt like a library I’ve always dreamt about having but in restaurant form.

Our flight wasn’t until 7:00 p.m. last night but that came and went quickly. We met a family from Louisville, KY and they were fun to listen to. The daughter/father combo made me laugh because it reminded me so much of some of the conversations my dad and I have had over the last week.

My brother and his fiance picked us up from the airport around noon today and we met up with my youngest brother at Sanford Hospital this afternoon to visit my grandma and uncle for a bit.

And I think that officially concludes my vacation.

One of my favorite parts about all of the traveling that I’ve done is to do a little reflection post-trip and put together a “What I’ve Learned” post. I plan to put that post together sometime this week but for now this is we’re I’ll leave you. Hawaii is so beautiful, you guys. My absolute favorite parts were snorkeling for the first time and just being by the water, feeling the warm sand between my toes. And the trees! Omg, the trees! A hui hou, Hawaii. Until we meet again.

Day 6: All the suns; screens, rays, and sets.

It’s Thursday and our last full day along latitude 21. I don’t expect I’ll have much to show as we decided to take an alternative route to the itinerary.

I originally had us tentatively down to enjoy the hop on/hop off trolley one last day; perhaps hitting up Pearl Harbor and making another stop at Hanauma Bay. But, we opted for a day filled with sunscreen and rays close by instead.

I know Pearl Harbor came highly recommended, almost to a sickening degree (sorry!), but it was one of the things I was least interested in visiting so I’m not going to lose sleep over it. The trolley system got old quick and it really is a time-suck when your time on vacation is limited.

With that being said, we indulged in breakfast at the Longboard Club, a perk of our resort, and then made our way to the Swell Pool and Lounge that is ‘Alohani. What a sight. I took a few photos but the area is so vast, it simply cannot be captured in a Galaxy S10+ shot.

Post a chilly dip in the saltwater infinity pool and a couple of chapters in the book I’m reading, my mom and I headed to the beach to dip our toes one last time in the Hawaiian sands before heading home tomorrow.

And what better way to end a once in a lifetime vacation in the Aloha State than watching the sun set on a catamaran surrounded by nothing but the sails and waves. I gave my parents some space on this last full evening here and spent some time reflecting on my own while we sailed away from the shore into the Pacific. The music the captain played was sad but I’m sure they meant for it to be romantic. It gave me a sense of how much more lonely I feel when surrounded by people but I did my best not to let myself stay in that funk/mindset.

And here is today’s funny:
Dad: Have you tried the buffet yet?
Mom: The buffet?
Dad: In the bathroom. The pa-tay.
Mom: The bidet? No, I think it’s weird.
Dad: I haven’t tried it either.

Day 5: Just hang loose. Just have fun.

I love the spirit that people have here. I know that a lot of the people we’ve interacted with are in the service industry and it’s their job to greet us with a warm and meaningful “Aloha” but I really think it’s genuine. And I can relate to it in ways I don’t get to on a daily basis.

Where I come from, people are groggy in the morning. Half of them don’t even make eye contact until a second cup of coffee or a meeting scheduled for mid-morning. A lot of people, myself included, get into the hum-drum “another day, another dollar” mantra as if we’re zombies getting ready to work ourselves into the ground.

It’s different here though. And I love it.

If I really think about it, everywhere I’ve traveled to seems to be like this. So is it us, the office job peeps that can’t hang loose? Or is it our location? Maybe where I really need to settle down is a destination/tourist location. Or somewhere with more sunshine.

We arrived at Pier 8 this morning for an early bird whale watch excursion. Spoiler Alert: While we saw a handful of blows (wet air expelled through the blowhole), we only spotted one instance of fluking (tail above water as it begins a deep dive). But you know what? That’s still really fricking cool.

My mom has been asking to go whale watching since before we went to Ireland and I was finally able to deliver. The Star of Honolulu brought us out to sea this morning. I was expecting a 50 passenger medium sized boat today, something similar to the cruises I’ve been on while visiting Duluth but this behemoth was four floors tall and held up to 1500 passengers. WUT.

The ride was smooth and the ocean was as beautiful as ever. I hope I’ll get the chance to search for whales again someday but until then, I’ll always remember the tail at a distance that I did get a glimpse of.

This evening was filled with another first; a luau! Our tour guide turned luau dude introduced himself as Cousin Greg. He is a humorous man and a proud Hawaiian filled with tales of tradition and heritage. Cousin Greg taught us a handful of Hawaiian words like “malahini” and “ohana” on our 15-minute aka 65-minute drive to Germaine’s Luau.

It probably goes without saying but attending a luau is a must on your priority list if you’re visiting Hawaii. Even if you’ve been to one before, it’s a repeat adventure that’ll never get old.

We watched Cousin Greg and another man pull the Kalua pig out of the imu, an underground oven. They make a ceremony out of each part of the luau and it’s just mesmerizing.

After hoisting the pig out following it’s 10+ hour cook-time, we were invited to indulge in signature cocktails while dinner was prepared featuring Hawaiian staples like poi and fensi. We were seated in rows of picnic tables vertically facing the stage and the event was just as picturesque as everything else I’ve encountered in my time here. The venue is perfectly placed on a white sand beach with draping palm trees and we enjoyed the sunset as the hosts began MC’ing the show.

The staff and hospitality was superb, the experience was authentic, and the food was ono (delicious)! While I feel like I have to see much more of the world before I return to places I’ve already been to, I really cannot wait until I make it back to Hawaii and more specifically, Germaine’s.

On the way home, Cousin Greg taught us his favorite Hawaiian song, “Just Hang Loose.” I’ve linked it here for those of you needing a little sunshine in song form this fine February evening.

Day 4: Today, an auntie showed me how to make a flower head lei.

For those of you here for photos only, you’re in luck. I hope to give context to most of these at a later date. But for now, enjoy the beautiful ocean blues and serene green that is Hawai’i. 😌👌⛩⛩🍍

And here is today’s funny:
Dad: I need to find some clothes to wear.
Mom: You can go across the street to find something.
Dad: Across the street?
Mom: Yeah, like Gucci or Prada or whatever.

Day 3: Sun soaked hair and salty skin.

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay was incredible. The end. 🙂

Our driver was a dude by the name of Zak. He said we looked like snorkelers when he picked us up and then told us it was the most perfect day to go but I’m sure he tells everyone that because he told everyone he picked up that they look like snorkelers. Classic, Zak. In my three days here, I can’t imagine a day that is anything different than what we’ve witnessed. But it really was the perfect day especially for beginners like us.

The short hike leading up to Hanauma Bay was exactly like you’d see in a postcard. The varying blues of the Pacific Ocean creeped into the crater that is the bay, the breeze was light, and the palm trees soared.

As a member of the first-timer snorkeling club, I thought I had it figured out. Just breathe. Funny because it’s like I forgot how. The water was only waist deep and I know how to swim, yet I keep psyching myself out when it was time to go under. After mustering up enough courage and a mouthful or two of salty water, I finally got the hang of it. Though, I was initially breathing like I was about to give birth. What is wrong with me?!

While I wish I had an underwater camera to share photos of the colors I saw and schools of fish I floated by today, I didnt. But I think going without made it all that much more sweet; a memory all my own. It was so peaceful watching gorgeous shimmery rainbow fish feed on the coral and tiny white with black speckle fish swim over my arms as I lay still in the water. You guys, I even found Dory! She was just a cute as the cartoon and was the only one of her kind among these medium-sized orange, yellow, and royal blue fish. What an experience and I cant wait to go again!

After a brief break to change and relax from a morning of flippering around (get it?), we hit up the Iolani Palace. Iolani Palace is the only royal residence in the entire country and was last lived in by Queen Liliuokalani in 1893 before the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown.

While meticulously restored to it’s original condition from the times of past queens and kings, the palace was a tish underwhelming. Only a handful of rooms and nooks contained furniture while other areas were completely empty. The design of the palace was incredible though with rooms inside of rooms and I spotted triangular shaped crannies in roped off areas. More of the palace seems to be off limits than on but whatevs, I’m sure there is a reason for it. The tour was self-guided via an audio device and if one wanted to spend a couple of hours there to bury themselves in the history, they might have left with a more fulfilling experience. 6/10 recommend.

Iolani Palace is behind the open air Hawaii State Capital building. I think this may have been my first state capital building visit, I haven’t even visited my home state of Minnesota’s building. Shame on me.

My initial thought walking through this area was that Hawaii must be an architect’s dream. To not have to really worry about the elements and just let your imagination run wild dreaming new designs.

Entering the State Capital building didn’t happen through a door, it’s just there. You are all of a sudden inside. Seeing the doors for the Senate and House of Representatives surrounded by a moat-like feature with families of ducks floating throughout and a roof in the shape of a volcanic cone open to the sky.. you’re just in it.

Quotes that made me laugh today:
“When is the Pineapple Palace?” -Dad
“We haven’t had breakfast all week!” – Dad (P.S. Yes, we have. Lol, dad.)
“Those are my tan seeds.” – Mom in reference to her shoulder freckles.

Day 2: Aloha from O’ahu!

Uff, I’m tired. But the good kind, you know? We all woke up pre-alarms today. I don’t know how rare it is for my parents to do that but it never happens for me. So I feel like a warrior.

After getting ready and my dad rolling his eyes because I needed to at least put mascara on (I have the classic see-through ginger lashes. Trust me, I’m saving us all by wearing a little ‘scara), we made our way to breakfast. Have you ever been to a continental that has french toast?! Me either! Also, I don’t know if it’s my vaca brain or Hawaii but the fruit here is some of the best I’ve ever had. So so fresh.

Today was one of my kinda, sorta, wing it days. They usually go just fine and this one definitely did but I still feel uneasy not having each day totally planned out. I can’t help but think there is time being wasted. But whatevs, I’m trying to get in touch with the islands “hang loose” pace.

After a 20 minute walk along Luxary Row aka the places I’ll never shop at #GUCCI, we hopped aboard the Red Line of Waikiki Trolley and made our way to the Foster Botanical Garden.

One of the first plants I came across was the Queen Emma flower and how perfectly fitting because my niece Emma is as beautiful inside and out as this flower and garden. This was a pretty sweet place and we spent about an hour looking at all of the lush green plants taller than we were and admiring the twisty trees. Two of my favorite were a Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree and the Quipo Tree. Google ’em.

Along the route is a butterfly sancuary with, what seems to be, a solitaire monarch. I don’t know where the others were but the Sioux Falls Butterfly House has these guys beat.

Between looking up at trees as if they were sky rises in a big city and tracking down Monte the Monarch, I did have a mini panic attack thinking I’d lost my wallet. While I stopped for water, I noticed my bag was unzipped and let me tell you, for not being a runner, I retraced my steps and made my way back to the entry in 3 minutes flat after having zigzagged and meandered for nearly 45 minutes. I ended up tracking it down in another area of my bag and may have wept tears of blessings. I had legit questioned if a monkey was lurking in the trees and unzipping peoples bags.

While we waited for our trolley to pick us up, we had an opportunity to peek at the Kuan Yin Temple next door to the garden. A kind face invited my dad and me in while my mom relaxed on a nearby bench but we decided to hang out outside, I didnt want to disturb the peaceful gathering with our tourist shades on.

As we waited a bit longer, we listened to the chanting during thier service. Buddhism has always fascinated me, the same way Christianity does. Bodhi, my cat, is named after a Buddhist term meaning knowledge or enlightenment and I have an array of Buddha’s and singing bowls in my home. I’ve always associated Buddhism with peace and meditation. I hope I’m not far off or offensive in that assumption but I’ll add it to my long list of religions to learn more about.

The trolley brought us through Chinatown which is one of the oldest in the nation, though, quite small. The driver told us that that Chinese love to gamble and congregate in areas along a man-made canal even though it’s illegal in Hawaii.

We later drove past an incredible art district for what seemed like blocks and blocks and blocks. The driver didn’t make much reference to it or the history of the area but it was near the SALT Shopping Center in case you find yourself in these parts. I’ll have to sort through my photos and dedicate an entire post to the beautiful murals we passed.

We ended our day walking along and sunbathing on the sands of Waikiki Beach. We managed to find a less crowded area a ways down by a jetty. Locals gathered singing a capella in the background, played fetch with pups, and jumped from the landing, ignoring the signs that say otherwise. “YOLO”, I heard someone say.
Waikiki Beach is as crowded and filled with as much homelessness as people say but it doesn’t give you a weird vibe. It seems to be a chosen way of life verses back home.

I ventured off a bit on my own down the jetty’s narrow path to feel the waves of the Pacific crash into me away from the busyness of the beach. It was exhilarating. And salty.

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped to listen to another street artist by the name of Michael Zanderigo sing I Want To Hold Your Hand and Hallelujah while we ate the most flavorful shaved ice I’ve ever had.

Well, it’s just after 9:00 p.m. here and my parents are already sleeping. Snorkeling tomorrow bright and early! Mahalo for reading.

Day 1: Planes, Trains and Automobibles

And, how has my dad never worn a backpack?

The title of this post is courtesy of my mom mid-ride through the Skylink Light Rail in the DFW airport. We were shuttled at 4:30. a.m. by my loving (and I’m sure tired) brother, flew dang near straight south to Dallas, and then found ourselves on this bubble light rail thing. Later in the day, we’d fly again, Uber, and Trolley it up. The only thing we missed in this 12-hour window was a boat ride.

According to a quick Google search (because I can sometimes be an uncultured millenial never having seen the movie), the characters Steve Martin and John Candy play in PT&A find each other extremely annoying and somehow, they must overcome the insanity of traveling together to reach their intended destination, or goal.

Boy does that sound super familiar today.

To say today went off without a hitch would be a quite the lie. I mean, technically it did but I didn’t factor in #moods. Planner fail. I am by no means an expert at travel, I don’t think anyone can be really; there are too many variables. However, because I do all the research and want to know all the possible things, that does help me to be a better traveler. I don’t get flustered easily, I can roll with the punches, or gate changes or the lack of signage in an airport I’ve never been in and I can figure it out. I’m not afraid to ask random people questions if I’m feeling out of sorts and I don’t embarrass easily.

As expected, our travel day was a bit tense. My mom has never been a fan of airports and my dad has never really been on vacation. He’s not accustomed to the “go, go, go!” nature that it can sometimes entail. Today was filled with a few bumps trying to navigate the change of pace, the weather, and the scenery but after a trip around the Pink Line on the Waikiki Trolley, a taste of the sweet Pacific Ocean between our toes, and a street band performance by a girl no older than 12 belting out some song I’ve never heard of with killer chords, I’m hoping my parents can see the silver lining in the lucky lucky lives we have been blessed with.

I’m excited to see where this week takes us and how it’ll impact my parents view of traveling together in the future. For the sake of our sanity, I hope they breathe in the chill-vibe air here. Channeling all the “ohms” I can muster rn. 😌👌

A hui hou (until we meet again).

Pre-Trip Feels.

It’s the eve before my next big adventure and I’m sitting in an empty nail salon getting a deluxe pedicure sipping complimentary water, but I’m pretending it’s a glass of sweet wine. This is the life.

I leave for Hawaii in less than 24 hours, our flight is scheduled for a 6:15 a.m. departure from Hector International. Good luck self in getting up on time. Though, I do feel like a little kid at Christmas. I’m sure I’ll be up before my alarm patiently waiting for my brother and parents to pick me up before the 5 o’clock hour.

All of my trips are special for differnt reasons but this one is dedicated to my dad. I’m not sure he’s ever really been on a proper vacation outside of weekend getaways throughout his adult life. I remember hearing a tale of a Mount Rushmore road trip in his youth with my grandparents but that was more decades ago than I am old. It’s time to venture out, pops.

My dad turns 60 this year, in October. Two years ago on his birthday, our family surprised him by telling him he was going to make it to Hawaii before his 60th birthday. I doubt he believed us and I’ll never forget his face when we told him.

See, he’s a truck driver. He’s been everywhere, man. Literally. Every state, including parts of Canada. He’s just missing The Aloha State, until now. I know he’s nervous, I’m certain I inherited my anxious tendencies from my father. But I know he’s super amped too. I anticipate “travel day” will be a bit stressful and draining for him and/or my mom but “hello sunshine!” and all the transportation woes will be a thing of the past!

Well, it’s time for my sugar scrub and 10-min leg massage. This is my favorite part of pedis so I’m going to leave you here while I try find inner peace for a moment or two. Have you treated yourself to some kind of self-care lately? If not, get on it girl! Or guy or dude or whatevs.

P.S. I had planned on ending my post above but I need to shamelessly plug Fantasy Nails on South 45th. I usually bounce from place to place for pedis but I’ve finally found the best one in all of Fargo. These guys are legit. The Deluxe Pedi (middle package) included all the usuals like a sugar scrub, paraffin wax, and hot towels but I had 2 hot towel sessions, an amazing cooling gel treatment, and not one but three 5-10 minute massages. While the wax was doing it’s thang, he stepped away for about 15 minutes and I was in a peacefully bliss quiet oasis of massage chair and meditation. Check it out and ask for Hersley (phonetically spelled, unsure of it’s accuracy, lol). A Deluxe Pedi is $40 for regular polish and $55 for gel. 👌

Lastly, here’s our typical night before, Bodhi-thinks-he’s-coming-with photo. One day, bud.