Once around the world.
That was our dream after graduation or between two jobs, which we fulfilled a good two years ago. Admittedly, since we only Three months time had, this trip around the world had to be done on the fly.
But as crazy as we made ourselves during the weeks of planning - shouldn't we still take this or that, can we really skip this or that? - that's how satisfied we are with our experience in retrospect. Like somehow always in life it goes nevertheless also with the Planning a trip It's about making decisions first. And then, secondly, making the best of them. Yes, research helps and recommendations help a lot. But how can you know beforehand how it will feel to be somewhere you've never been? So traveling into the unknown requires not only courage (and the necessary budget, no question), but also a certain looseness, openness, curiosity. At least that's how I feel: when I'm in a new country, I try to let go. Less comparing, less judging, but - as best as the limited time allows - to immerse myself in the foreign country with all my senses.
But back to the inevitable planning of our not so abundant and therefore so precious time. One goal was fixed for both of us, that was New Zealand. After a wonderful trip to Japan two years earlier, I again wanted to get to know another side of Asia. Southeast Asia was of course obvious, since so many flights from New Zealand back to Europe go via Bangkok.
What was not on our bucket list: Hawaii. Sure, we too had a few images in our heads when we thought of Hawaii. But until then, we never had the expressed desire to be there.
A good friend of ours has been a flight attendant for many years and has been everywhere and has warmly recommended this "short stopover" to us. If we wanted to go to New Zealand anyway, why not just go west, to the USA, and then visit Asia on the way back?
So, yeah, why not?
So Hawaii was not a dream that lasted for years. But, spoiler, Hawaii is where we still often dream ourselves back to today. That sounds pretty cheesy, I know. But a lot of Hawaii memories, even very small ones, have just burrowed into both of us pretty deeply. The group of islands in the Pacific really did it for us.
Wanderlust in Corona times
By the way: I'm writing this text in 2021 in the middle of the second Corona lockdown. Of course, traveling is out of the question at the moment; for almost a year, we haven't even visited girlfriends in other cities for a longer weekend. Corona time affects so many areas of our lives and is a huge challenge socially. It does no one any good, but we are comparatively okay with it. The fact that we're not traveling the world at the moment is a sacrifice that doesn't hurt so much considering the many real problems many other people have.
At the moment, however, I often have colorful flashbacks to the most beautiful experiences I've had around the world in recent years. What a privilege! I am very grateful for that. Little friendly thoughts that pop up unexpectedly: the memory of the birds chirping on Big Island or the taste of pineapple freshly harvested from the garden are among them. I also think about the great landscapes of New Zealand or schnapps evenings with strangers in Prague much more often at the moment than I used to.
Our journey once Around-the-World, always westward, looked in the end like this: First we are in California for a week. First in San Franciso, then we move (cheaper, but also cool) into an Airbnb in Oakland and explore the Bay Area from here.
Then it's on to Hawaii, where we good two weeks time to get to know New Zealand for six weeks afterwards. Here we first work a few days on the North Island, the rest of the time we spend with a borrowed camper on the South Island. The end of our trip will be four weeks in Thailand and Cambodia.
I'm happy to take you along on our "why-not" Hawaii stopover now.
Whereby the Hawaii experience also starts a bit in San Francisco:
During a walk around the marina and fort, we happen to stumble upon some kind of street or harbor festival. Hawaiian chants resound around us, people wear flower necklaces, many of them Hawaiians. The reason for the celebration we could not quite find out, it is probably about a sailing ship that starts from Hawaii, arrives on this day in San Francisco and is greeted cheerfully. We are fascinated above all by the friendly atmosphere and somehow we already feel a certain Hawaiian spirit here. And so, by chance, in the middle of a Californian metropolis, we are already getting in the mood for the next destination of our trip. Hawaii, in a few days we would be there ourselves.
Two weeks we are in Hawaii, the most remote spot in the world. Geographically speaking. Because no other group of islands is so far away from the mainland. It's about 4,000 kilometers to California (so the flight there, even from San Francisco, wasn't a quick hop over), and about 6,000 kilometers to Japan.
The "proximity" to Japan we can enjoy at least culinary. The further north we fly to visit the three largest islands Big Island (Hawaii), Maui and O'ahu, the more touristy it gets. And yes, with each island it also becomes more touristy - Honolulu with its dream beach Waikiki becomes the hustle and bustle crowning - but also wicked beautiful! We are not alone on unknown paths, no. But especially on Big Island it is pleasantly relaxed. This is where our Hawaii trip begins.
Big Island: The changing island
On Big Island we get to know Hawaii. We land in Kona and already the open, un-covered airport greets us friendly. If he could speak, he would probably say something like: "So, this is Hawaii, this is relaxation, this is vacation. Hang loose!". Even the car rental here is straightforward and relaxed. No one tries to sell us an additional insurance, no one is stressed. Who tends to cynicism could fear here already, after five hours flight over nothing but water, to have landed in a cliché. But no, we let ourselves go with it, we want it that way now. That will do us good.
Not so far from the airport, a little south of the city of Kona, we move into our Airbnb, which would be worth its own article. Our host's name is Megan, she is a mainland American and made a conscious decision to live on this island many years ago. We all live together under one roof, so Megan is always a good contact for us. In the morning we practice yoga together in the colorful garden of the house, between Pineapple plants and beautiful geckos with turquoise eye shadowIn the evening we drink red wine together in the moonlight and look at such a clear starry sky, as you can admire it almost only here in Hawaii.
We are looking forward to everything that is coming. On Big Island, we go on excursions with our rental car every day and explore this really big, insanely interesting island.
The volcanoes that form all the Hawaiian islands - active, however, only on Big Island - make them both lush green and gentle. And in other places lava-black, rocky and steaming.
That's probably what fascinated us the most: this diversity.
And, what is so super exciting about it: the island is constantly changing. This is due to the active volcano Kilauea. The ensures that the island grows every year. We are there in 2018, few months after an eruption of the Kilaueas. Residents from the eastern part of the island tell us how their homes were in danger during this time and how the eruption reshaped entire sections of the coast: beaches disappeared, new ones were created, it was possible to observe how whales suddenly swam new paths.
We hike a lot on Big Island. But that often means that we first have to cover a few miles in the car, because the island is big. Fortunately, driving, even for two or three hours, is not a bad thing in Hawaii. There is so much to see and the landscapes can change amazingly fast. In addition, there are always small sales booths where we can buy fresh fruit, juices or delicious banana bread can strengthen. We especially liked the following destinations, besides the trip to Kilauea National Park (where the earth is steaming and the crater platform, a few months after the last eruption, no longer exists):
- The hike to the Bay Captain Cook
- The more relaxed, short walk into the insanely beautiful Polulu Valley
- The very steep way down to the Waipio Valley - and with trembling knees also up again
For snorkeling is for us beginners the Honaunau Bay perfect, just under an hour south of Kona. The English name Two Steps also reveals why: In many places, entering the water is quite easy. One stone is shaped like two steps, here it goes in particularly well. We always stay near the reef and still get, even without diving deep, a good impression of the beautiful, colorful Hawaiian underwater world.
For bodyboarding we are often drawn to the Magic Sands Beach, a few miles south of Kona. Our Airbnb is very close and the bay is just beautiful for splashing around, especially in the afternoon and in the slowly setting sun.
As wide, white beaches as we discover a week later on Maui, there are not on Big Island. But super interesting ones like the Punalu'u Beach (also called: Turtle Beach) with its sblack sand (volcanic rock) - and yes, with turtles. Here we have our first encounter with the famous green sea turtles.
By the way, we don't get bored with the culinary side of things either. Fortunately, our host has plenty of recommendations when she is not conjuring up a great vegetarian Loco Mono herself. So we try out various bars restaurants in and around Kona, which is also known for its coffee. And we also really like the local Kona beer - all four kinds.
Maui: Picture book days
After about a week we fly on to Maui. And the flight there in the propeller plane for eight passengers is already an experience. True, it only lasts 30 minutes, but is really fun and allows us a nice last view of Big Island.
On Maui we look for an Airbnb in Paia, a small but very lively town in the north of the island. Paia is teeming with surfers, young people, shopping and good food.
In our accommodation it is more anonymous this time. We only get to know our host because on one day we need help to bridge our rental car. So with less insider knowledge than on Big Island we are on the road for the next days. But also the Tips from the guides & www.hawaiiurlaub.de lead us to great places and only a few of them we find unpleasantly crowded.
Of course we also drive the Road to Hana, swim here under waterfalls and chow our way for a whole day along the road to Hana, with a short detour to the Red Sand Beach - until I get a little nauseous on the way back. It's crowded on the road, no question. It's just a matter of luck which spots you can visit. Either you find a parking bay at the roadside - or not.
We have to drive past some spots that I would have liked to see. But even that is perfectly fine. The many booths and beautiful corners offer enough to make our day a very nice one.
On the other days we drive to the many breathtaking beaches of the island, which of course are also no secret tip, eat Poké and let ourselves drift. After such excursion days we then often go to the Ho'okipa Beach Park a little north of Paia and watch the surfers and turtles in the sunset.
In general: The sun, the moon, the early and later times of day in Hawaii enchant us. Whenever possible, we try to find special places for either sunrise or sunset - and there are plenty of them, if you just drive around a bit and ask around. The Sunrise on Haleakala volcano is intense, requires our patience and warm clothes, yet is worth all the effort. Certainly, not an insider tip either. On the contrary, tourists are accompanied by Hawaiian chants as soon as the very first rays of sunlight of the new day can be glimpsed from the viewing platform. The moment remains particularly atmospheric for us, despite the many other people!
O'ahu: Excitingly different
In order to continue to New Zealand (with a change of planes on Hihi) we have to leave the Honolulu International Airport fly. So we spend the last two or three days on O'ahu. We know that the other islands would have had a lot to offer and every experienced Hawaii vacationer recommends us to fly to Kauai. But as I said, we had to make decisions.
And I don't regret the few days in Honolulu. The contrast to the relaxed days on the Big Island, where we encountered other tourists much less frequently, is enormous. But also exciting. We go out for Japanese food, take smaller hikes from the hotel, since we are here without a rental car.
Very, very fun, but also challenging for us balance-banausen will be the stand-up paddling at the Waikiki Beachwhere the waves keep throwing us into the water.
The journey continues
From O'ahu, then, we continue our journey. We cross the International Date Line and the equator to land in the New Zealand spring. So we stay faithful to the Pacific, but from now on we have to shiver a bit or just have to deal with the warm up beautiful memories of Hawaii. Fortunately, there are plenty of them.
Photos & Video (c) Franziska Christ