One time around the world.
That was our dream after graduation or between two jobs and we fulfilled it two years ago. Admittedly, since we only had three months of time this trip around the world had to be done quite quickly.
But as crazy as we drove ourselves during the weeks of planning - should we still do this or that, can we skip this or that? Looking back, we are very happy with our experience. Same as in life, when planning a trip, It's about making decisions first. And then, secondly, making the best of them. Yes, research and recommendations help a lot. But how can you know how it will feel to be somewhere you've never been before? So travelling to the unknown requires not only courage (and the necessary budget, no question) but also a certain relaxation, 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 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 destination was certain for both of us, which was New Zealand. After a wonderful trip to Japan two years earlier, I wanted to get to know another side of Asia. Southeast Asia was obvious of course since so many planes from New Zealand fly to Europe via Bangkok.
What wasn't on our bucket list: Hawaii. Sure, we had a few images in our heads when we thought of Hawaii. But until then, we never expressed the desire to be there.
A good friend of ours has been a flight attendant for many years, she has been everywhere and warmly recommended this "short stopover" to us. If we wanted to go to New Zealand anyway, why not just go to the USA and then visit Asia on the way back?
So, yeah, why not?
So Hawaii was not a dream that we have had for years. But, spoiler, it is 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 burned themselves into our minds deeply. The islands in the Pacifics 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, travelling is out of the question at the moment. For almost a year, we haven't even visited our friends in other cities for a weekend. Corona affects so many areas of our lives and is a huge challenge socially. It is not good for anyone but we are comparatively doing okay. The fact that we're not travelling the world at the moment is a sacrifice that doesn't hurt so much considering the real problems many other people have.
At the moment, however, I often have colourful 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 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 around the world, always westward, eventually looked like this: First we are in California for a week. We travel to San Franciso, then we move (cheaper but also cool) into an Airbnb in Oakland and explore the Bay Area from there.
Then we fly to Hawaii, where we have about two weeks before we get to know New Zealand for six weeks afterwards. Here, we first work for a few days on the North Island. We spend the rest of the time with a borrowed camper on the South Island. The end of our trip will be a four-week stay in Thailand and Cambodia.
I'm happy to take you along on our "why-not" Hawaii stopover now.
Even though the Hawaii experience starts a bit in San Francisco already:
During a walk around the marina and fort, we happen to stumble upon some kind of street or harbour festival. Hawaiian chants are all around us, people wear flower necklaces, many of them are Hawaiians. We could not quite find out the reason for the celebration. 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 by the friendly atmosphere and somehow we already feel a certain Hawaiian spirit here. And just like that, by chance, in the middle of a Californian city, we are already getting in the mood for the next destination of our trip. Hawaii - in a few days we would be there ourselves.
We are in Hawaii for two weeks, the most remote spot in the world. Geographically speaking. No other group of islands is so far away from the mainland. It's about 4,000 kilometres to California (so the flight there, even from San Francisco, wasn't a quick one), and about 6,000 kilometres to Japan.
Due to the "proximity" to Japan, we can enjoy the culinary side at least. The further north we fly to visit the three largest islands Big Island (Hawaii), Maui and O'ahu, the more touristy it gets. Honolulu with its dream beach Waikiki gets the crown of the hustle and bustle but it is also very 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 just the open, un-covered airport greets us friendly. If it could speak, it 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 additional insurance, no one is stressed. Who tends to cynicism could be scared here already, after five hours of flight over nothing but water, to have landed in a cliché. But no, we flow 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 colourful garden of the house, between pineapple plants and beautiful geckos with turquoise eye shadow.In the evening, we drink red wine together in the moonlight and look at such a uniquely clear night sky.
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 it lush green and gentle. And in other places, it is lava-black, rocky and steaming.
That's probably what fascinated us the most: the diversity.
And, what is so super exciting about it: the island is constantly changing. This is due to the active volcano Kilauea. It ensures that the island grows every year. We are there in 2018, a few months after an eruption of the Kilauea. Locals 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, and it was even possible to observe how whales suddenly swam new paths.
We hike a lot on Big Island. That often means that we first have to cover a few miles by car because of the size of the island. 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 for strength. We liked the following destinations especially, 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 shaking knees also back up again
For us as beginners, snorkelling in Honaunau Bay is perfect. It is just under an hour south of Kona. The English name Two Steps also reveals why: In many spots, entering the water is quite easy. One rock is shaped like two steps, this is where it is particularly easy. We always stay near the reef and even without diving deep, we still get a good impression of the beautiful, colourful Hawaiian underwater world.
We often go to the Magic Sands Beach, a few miles south of Kona, for bodyboarding. Our Airbnb is very close and the bay is just beautiful for fun in the water. Especially towards the afternoon and in the slowly setting sun.
Such wide and white beaches as we discover a week later on Maui are not to be found on Big Island. But super interesting ones like the Punalu'u Beach (also called Turtle Beach) with itsblack sand (due to volcanic rock) - and yes, with turtles. We have our first encounter with the famous green sea turtles here.
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 cooking a great vegetarian Loco Mono herself. We try out various bars and restaurants in and around Kona, which is also known for its coffee. And we like the local Kona beer - all four kinds.
Maui: Picture book days
After about a week, we fly to Maui. The flight in a propeller plane for eight passengers is already an experience on its own. True, it only lasts 30 minutes, but it is really fun and allows us to see a lovely 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 full of surfers, young people, shopping and good food.
We are a little more to ourselves in our accommodation this time. We only get to know our host because we need help to start our rental car one day. So we are on the road with less insider knowledge than on Big Island for the next few days. But tips from travel guides & www.hawaiiurlaub.de lead us to great places and only a few were unpleasantly crowded.
We also drive the Road to Hana, of course, swim under waterfalls and eat all day long from stalls along the road to Hana, with a short stop at 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. You either 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.
We drive to many breathtaking beaches of the island in the next few days, which are not a secret tip either, eat Poké and let ourselves drift. After full excursion days, we often go to the Ho'okipa Beach Park a little north of Paia and watch the surfers and turtles in the sunset.
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 it is worth all the effort. Certainly, not an inside tip either. Tourists are accompanied by Hawaiian singing as soon as the very first rays of sunlight can be seen from the viewing platform. The moment remains very atmospheric for us, despite the many other people!
O'ahu: Excitingly different
To continue our journey to New Zealand (with a stopover on Hihi), we have to leave from the Honolulu International Airport. This is why 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 Big Island, where we encountered other tourists much less frequently, is enormous. But also exciting. Since we are here without a rental car, we go out for Japanese food and take shorter hikes from the hotel.
Very, very fun but also challenging for us was the stand-up paddling at Waikiki Beach,where waves keep throwing us into the water.
The journey continues
We continue our journey from O'ahu. We cross the International Date Line and the equator to land in New Zealand. 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