(This blog is for my dear friend Shelly Sottile, my inspiration for more than just the words)
Keeping with my mission to travel and write I have a little story to share. But instead of being a new location or the sights and sounds of the destination, this tale might have a lesson or two interwoven in the tapestry. Playing off the theme of searching for a fictional story to use as my muse wasn’t easy. Looking for a movie to use as my motivation the possibilities were obvious as they also lead me to take the trip.
It all started on a Friday evening mindlessly flipping the channels and stumbling upon the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Those of you unfamiliar with this piece of cinema mayhem, Jason Segal’s character gets dumped and runs off to Hawaii only to discover his ex-girlfriend in the suite next door. Seeing the white beaches, palm trees and surf made me miss my favorite escape in the whole wide world, my happy place, Maui. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer back in March the one thing I promised myself was that come hell or high water I was going to Maui by the end of the year. So a blog titled Forgetting Breast Cancer became choice number one.
Then United sent me an email sharing the discounted fares to Hawaii. And the movie Something to Talk About popped in my head. A classic, Julia Roberts flick about a woman who is struggling with work, family and personal life trials and tribulations. Her sister played by Kyra Sedgwick has a line that resonated with my current mind set “do something, do something drastic”. Clicking the link and finding that the prices were truly discounted keep the idea on the top of my mind. “Do something, do something drastic”, the voice I kept hearing in my head as I pushed the “book” button on the United website Saturday morning. And let’s be honest, running off to Maui with two hours notice is definitely something to talk about?
And then I board the plane at LAX (six hours after booking the ticket) and one of the movies to view was Eat, Pray, Love. Which also (oddly enough) stars Julia Roberts. Her character struggling with all the ups and downs of life shares a line shortly into the movie that also hits a little too close to home.
“There is a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man that goes to church every day and prays before a statue of a great saint begging dear saint please, please, please let me win the lottery finally the expropriated statue comes to life and looks down at the begging man and says my son please, please, please buy a ticket so now I get the joke and I have three tickets.” Maybe a blog titled Eat, Pray, Maui, would be the ticket?
My friend Brandy always teases me what a big believer I am in signs. All three of the above references truly stood out as large directional arrows pointing me west. But the unplanned detour at the end of my August self-title blog came to me as I lay on the beach of Kapalua Bay. Looking up in the sky at the palm trees through blue sky, there was my answer, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. An epic tale circa 1963 about a groups of strangers who all revert their plans to chase a fortune to be found under the big W. Which spoiler alert was made out of palm trees. This movie has been one of my all time favorites and spurred my love of palm trees at an early age. And I was reverting my plans and searching for treasure.
So my mad, mad, mad, mad adventure began around 9:45am on Saturday, August 24, after a movie, email and life said “go for it”. Note, the key to feeling successful and at peace with the unexpected, was searching multiple travel sites at once. Meaning just because the plane ticket is cheap make sure you can find a reasonable place to lay your head at night. Somehow I managed to use all my favorite search engines and point making sites (serious time restraint) I walked away with an upgrade with miles, AAA discount on a condo and car rental deals, and all earning points.
I didn’t discount the “sign”, each time something fell into place with ease, I knew I was headed in the right direction. Packing was rushed but I managed to grab two wine skins and fill them with product, get my teas and honey in a bag, favorite beach towel and every bathing suit I owned shoved in a suitcase. So where is the travel advice for Maui? This post it is more of how not to do anything and find good “happy hours” than the adventure seekers guide to bliss.
Landing in the evening, wasn’t as big as challenge as I expected. Before long, I was checked in and safely tucked in bed. I woke up Sunday morning and truth be told it took me a few moments to realize I wasn’t in my cozy little home in Cardiff by the Sea. Morning tea with the view of a golf course and the ocean, is the perfect way to start the day. Expecting to feel panic of “what have I done”, surprisingly I instantly felt peace and bliss. Not an ounce of doubt or loneliness.
I threw on some clothes, brushes my teeth and headed out to get some staples for the condo. Once I parked, surveyed the little store and decided it would do for selection and price. Side note, things in Hawaii are expensive be prepared. Food for the most part is shipped from the main land, think about it people the supply chain cost money.
Next on the list was breakfast. The first and only low point of the trip was the discovery that my favorite restaurant the Pineapple Grill was closed. A moment of silence. But the nice girl at the Ritz spa suggested I try out Merrimans. And I was starving. Looking back on had not taken much time to eat on Saturday so there was a grumbling in my stomach.
A great piece of advice – Merrimans for breakfast. Hell, Merrimans for Happy Hour or Dinner too. First off you can’t beat the view. I dare you. Second the food is very farm to table and service is superb. The Happy Hour Mai Tai is only $9 and may be the best on the island if not the prettiest.
After breakfast I took a swim and then a much needed nap. And I mean a nap in the truest sense of the word. The only reason I even got up was that there was something I wanted to encounter that I could only do on Sunday at 4pm. What amazing Hawaiian culture ultra-only in Maui activity might that be? Lei making class, surf lessons, snorkeling with the turtles in the bay, nope … it was the pop up bar for Veuve Clicquot at the Cliff House.
Talk about a sign that I made the right choice. My favorite bubbles planted a tasting experience in the middle of Kapalua Bay? Add the opportunity to finally see the Cliff House, double win. Discovering inspiration in the decor and installation of the experience and sipping bubbles was one of the top five things I have ever done in Maui. Of course it got me thinking why don’t we create pop areas at the Fair for people to experience, hang out, and over brand ourselves. But that is for another blog.
Speaking of the Fair, I have been obsessed with creating a coffee exhibit so I took a few moments and emailed Ka’anapali Coffee Farms, in hope of a tour. Stopped by Sansei for sushi dinner, the Ritz Carlton for a night cap (Brandy’s request) and off to bed to watch the Golden Girls. For some cosmic reason it seems when I am in Maui the Golden Girls are on 24/7. Side note, one of the treats of staying in Kapalua Villas you get use of a free car service that takes you from place to place, no parking or worrying about over serving yourself!
Monday was a quiet day, but I did receive a response from the coffee farm and arranged a private tour for Tuesday. I took Nolan’s advice and tried something way out of my norm and signed up for a golf lesson. In between these activities I laid on the beach, swam in the ocean (my kids would be so proud), ate fish tacos and enjoyed every Happy Hour within my walking radius . My morning at the coffee farm wasn’t just educational, I connected with a fellow Cal Poly Mustang graduate only to discover many of the key players in the operation also share our alma mater. Most of my hours were either poolside, on the beach, or taking a nap, but here are a few new Hawaiian activities worth sharing.
Three Activities New to Me on Maui:
1 – Golf Lesson at Kapalua Golf Academy – Expensive, but if you enjoy the game and want a quality lesson with an amazing view, this is a must do Maui activity. Chris, my instructor, was equal parts fun and educational. He did manage to teach me a few things and improve my distance. I taught him the meaning of a “cocktail shot”, if you hit the ball perfectly you quit while you are ahead and have a cocktail. By the end of our hour, when I would hit the target, he would exclaim, “well that’s a cocktail shot.”
2 – Visit a Coffee Farm – Agriculture is my passion and learning the production cycle of any product thrills me beyond belief. From the fields to the tasting room in Lahaina, I have gained a new appreciation for the coffee cherry and its journey to your morning cup. Long story short, coffee is very much like wine, from growing, varietals, to what the roaster does to the bean, my fascination with the commodity has only increased.
3 – Actually Swim in the Ocean – Shocker I have never really swam in the ocean. I am more of a wade in waist deep and occasionally float kinda gal. But there was something calming on this trip, maybe lack of tourist in the water or the perfect temperature, but I just started swimming. A+ activity for the books.
Maui has been a staple in my world for the last 15 years. The fall of 2015 was the last time my toes touched the sand in the bay. Wondering if the lack of flying west in recent time was moving to the beach or change in my personal space. Like chasing a treasure under a secret marker, my big W will always be hanging over Kapalua.
My take aways on this adventure can’t be found in a guidebook. Sometimes you just have to say f$@k it and do something drastic. The contentment felt was unexpected. I never had a moment of remorse or loneliness, and that was a shock. Maybe my take on life has shifted over the past six months. Cancer is an ass kicker, no matter what stage or the course of action, the unknown and lack of control will try your patience. Reflecting how I view and react to things have changed so much. Don’t get me wrong I still have my moments but the overall outlook is I can only handle me. I can’t change anyone else. If I don’t care for the energy in the room or a conversation, I have the ability to pack my bags and head west (so to speak).
There are turtles that live in Kapalua Bay. They have to deal with the tourist gawking at them, but otherwise I think they have a pretty good take on life. They don’t have to worry about time commitments, financial worries, or doctor appointments, they just let the sun of the day roll off their back. Being more like a turtle, with a slower paced, less worrisome approach to life isn’t such a bad idea. Or maybe the secret to their bless is they get to live under the big W of Kapalua Bay?