October 30, 2019
When I first went to the state of Hawaii, it was to stay on the island of Maui. It was my first trip away from the U.S. mainland and it was exotic in so many ways. The people were incredibly friendly and the lush landscape was a real contrast to my home.
I was in my early 20s, living in Washington D.C., and I was questioning what I wanted out of life. My job working for a senator had just evaporated when he decided not to run for reelection. I had left my job at the Baron Report, a political newsletter, to work for this politician. Call it youthful pride; I did not want to go back to my old boss and say I had made a mistake by leaving.
My second job at a steakhouse, bartending, was not inspiring me, either. I was sick of slinging drinks because I didn’t consider it professional enough for my educational background. Again, call it youthful pride.
I quit the restaurant with no job offer in the making because I decided I needed to take a chance and see what happened after I got back from traveling.
My plan was first to go to Maui to visit one of my closest friends who had moved to the Rainbow State the year before for three weeks and then go for three weeks to visit another buddy in Canada.
I never made it to Canada.
Maui was beyond amazing with its welcome. A large part of it was due to my friend George.
He had an excellent job bartending at the Hyatt and was making money hand-over-fist and he made it his personal mission for me to have the greatest time.
George took to me to black sand beaches, on hikes through tropical jungles that would end up at a waterfall and to a mountain above the clouds. Plus, women loved my friend, so by default, I got a lot of attention too.
It was a fantastic time, not only because I got to share paradise with my friend, but on hikes by myself I did a lot of reflecting and taking hard looks at myself.
I remember sitting on a deserted beach alone, taking in the beauty around me and realizing I expected everything to go my way, just because I existed. Instead of being grateful for so much that I had been blessed with, I expected more.
It was a real wakeup call for me.
I don’t know for sure, but I believe it was because I was in one of the most beautiful and natural places in the world my realization sprang forth like water from the streams I encountered on my different hikes.
There is something about being surrounded by nature that makes me really appreciate what is good in my life.
I bet a lot of folks feel the same way.
It was my first time being out in nature with nobody else around. As I wrote in my journal, I concluded it was up to me to face life with an attitude that I should be grateful for what I had, not what I felt entitled to.
I came back to D.C. with a new perspective and had a pretty good life.
Sure, I made my fair share of youthful mistakes, but I did a lot of things right for me at the moment. I took some interesting jobs and found myself content for the most part. I still had drive to accomplish goals, but I didn’t have the expectation I was entitled.
Meeting my wife was a magic time for me. The seven years we were together seemed perfect. I can remember waking up next to her and thinking God made an angel for me. She seemed just as happy.
I wasn’t the guy for her any longer. The breakup doesn’t need the gory details in this column, but I will say I was crushed. Beyond crushed actually.
Just before the breakup, my wife had gotten a transfer to Four Seasons Hotel in Maui. I wasn’t sure about leaving my career, but being a supportive husband, I was considering the move.
I had an excellent job working for a boss I respected tons, but being in D.C. was tough after the split. Family and friends were there for me and I tried the rebound scene, but I felt myself sinking and I didn’t know what I wanted in life anymore.
For whatever reason that eludes me now, I decided I should move to Hawaii even though my ex had aborted going so she could be with her new love.
My boss, who was the international director for one of the biggest unions in the world, thought I was making a mistake, so he asked, “What are you going to do, be a surfer?”
I remember saying, “Right now Jack that seems like as good an option as any.”
So I left D.C. and moved to Honolulu.
I knew absolutely nobody and had no job waiting. My sister did have a timeshare for me for two weeks, so that helped tremendously as I tried to get my footing.
Honolulu is not Maui, but it is a beautiful place, too.
More important, the island gave me the opportunity to reset myself, just as the sister island of Maui had done about a decade before.
It wasn’t easy, but because I realized fate owed me nothing, I created a life that stabilized me. No small feat since, going into the place, I was still decimated by my marriage failing.
A lot of it had to do with me going on hikes and taking swims in the ocean by myself. In the beginning there were sad moments as I watched honeymooners walk down the streets of Waikiki. Taking a cue from my time in Maui, I opened myself to all the nature around me and before I knew it, I recovered from the loss for the most part.
I honestly don’t know if I would have if I had stayed in D.C.
When I would watch the ocean waves come in and out as I sat on a beach, I realized the world was going to go on, if I was miserable or happy. It made a lot more sense to be happy.
I lived in Waikiki for two years before I went on my next adventure to Taiwan. I thank Hawaii for getting me ready for that place and life in general.
To this day I am grateful for going to that tropical paradise and not only because I did learn to surf.
It reinforced to me that being in nature heals.
At least that is my take.
Wyoming is a lot like Hawaii. The natural beauty around us all the time can be therapeutic. We just have to stop ourselves sometimes and appreciate how magnificent it is.
Tropical it is not, but I have taken hikes along the Encampment River trail or gone on walks in the high desert around my home in Hanna and I get the same feeling of calm I experienced when I did my island hikes. I revel in having nature at my fingertips on a day-to-day basis living here in Carbon County.
I totally get why people love fishing the Platte.
My years in Hawaii will always be special to me for a million reasons, but the biggest is it made me aware there is no substitute for being in nature to get perspective on life.
Carbon County has proven to me the same thing over the years I have lived here.
You just have to put yourself out there in it.
I think we are lucky we can.
“You gotta pay to live in paradise,” said an old boss of mine when I lived in Waikiki a few decades back.
She was right.