Appreciation and gratitude helps us focus on the positive aspects of our lives. One of the best ways to stay happy is to remain grateful. I am grateful for the volcanoes, coconut trees and sandy beaches of Hawaii…but what I’m most grateful for is the people I met on this beautiful archipelago. As my time in Hawaii has come to an end, I’d love to highlight some of the people and places that I now have to be grateful for.
Let me introduce you to my friend Stephanie. Stephanie lives in Oahu and knows this island like the back of her hand. She is always up for epic adventures. Day on the beach or hike through the mountains? She can’t decide, so why not do both in one day!? If you met her, you’d remember the big smile on her face and the even bigger hug she gave you.
My final day in Hawaii was spent in good company. In the morning, Stephanie, Caroline and I explored a local farmer’s market and thoughtfully picked out tons of fresh tropical fruits. By talking to the farmers, we learned to appreciate the hard work that went into planting, growing and harvesting this food.
After the morning market, we drove to Electric Beach and had a fruit feast! We were lucky enough to have our fruit-loving friend Stephanie lead us through Hawaiian fruits 101. Before chowing down on a mangosteen, she took the time to explain things like what it would taste like, how it grew, how to eat it and what the Hawaiian word for it was. Then, we would split the fruit in three and savour each sweet bite. We sat there mindfully eating local dragon fruit, egg fruit, bananas, starfruit, avocados and more. I’ve never thought about my food that much, but it felt so good!
Stephanie continued sharing with us as we dove into the ocean for a quick snorkel. As we swam around, she would point out all the different fish that darted through the corals. She even dove down to grab shells from the bottom, so that we could get a closer look. Steph’s love of her island home was infectious and I too soon fell in love with the fruit, the ocean and mountains.
I also want to introduce you to Austin and Max. On congress excursion day, I took a bus out to the North Shore to take part in a field trip through Pupukea Ahupuaa. Along the way, I met these two lovely Hawaiians. They work with the local non-profit, Malama Pupukea-Waimea! This organisation is doing amazing work in the community to maintain the marine protected area. They also empower locals to become stewards by educating about poaching, polluting and over-fishing . Together with North Shore Community Land Trust and the North Shore Lifeguards Association, they planned an exciting day for us. We hiked, snorkeled, cleaned shorelines and planted trees, all while learning about the importance of protecting the natural beauty of the North Shore.
I have to admit that at Sharks Cove, I was a bit nervous getting into the water. But when Austin offered to swim around the cove with me, I felt so much more at ease. He grew up swimming in the ocean and free dives at the cove all the time. It was so nice to swim with someone who knew the waters. With a relaxed mind, I was able to better appreciate the fish below me.
Later that day at Waimea Bay, Maxx and Austin offered to show me a secret cave. We ran down the beach together to the cave opening. The water was swirling and sloshing on the walls of the ocean cave. Maxx calls this place the mermaid cave and Austin calls it the toilet bowl…classic. Austin jumped in and I followed with a splash. We floated up and down as the waves rolled in. The only way out was to follow Max as she swam into the ocean and around a rocky bend back towards shore. I would have never known about this magical cave without the guidance of my new North Shore friends.
The key to appreciating a place is to better understand it. I am so grateful to have met Stephanie, Austin and Maxx, because they taught me to see the land and the ocean through the eyes of a local. They taught me the art of appreciation. I feel a deeper connection to Hawaii because of these friendships. I can’t thank you guys enough!
Mahalo! Mahalo! Mahalo!