You know those places that touch you, change you or show who you really are? Those places that make you sigh because finally you feel at home or you feel alive or at peace. All of those emotions barely touch the surface of what I discovered on my trip to Kauai. It happened before the plane touched down. A crucial fact about me is I hate planes. I am terrified of flying. When I hear babies on planes screaming their lungs off at take off, I get jealous. I want to scream and cry but darn the societal constructs that require me to be a calm adult, even while climbing the heavens in a ungodly metal bucket held together by glue. These were the thoughts I was having during my third and longest flight ever. Only the dream of a beach wedding in Hawaii, paradise, could make me endure an eight hour flight. I had all the regrets, fears and the shakes until I saw it. From far up above, the green waves of the landscape that pierced my window. It would be the only time I had looked out a plane window and felt serenity and awe. “Oh my god. Oh my god” I said to my soon to be husband. “We made it”. There was a part of me when planning my wedding that thought we're two people who had only traveled to a few states, who had never left the continental United States, who waited until our late twenties to even try flying, that we would never make it. Then, when I saw paradise, I was struck, I hadn't made it to a far-off place. I had made it to a different world. When we got off the plane we were greeted by a Moa (Mutual Roosters with the powers of scaring wild dogs and incredible replication) bobbing its head in our direction. “What is this place”, I said. I would soon experience being woken up to the sounds of Moa every night that we spent in the country B&B. “What is this place?”, I repeated constantly. We danced our first dance as a married couple, in a circle of petals, on a Hawaiian beach with a Hawaiian guitarist as a few beach goers smiled brightly waiting to congratulate us. “This is happiness”, I thought. We went to a luau as our reception at a tropical botanic gardens. The county clerk and owner of the gardens that hosted the luaus remembered us and that our wedding was the same day. He announced us as a newly-wedded couple and along with the other newlyweds we danced to the Hawaiian Marriage Song. I thought, “this is community. This is welcoming.” While the wildness and freedom of the Kauai's gardens made me feel alive; Waimea Canyon, with its cliffs and edges that could change or crumble without notice, made me feel small and infinite at the same time. Close to our time to go home, we explored several beaches and came across a Secret Beach. It was a hike to get down to it. We almost gave up on as the light was fading into dusk. As we finally made it down without any sliding, we passed a gentleman who said, “You're lucky, you're going to have the beach to yourself”. The ocean was untamed and unswimmable. The beach was so vast. The sun orange glow was itching towards sunset. It was the most glorious sight I've ever seen. We turned on a cell phone and again danced with the sand tangling into our toes. Our laughter ranging over the sound of rushing waves. Water has always been a bittersweet unrequited love for me. As a child, I almost drowned. I never tried to learn again until a few months before our Hawaiian wedding. My goal was to just be able to get into the water. In Kauai I faced my fear. I got into deep oceans for the first time. I watched dolphins from our tour boat . I failed miserably at snorkeling, coughing up salt water numerous times, but for a few minutes I saw endless fish below me. Terrifying and beautiful. Hawaii was where the person I want to be came braving out. It wasn't all adventures, there were the quiets moments laying on the beach, the waves working as a daytime lullaby. There were the car drives with the windows low and the island music high. We sang carelessly as we drove through arches of green. There is really no good way to describe Kauai. It is breathless and breathtaking all wrapped in one. It is a place that I can never understand or do justice having not grown up in its graces. All I can describe is how it changed me, healed me, birthed something new inside of me. When I flew away, I was a different and married person. Kauai gave my husband a great gift. This unique discovery and experience that we only shared with each other. Whether we have tough times, we will always be able to look back to the place that showed us what pure joy can be. In a stressful, chaotic and scary world, you can still find a piece of paradise.
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