Wanderlust.

“Why don’t more people live on Maui?”

My brother-in-law poses this question to my sister and I as we sit, sipping Mai Tais, on the patio of an oceanfront bar in Kihei. Our faces pointed toward the Pacific, we admire the soft sandy beach, the sunlight glinting on topaz water, the crisscrossing cluster of palm trees extending into a clear blue sky that’s increasingly tinged with fuchsia and tangerine as the late afternoon presses on toward sunset. In the distance, someone spots a Humpback whale and restaurant patrons crane their necks to catch a glimpse of a tail fin or a water spout.

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“I mean, think about it,” he continues. “Look at all these tourists. Why don’t more of them say to themselves: This is beautiful. This is paradise. I should find a way to live here.”

We throw around some ideas. Hawaii is too expensive. Not enough jobs. Island fever. Paradise, while great for a vacation, is a little too perfect for everyday life.

Do we actually believe that, the “paradise is too perfect,” part? Do we think we should only be granted brief, idyllic respites from our otherwise stressful and crazy-making lives?  Do we secretly harbor the belief that it’s simply too self-indulgent to seek out a life of bliss? Or is the root of this belief a bit more complex? Could it be that we fear that if we actually do it – take the leap, uproot our lives, and relocate to a tropical paradise – we’ll realize that problems happen to people in “paradise” just as often as they happen to people everywhere else? After all, paradise is where we come to escape reality, not to live it, and if we make paradise home, where will we escape to then?

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Escapism has been my thing for a while now. I’ve always loved to travel, but never more so than these last few difficult years, when hopping on a plane to somewhere – anywhere – consistently holds more appeal than the here and now. While I think it’s too reductive to classify a searching wanderer like myself as someone who’s simply “running away,” there is some truth in it. I look toward each new voyage with hopeful eyes, wondering if this trip will be the trip: the magic cure-all that changes everything. Of course, it never quite works out that way.

My sojourn on Maui was no different. Don’t get me wrong: I am grateful for both the time I spent there, and for the suitcase full of memories I returned with. The island was stunning, the weather warm, the vegetation lush, the food scrumptious, the ocean soothing, the time spent with family happy. But in the spirit of the old “wherever you go, there you are,” cliché, real life intervened. I had work on my mind, with the deadline to finish the second draft of my play War Stories looming large. The family dynamic – never free from complication – was especially complicated on this trip. And whether it was jet lag or anxiety or some mixture of both, I couldn’t sleep, spending several nights awake for hours on end, leaving me tired and short-tempered the next day. Wherever you go, there you are.

I’m about to embark upon an interesting experiment, one I’m not sure if I’m ready for. My contract job is all but over, and then the future is mine, to make of it what I will. A prospect that is both exhilarating and terrifying. I’ve been craving this type of free, unstructured time for so long, craving it the way I crave my next vacation, but I can’t help but worry that, like my recent trip to Maui – like every trip, really – it can’t possibly live up to the hype.

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The immediate future will be busy. In June, I’m producing War Stories at Hollywood Fringe Festival, and the spring will be filled with rewrites, rehearsals, production meetings, marketing, mixers, and (hopefully) an abundance of creativity and fun.

But beyond that? I don’t really know. I have lots of ideas but nothing – and I mean nothing – is set in stone. For a meticulous planner, this is uncharted territory: a future where everything is uncertain, everything transitional, everything in the wind.

Which also leaves me at a loss as to how I should end this blog post. Normally, I’d try to wrap it up with something that provides a sense of closure, something that circles back to how I began the piece, something that ties it all together in a neat, tidy bow. But I can’t do that this time, because life isn’t like that. Not right now. It’s not conducive to neat, tidy endings. It’s fluid and changeable and open-ended.

But I suppose that’s the beauty of it. I suppose that – right now – is the point.

Until next time, friends.

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54 thoughts on “Wanderlust.

  1. “Paradise is where we come to escape reality, not to live it, and if we make paradise home, where will we escape to then?”

    Can’t agree more on this. We regard a place as paradise may just because it is not our reality. For people who live on Maui, who is struggling to earn money from tourists, may not see this island as a paradise. Everyone will expect a getaway periodically. Anyplace, as long as it can take in tired ourselves, it can be a paradise.

    • Completely right, Amy. I imagine the tourists on Maui are not well-loved by many of the locals. On the one hand, the economy relies on tourism, but on the other hand, it can’t be fun to be working hard and struggling alongside a population that’s constantly on holiday.

  2. I love Kauai. And while I aspire to spend 4-6 weeks at a time there post-retirement, I would never want to live there because I would never want the magic to just become everyday. For the shimmer to be lost.

  3. Dear Sarah,
    I may have recommended two favorite books before. If so, please excuse me.

    Transitions by William Bridges is a favorite; one I return to often. I like to pay close attention to his section on The Neutral Zone. It is that time between what was and what will be. And, it is a very important time! The Tibetans call this time “the bardo”.

    Also, When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. This is her own story of transition and grappling with what was, and what might be, as she ponders a very significant change in her religious/spiritual affiliation. She wonders if she can leave the church where her own husband is the pastor… and what might that do to her marriage and other important relationships while she also works to remain true to herself. As Bridges would suggest, Kidd spends a lot of time in the neutral zone, allowing herself not to rush into whatever is next…. and thereby unintentionally find herself right back where she started.

    If we don’t spend enough time in the neutral zone, we are destined to repeat what was, rather than allow space, time, opportunity for what can be. As I said, a very important time lest we simply return to what was because that is all we know and/or because we rushed some decisions.

    I suggest you are already in your own bardo. I hope you will allow yourself to remain there for awhile. It is a good place to be.

    Melanie

    • Hi Melanie,

      As always, thank you so much for your kind and wise insight. I haven’t read either of those books yet but after I received your comment, I immediately ordered them. I hope you’re well and I greatly appreciate you keeping me in your thoughts. Big hug. xx

  4. Ah, Paradise! Everything looks so much better when we have a quick visit… We don’t see the numerous poor people trying to eke out a living, or the many other things which escape our attention… Like how major chemical companies are using Hawaii’s small islands to “test” their pesticides and GMO Frankenfoods, and how Hawaiians voted against it but big business won anyway…

    Well, it may be better to carry Paradise in our hearts!

    Transition times are tough when we don’t know where our lives will go! I totally understand! I’m ending one phase of my life and will soon be embarking on the next one… I have no idea yet what it holds or where I will be living… Not just moving to a new home but perhaps even a new city or state!

    Wishing you well!
    Peace!

  5. I enjoyed this, partly because Hawaii (Kauai) is my happy place — and I love when my family goes to spend a few weeks there — but if my parents ever went through with moving there, as they’ve talked about, I suspect I’d experience that island fever, and that paradise-has-turned-into-daily-life feeling. I also enjoyed it because it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes — “when you get there, there isn’t any there there” — and how I personally had made the leap into a different kind of fantasy (building and moving into a tiny house), thinking that “minimal living” would lead to more free time and money for the things and projects I really want to do, but of course, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Lovely thoughts, as always (long-time reader, first-time commenter 🙂 ).

  6. Thanks Cheri! Thank you for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m fascinated by the idea of tiny houses (though I don’t think I could ever do it, haha). I look forward to checking out your blog. 🙂

  7. I waited for 20-some years before relenting to a request to “join me in Hawaii” that I could not refuse…well, make that “would” not refuse. We did the round the island Jeep tour, looked at North Beach and went back to the hotel. On a scale of one to ten? Maybe a seven. “California West” is how it struck me. Huntington Beach seems to work for me, especially since it’s 30 minutes away.

    • I totally get it John. It’s an island, the Pacific is warmer and clearer (and the snorkeling and sea turtles, oh my!), but many times I caught myself thinking: I could just take a day trip to Laguna Beach for a lot less hassle and money. Us Californians are a spoiled lot! 😉

      • It just goes to prove that paradise is nowhere except in our own minds. A trip to California from grey rainy Ireland was paradise for me!

  8. I lived in St Mawes for a number of years, one of the most beautiful places in Europe, and remote, exclusive, subtropical. Tourism was central to life. It was exciting short term. As time went on the more changed, more people passed through, more hotel staff went home at the end of the season, the more expensive it seemed, the further away everywhere else was, the longer the days were. As much as I loved it, as a non-native in a touristic area, the temporary nature of day-to-day living was too much a challenge. Go and visit if you ever have the chance! It’s a great place.
    Expect to get to Maui – it looks wonderful!

    • Oooh that sounds amazing. I’ve never heard of St Mawes so I appreciate the tip! I can imagine it would be difficult to live in a touristic area long term, but what an experience you had!

  9. That’s a well written post and the pictures are lovely. Any time someone says paradise I think of the show Paradise Island – where all your dreams can come true.
    Even when we have everything we think we want, we always want a little bit more.

  10. Just stumbled upon your blog, loved the pictures and your way or writing 🙂 Your comparison between “paradise” and “real place of living” seemed divulge a lot of hidden turmoils we all go through while taking such a step. Hope you share some more of such blogs and hope the uncertain future remains a good surprise.
    I also recently started writing about the places that I have visited, if you have time, do visit my first post and let me know what you think about it
    https://rahulpradhanblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/the-opening-titles/

  11. I relate to this ! But I read a lovely saying by the dalai lama : Every year go somewhere you’ve never been before.
    I think new places, new people, new culture stimulates us. But I also feel when I travel I end up doing the same things like I do at home : eat, shop, sleep etc.. SO i now think working in new places is truly experiencing the culture, something I’m working on too. And yeah I dont think I can live in ‘paradise” for too long. Coz then its like death… there is no evolution ! Paradise can be when u meditate or physically when u reach that beach, but it can never be 24/7 unless u believe in evolution without much change in your life. i.e. to say, im in a constant state of bliss and I will still evolve everyday… that is no negative emotion? Its too idealistic. So yes of course we will face problem in paradise, but the process will obviously be more enjoyable with sand in your feet 🙂 good luck embracing the unknown, and unstructured life. support that, challenge yourself, I feel we all live in bubbles

  12. Such a lovely post and pictures. I randomly ended up on your blog and this post really got me – “Escapism has been my thing for a while now” – I can relate to that. Arriving at a new destination and starting to settle makes me ask if there isn’t more, something better. In the end it is just the euphoria that starts to calm down and reality taking over. What I realized is that finding paradise can be anywhere by embracing the present and trusting in the future. Good luck on your journey 🙂

  13. I’m living in paradise. Auckland new Zealand.

    What I have found is that there are a host of worries for me: job, studies and so on. But from time to time I experience heaven and it’s just my backyard. I don’t have to hop on a plane for that. At the moment, I believe living in such a place is difficult but worth it.

    Great post!

  14. My wife and I consider ourselves full time adventurer family, Yet we still have not managed our way to Hawaii. Maui looks like a good spot.

  15. From your writing above I detect(I could be wrong) some ennui looking over your back fence. I have battled it many times. Throwing yourself in a new project might not work. Love is a possible vaccine. However, involving people in your life and maybe love will distract you long enough for the ennui to pass. Vaya con Dios.

  16. This is the first of your posts I have read. I was drawn to the candidness of your words. Also, your pictures of Hawaii caught my eye. A few years ago my youngest moved from North Carolina to Hawaii and has no plans on ever relocating to the mainland. It took a lot of courage and determination to make the move and make it work, especially as a single person.

  17. Very interesting…It would be a place I’d love to visit someday ..thank u for sharing ur paradise with us ..pls visit my blog as I have just started a week ago and would love ur advise and criticism…thank u…it’s ddivasdope.com.
    My lifestyle blog

  18. So true. And yet I’m going to hold out and say that without a location change it would be very hard to create. Perspective comes with time or a different shore. I think travel gives us a bit of hindsight.

  19. This was one of the things I have been thinking for a long time. I believe, as humans, we tend to imagine people in some other places are living a better life in a happier way. Even studies show that most people who live in the East Coast think that people living on the West Coast are happier because of the weather and some other reasons. And people on the West Coast determine people on Hawaii happier because of the environment, nature and weather they have. However, at the end, neither of us are any happier than the other. We are all dealing with same life issues in a different way. We always tend to look for happiness in further locations and wait for it. I think only way we can truly be happy and satisfied with our lives is to realize that this is the moment to be.

  20. for a few moments you may think that you are experiencing paradise…but after some time it will not be so..human minds always crave for what is not there…so we can never enjoy a paradise for long because our mind will wander of to what is not there..and clearly though nature is magnificent, it is still imperfect…even if one finds a perfect paradise there will be no difference, the mind again will start craving for imperfection..so paradise is just an illusion, one can never realize heaven without hell..

  21. Why don’t we all end up in paradise… interesting question. I have been pondering the reason/s that I am where I am. Is it because I grew up here, is it because I have a job here, is it because I feel obligated to remain here? All valid, all questions I have push around. I am coming upon a cross roads, a sort of crisis of the soul if you will… where I must make some decisions. It’s interesting to find yourself at a moment in life where you are forced to re-invent yourself. I am both excited and horrified at the thought of it. I look forward to following your posts to see how you fare through a similar situation.

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