Dreaming of Island Life and First Experiences
For years, it had been a dream of mine to visit and live on the Hawaiian Islands. I had no idea on how I would accomplish this when I thought about it in college, but I knew that it was a beautiful place that should be experienced. After graduation I knew that I could visit one of the islands at a very high cost. I had a sister who was a travel agent for many years, and she had assisted me in booking travels before. She was able to get me many brochures on the island of Oahu, and I went to the Free Library of Philadelphia to borrow a Frommer’s guide for further reading.
So I saved, I planned, and I eventually bought plane tickets for my other sister, brother, and myself to visit Oahu in the winter of 2014. My sister brought a friend, we found a house in Ewa beach for us to rent from VRBO, and we were on our way! I was able to make our stay an extremely fun and adventure packed time by planning hikes, trips to crater rims, bays, a Japanese temple, the Dole pineapple plantation, and Waikiki to hang on the beach and ride mopeds.
The time I spent there with my siblings and friend was extremely special and eye-opening. We were spontaneous and adventurous. We saw turtles and whales, visited a planetarium and a zoo, and even took a tour of Pearl Harbor. During my stay I realized that it would be an expensive venture to live there based on the fact that it is a long flight and most products are imported in. Oahu was not the ideal island for me to live on, with their being a commercialized island with the man-made beach of Waikiki and plethora of tourists. I would need to find a new Hawaiian island to visit.
While I didn’t feel that Oahu was the ideal place to live on, it was a great introduction to the Hawaiian islands. I had some very memorable moments, most notably climbing the Koko crater trail twice! The koko crater trail is a steep climb up a over a thousand railroad ties to an amazing view of Oahu in all directions.
While we were hiking around Hanauma bay, we just happened to notice the huge crater peering out and we saw people climbing it. We made our way over there right from the Bay and made the ascent into the fog and rain. It was tough on all of us, and the cloud cover completely destroyed our chance of seeing the island from this vantage point. We returned 2 days later to conquer it again on a clear day. The view of Oahu was breathtaking.
From the coast on the East, we could see as far west to Waikiki. We rewarded ourselves that evening with a Luau dinner at Germaine’s Luau.
A Second Island and A Completely Different Experience
After more research and meeting individuals from the island of Maui, I decided that I would need to visit that island the following year to see what it would have to offer. I went with my brother, Ali, and my best friend, Jason, and enjoyed a 16 day stay on this area that is actually 2 islands fused together with a land bridge. We enjoyed a sunrise on the peak of Haleakala, an intense hike into the crater rim, a drive on the road to Hana, and plenty of days of visiting Paia for the beautiful beach and fish and chips from Paia Fish Market. We were able to stay in a hostel for the first time ever and meet with a friend I made in Pennsylvania who lived in Maui. I realized that this was the ideal place to try to move to after one incredible night on the North Shore.
The evening began with a drive on the road to Hana to the north shore area of Huelo, which is next to Haiku. We went to visit my friend, Tim, and the property that he was the caretaker of. Upon reaching his road, which is a 1 mile long dirt road into the jungle down to sea level, we hopped out of our tiny rental car and into Tim’s pickup truck with him and his dog Geronimo. We took the slow one mile drive into the jungle as the sun set.
Upon reaching the gate for the 10 acre estate with citrus orchard, Geronimo jumped out of the window and took off running. We drove down the driveway to the main house and looked for Geronimo. Up in the hill behind the orchard, we heard his growls and squeals of a wild boar. Tim screamed, “Geronimo, come here!” but he did not return. The 4 of us started running through the field and into the trees to find him to ensure that he wasn’t being attacked or attacking the boar. We found Geronimo wrestling the boar to the ground and holding it by the neck. The next hour consisted of us attempting to get Geronimo to release the boar, running from the boar as it charged us, then having Geronimo attack the boar again. It was a sore sight to see and quite a blood fest. It got to the point where we were on our hands and knees under the bushes where Geronimo would drag the boar and Tim ran off to grab rope so we could tie up the boars legs so we could drag it out of the brush and put it out of its misery.
That’s when things got even more scary for me, in this unfamiliar jungle with a distressed animal that was fighting for its life. Tim returned with rope and I held the boars legs so Tim could tie it up and pull it down the hill back to the driveway. Geronimo never let go of the boars neck. Tim asked me to hold onto the rope and keep the boar laid down as he ran up to his house for his rifle. Geronimo held the boar down, and I held the rope up to keep the pigs back legs up in the air so it couldn’t charge us. It wriggled itself around and the seconds turned into minutes as we waited for Tim to return. Tim came running down the driveway with rifle in hand. Jason pulled Geronimo off the pig as I kept the rope held up high above my head. Tim put the rifle to the temple of the boar and pulled the trigger. *Click* Tim forget the bullets. Tim said “I’ll be right back,” handed my brother the rifle, and disappeared for another 5 minutes. The boar was breathing deep and fast, and so was I. The boar slowed down its breathing, got up on its front legs, yanked its back legs with all its might, and was back on all 4. It quickly turned around and charged right at me. I ran in a circle while pulling on the rope to try to trip it up, and I got it to lose its footing just as it nearly ran me over. Jason released Geronimo, who immediately jumped back on the boar and held it down until Tim returned with the bullets. Ali handed the rifle back to Tim, Tim loaded up the rifle with a bullet, put it on the boars head, and pulled the trigger. *Crack* We hear the rifle ring out and the crunch of the skull. I watched in awe as the eyeball of the boar flew out of its head and dangled there. No more squealing, just the whimpers of Geronimo.
The remainder of the night was another adventure in itself. We had two options ahead of us – to either bury the boar whole, or start the process of gutting and butchering the boar to save the meat for consumption. Tim wanted to just dig a hole with the tractor and bury the beast so he could be done with it. I pushed for the latter since it was tough for me to see an animal be killed without the meat going towards feeding people. He was swayed once neighbors started showing up asking why a rifle went off, and then asking for a cut after he told them the story of Geronimo chasing down the boar. I will save you the rest of the gory details, but I’ll tell you that only the guts got buried, neighbors got some choice cuts, Tim’s freezer got filled, and Geronimo and the neighbors dog each got a large treat.
At this point, the sun had long since set and we had not had the opportunity to see the orchard, the ocean path, or some of the houses on the property. We took a trek down to the ocean to wash off the smell of boar and enjoy a few cold ones while reflecting on the unexpected evening we just had. I was filled with adrenaline and falling in love with the island of Maui. In less than one week, I was having such rich experiences to take home and cherish and I wanted these adventures to continue. I expressed these feelings to Tim, and he told me that when I was ready, that he could be of some assistance.
The remainder of this trip to Maui was not as exhilarating as that evening, but it was still filled with hikes, beautiful sunsets, building new friendships, and exploring as much of the island as I could while Philadelphia was getting dumped on with snow. I thought about the challenges ahead of me, the lifestyle changes that I would possibly have to make, and the great amount of luck I would need to make Hawaii a home a reality.
A New Lease on Life
Over the next few months, when I would run into friends, they would ask about my time visiting Hawaii and I would eagerly tell them about this beautiful energy that the islands were sending me. People started calling me the Hawaii guy and would also ask me when I was moving there. While it was so tempting to dream about, I didn’t know if I could make it a reality and leave Philadelphia for an extended period of time. I had so much baggage. I can’t remember at which point it really seemed possible, but I was having major changes happen all year long from the winter of 2014 to the fall of 2015.
I moved out of a comfy house in the Grad Hospital area of Philadelphia when I returned from Maui and into a house in North Philadelphia back where I went to college. I went to a 6 month lease to open up options for me down the road. I quit my full time job at a garden center in South Philadelphia and opted to work 6 different jobs as an independent contractor and pursue clients for The First Law. I gave myself free time to go to environmental events and began volunteering with Philly Farm Crew. I researched the process of getting off of probation a few years early and then hired a new lawyer to aid me in the process. I began looking at opportunities to travel to national parks in the fall, and flights to Maui from other parts of the country. I started listening to podcasts and found one about minimalism that really appealed to me. I sold ALL of my furniture, donated half my wardrobe to Philly Aids Thrift, and gave away the last 90% of my possessions. This dream had the real possibility of becoming more than I could have even imagined. I was feeling lighter, empowered, and blessed at how well life was going after a rough couple of years.
Preparation Meeting Opportunity
What I didn’t realize was that I was preparing myself for a different lifestyle than I had ever even considered. I was entering a world where I didn’t have to measure my success by the amount of money I made, the amount of things I had, or the amount of support I might receive from my family. I started reading Outside magazine and instead of reading articles of individuals traveling and living out of vans with the thought “that’s crazy” I started thinking “that’s admirable, I would like to try that.” One day I got a call from my lawyer saying my judge had signed my paperwork and I was getting off probation nearly 2 years early. The one thing I had hoped for to gain back my freedom to not be tied to one city, to travel at my leisure, to not have to report every life change that I might make, had just become a reality. I was ecstatic, and I was ready! That same day I bought I one way plane ticket from LA to Maui one month after my sisters wedding. This would allow me to cross the country and see many wonderful national parks that I had dreamed of. Read about that in this blog post.
As soon as I finished booking my flight, I made 2 calls to friends on the island. Both had job offers for me. I did not even give it a second thought to take the job that Tim offered me as his assistant caretaker to the estate that I had visited the previous winter. This was the perfect opportunity to have a job in paradise that would include housing and a vehicle to use, along with a friend and a dog that could help guide me into living the island life.
What followed was a 4 month adventure that requires its own blog post. I had the experiences of a lifetime, time and time again. Visit The First Law again soon for Aloha Filled Winters: Part 2