You’d never think this was an intentional venture – but here we are.
One week ago, my partner and I willingly abandoned the comforts of home, and embraced life in a tent on island paradise. We dreamt of crystal clear water, perfect waves, sleeping peacefully amidst nature and living the good life on Kauai’s north shore – a young traveler’s dream. We left behind friends, family, familiarity; abandoned jobs and opportunities; and set off in search of something great. Reality, however, hasn’t been so kind – and in this moment that can only be described as the epitome of misery, I find myself seriously wondering what the miraculous “something” we’re seeking is. Turns out traveling isn’t all perfect Hawaiian rainbows and sunshine.
Preparing to camp on a farm and live the tent life in a Hawaiian forest, I wouldn’t say our expectations were high — but I couldn’t have created the realities we’ve experienced with my wildest imagination. Our blissful tent in what new friends jokingly call the “Dengue forest” has been significantly less than blissful; visions of a simple life surrounded by nature found us huddling in the confines of our chronically damp tent, hiding from the thriving population of mosquitos, centipedes, and other crawly life forms lurking around our raised wooden platform. I won’t venture into detail, but the promise of a “kitchen, shower, and bathroom” turned out to be a pretty creative elaboration of reality, and each evening beckons the thrilling question — did a massive cane spider manage to penetrate the tent?
We dreamt of waking up in nature to the music of singing birds — we wake up at 3:00 in the morning to the agonizing wails of the resident rooster that sounds like its taking its final dying crows. Visions of meaningful work “being one with the food system” found us picking festering ant nests out of exotic fruit so it could be shipped off to China Town. Sun-kissed tans are stained by bruises and welts from the unstoppable mosquitos; you cannot sit on the outdoor toilet without being eaten alive; and we sleep in the damp confines of a tent that’s starting to smell more like a science experiment than a livable home. Frustrations peaked when we found — and lost — a large cane spider that is probably still residing somewhere in the van (Brandon left his suitcase open, we’ll see how that goes.)
On top of it all, our identities feel like vague memories of the past in a place where we’re total strangers – or maybe less than that – because to many, we sound like naive, directionless kids who wound up in a tent because we didn’t know any better. But this is our dream and so this is the stuff dreams are made of — embracing hardships, putting faith in questionable moments, and appreciating whatever the universe delivers and accepting it as a gift — whether it’s perfect waves in the bay, or a spider the size of a tuna can who wants to be your roommate. It’s all paradise.
As we seriously ponder life decisions and question how being homeless on an island constitutes something good or “better” to do in life, we’re constantly reminded just how much we’ve gained. We’ve experienced genuine compassion from new friends, and seen how this unconditional kindness can transform deplorable circumstances. We’ve experienced what it’s like to be a stranger, the outsider — and subsequently, what it’s like to feel acceptance. We’ve felt love from a community propelled by unconditional kindness, where people gain by giving — it’s a refreshing thing at this moment in time, when the world seems plagued by a stiff aversion to all things foreign, unknown or different. Hard moments are cleansed by fun waves with unfathomable views; hardships and misery blossom into new skills and enlightened living; and worry evaporates into slower living and a deep appreciation for the present.
Our venture to paradise has been a less idyllic experience than what the mind typically envisions, but it’s the imperfections of our journey that make this experience feel like paradise. A drunk acquaintance at a bar told us after a particularly disheartening day that “Queen Kauai brought you here for a reason.” Stay tuned as we attempt to discover what that reason is, while living big with nowhere to live, indulging deeply in discomfort, and telling a more honest story about traveling in paradise.