I shot this photo of myself last night while hanging out of the side of the Volkswagen camper that I rented on the island of Maui in Hawaii.  Buckle up folks, this post is gonna be long.  I feel more than ever that part of how I choose to make art is not only to take interesting photos, but also to share my stories of my travels, my trials and tribulations, my moments of absolute joy, and things in between.
I made the decision last night to hang out alone, instead of distracting myself from my thoughts by going to a bar or restaurant. I had one of the most reflective nights of my life sitting there in the camper.  But as soon as I realized how reflective I was being, I started getting excited and looking forward to what this life I’ve chosen for myself will continue to bring me.
So much of what I do is about discovery.  Discovery of the world, discovery of other people, and discovery of myself.  I showed up on Maui with the informed naivety that I love to travel with, and picked up the camper, picked my friend Adam up from his hotel, and we started to figure it out.  I dislike guidebooks, museums, and looking at other people’s photos of a place before I get there.  I try to come in with fresh eyes and an open mind and just see what I see, and not worry about what I don’t see.
Here are some of my thoughts, observations, and stories from a week on Maui in no particular order.
A Maui resident that I met said, and I am paraphrasing, “We have problems just like everyone else, but when you see those cobalt blue waters, all of your worries go away”.
Someone in Makawao asked if I live here.  Made my night that I was acting as if maybe I lived there.
I sang Tiny Bubbles at karaoke night in Makawao while wearing a Hawaiian shirt at a bar with few to no tourists and it worked out well.  I thought it could end poorly if I looked like a pandering tourist.  It was fun.   I ended up with an invitation to park my camper and stay at someone’s house for a night.  When I did park the camper there, I had a great conversation and a really restful night.  I was happy to make friends.
I learned shortly after I got to Hawaii that Aloha meant much more than hello and goodbye.  I never knew that.  The Aloha spirit is very much about kindness and understanding, and the circle of reciprocity…or in the parlance of our times, paying it forward.   Someone who gave my friend and I tips on boogie boarding even said, “That’s the Alaho spirit, pay it forward”.
I did really start paying the Aloha spirit forward.  For example, I stopped for a guy who had serious road rash from a bicycle spill and I offered him my first aid kit that my camper had in it.  I’ve done stuff like that before, but it felt more natural than ever.  Just last night I even started saying Aloha to people on the street without feeling like a poser.  That was a big step for me.
So many people have shaken my hand, introduced themselves by their first name in a context where I usually consider it irrelevant, and many have called me brother, which is a lot cooler than being called bro.
I found myself very satisfied with the understanding I've learned about people and cultures and kindness to strangers.
I listened to lots of music while sitting in the camper and thinking.  Some songs that hit me hard included Who’s Gonna Miss Me by Loretta Lynn, Wherever I May Roam By Metallica, and of course Who Says You Can’t Go Home by Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles, which made me long for Ulster County, New York just a little bit.  I really haven’t been “missing” it there since I hit the road in January, but I kinda did last night, while at the same time being quite happy to be on Maui.  I hope that makes sense.
I kept skipping songs that were not relaxing or that didn’t have lyrics with meaning to me.
I spoke with an apparently homeless guy who was gushing with pride for his hometown.
I gave the shaka / hang loose sign throughout the last few days while driving and doing it with my left hand out the driver’s side window was pretty awkward.
I am addicted to putting myself in uncomfortable situations .  I am very fortunate to be able to choose my troubles though.  That I can seek uncomfortable situations is quite a luxury, and I try to remember that.
I thank my parents for promoting personal decision making and giving me the resources and education to choose my own path in life.
Before I traveled, I was way more uncomfortable with "strangers”.  One of my major goals was to be better with people.  It’s been almost 6 years that I’ve been a big traveler, and I have a long way to go, but am more and more comfortable around new people that I meet.  Now I don’t even like the concept of the word "strangers".
Some people I met in Maui asked me about my life and I explained how I make money online while I travel, and they told me I had it all figured out.  It’s kinda odd to hear someone who lives in what people call “paradise” say that.  I get uncomfortable when someone says stuff like that, or that I am "living the dream”, because I have my ups and downs like most people.   But it gave me confidence to hear that and I am getting more comfortable hearing that.
I know this post rambled a bit, but I had so many thoughts that they were tough to put in order.  I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about my experience, and if you could take an extra moment to make a comment if you’ve read this far and you’re glad you read this far, I would very much appreciate it.   I am not sure what else to say.  So...