The Na Pali Coast
Its taken me awhile to write about my trip to Hawaii (Kauai). Part of that was that I shared a lot of the journey on Instagram while I was there. Traveling alone gives you a lot of time to reflect while you’re on the journey so there was less of a want to digest the adventure when I got back. Instead of sharing my travels on the island, I want to share my thoughts. I’ll still give you a little synopsis, I flew into Hawaii a few days after they had lifted their COVID travel restrictions and had to have a negative test when I landed. The consequence of not having that test on time would’ve been having to quarantine in my hotel until I received my results, a significant expense with my entire plan for my time on the island thrown off. Luckily, I received the results right as I landed, it was a stressful flight.
My 7-day journey was amazing, I spent 5 days sleeping in a hammock on the Kalalau Beach, I explored sacred valleys, packrafted the coast and several different rivers. I made new friends that made the trip even more enjoyable (thank you for your company and friendship Tim, Caitlin, Mitch, Zach, Johnny and Devin). I spent a lot of time thinking about life and talking with others about why we were all where we were, each of us having our own unique story for why we were out on the Na Pali Coast. Some were taking a break from life; others were searching for something and some were out there dreaming of something else. It was comforting knowing that I was with good people and we all seemed to have common ground of coming to where we were to escape and reflect. I had a good community for those five days, and I was the furthest thing from being alone.
I’ve always been acutely aware that the day would come when I would no longer have the groups of people to travel with that I’m used to. I would either out grow them in the difficulty (and expense) of trips I’m looking for, our schedules wouldn’t make sense anymore or all of the other complications of life would just separate what we could get away with. I’ve known it was coming for years and it finally happened on this trip. It was a good feeling to know that I could still go out and do what I love without needing others around for confidence, company or enjoyment. I was able to enjoy every moment, I had so much more time to reflect and relax, I was on my own schedule, at my own pace (which was fast) and I didn’t have to consider other’s wants. Some of those things are positives, but others I worry could become negatives. Without others, who’s there to push you? If you’re flying through something because you can, what if you miss the enjoyment of it trying to simply get it done? There’s an argument that can be made for traveling with others and there’s also one for going solo and I don’t think there’s really a right answer for me.
I will say, my greatest moment of loneliness was on the hike out from Kalalau Beach. I had left at 6AM to avoid the heat of the day and all the friends I had made were going to pay for a boat ride back out instead of hiking (I’m a cheap ass). About 3 miles into the hike there’s a section of trail that is a sheer drop down to the water and nothing but fluted pali (volcanic rock) to the other side. As I climbed over a few sections I had a quick moment of realization that if anything happened to me no one would know, and no one would be looking for another few days. I accepted that, but it really shook me, I never realized how protected traveling in a group had made me feel. The reality is that this isn’t the last time I will do something like this on my own, but also, I know the majority of my trips will still involve friends, because what I do enjoys company. One of my fears will always be not being able to share adventures with my friends. That shared experience is what often drives me and creates the bonds that keep me close to the people who keep me going.
What drove me to Hawaii was definitely a combination of hyper activeness and probably a little bit of depression. I’ve been fortunate that I was able to travel as much as I did, still be employed and all the other good things that happened to me during COVID, but the periodic separation from my communities definitely took a toll on me (like it has on so many others while they’ve tried to isolate). I find that when I feel stagnate or stressed or any combination of negative things my mind likes to play tricks on me. My solution to whatever crappy or down feelings I have has always been to travel. I don’t travel to escape, I do it to pause and evaluate and that’s definitely part of what drove me to Hawaii, the completion of a decades long goal (visiting all fifty states) and the chance to pause and reflect.
One of the things I thought a lot about while in Hawaii was my fears, you’d think in such a beautiful place those would be the furthest thing from my mind… My fears are of the future, of inevitable change in my life and of having my goals that seemed like they were lifelong goals, come to an end and be complete. I have this problem that I always need another goal in front of me or I feel as if I’m living my life without meaning or purpose. In my mind (however flawed this may be), if I’m lacking a goal, I have no purpose and if I have no purpose, what’s the point to going to work every day and doing all the other things that are so mundane? My goals are what keep me going at my lowest and they’re the things I hang on to in my toughest moments. For the past six years or so, my goals have been to graduate college and get a job, to finish visiting all fifty states and to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2021. Most of those goals are now complete with only the PCT remaining, and after that I’m goalless and that scares me. What do I do next?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty I want to do, but nothing seems like a big goal, nothing seems like a great item to pivot and steer my life towards. I’ve thought about pivoting my goals from my travels to developing my life (better car, maybe buy a house, all the adult stuff), but I don’t know if those goals will make me feel fulfilled. I’ve contemplated going all in on my hobby (Cincinnati Mountain Guides has a nice ring to it right?), but that seems like a big leap of faith.
Myself and friends like to talk about our “lifestyle” and there’s the ever-present question of going all in on it. It’s a lifestyle of travel and adventure, its doing what you want every day and enjoying every moment of what you do. Its being a van lifer, or a climbing dirt bag, its renovating a bus and living your life on the move. We fancy ourselves as nomads and we have grand dreams of what life could be like and I’m stuck between wanting two extremes. I don’t think I’ll wander off just yet, but I don’t think doing what I’m doing now is sustainable for me for much longer. The truth is, I don’t know what I want.
I don’t necessarily think I need to know what my next goal is just yet, but I constantly find myself in fearful anticipation that it may not be this easy path that just lays itself out in front of me. Thinking about all of this while in Hawaii got me to settle with the fact that I may not have this moment of realization that this one thing or this certain path will make me happy long term, and that’s the reality of life, there’s a lot of unknown. At some point in the next 10 months, I’ll have to make a decision though, what do I do next?
Sitting with my hiking partner Will, and talking about our plans for the PCT a few days ago made me realize that we’re both in the same boat walking into this. We’re ready for this years long goal to come to a close, but we’re uncertain about what waits on the other side. I’m excited I get to make this journey with such a good friend and I’m curious what we find while we both search for what’s next out there.
The Hopeless Wanderer