Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mahalo, Kaua'i

When most people go on vacation, they research their destination, buy guidebooks, talk to others who've been there for ideas and tips, google and post questions on Internet forums, call ahead for details and reservations, and plan their days to maximize the experience.

Most people are not Susan Raihala.

Though generally a compulsive organizer and planner, I prefer my vacations to be a bit more spontaneous. If a traveler makes detailed plans and builds up expectations ahead of time, there's simply too much opportunity for things to go wrong and disappoint. At least, that's how I look at it.

When George and I went to Poet's Cove in British Columbia six years ago, we chose a place that had more to offer than we could possibly do in one week. We bought plane tickets, arranged a water taxi to the island, and reserved our room at the resort.

We didn't plan any further than getting there and getting home. We simply trusted that everything inbetween would be fun.

It was.

Kaua'i, in many ways, has even more to offer than did Poet's Cove, so I felt certain that we'd have fun. My in-laws visited the island in February of 2011 and, while they probably planned more than I would, they had fun, too.

This year's trip was in honor of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They decided to take their children's families to Kaua'i this summer, so much of the planning fell on them. They reserved two condos, paid for our plane tickets, signed us all up for a cruise of the Na Pali coast, and drew from their guidebook and experience to plan the rest of our trip. George, the boys, and I just packed and showed up.

Photo Credit: Random Tourist from Texas
From Left: Roger, Me, Nick, George, Jack, Mike, Angela
Matt, Barb, Eli

Mahalo is a Hawaiian word meaning thanks, gratitude, admiration, praise, esteem, and respect.

Mahalo, Barb and Roger. You struck the perfect balance between activities and relaxation, and everything we did was amazing. Mahalo, mahalo, mahalo!

The whole week was so amazing, rich, and wonderful, in fact, that I feel like I went on at least six vacations. On Kaua'i, more than anywhere, I felt the distinct separation of my parts, so to speak, and each part has a little different perspective that I'll share with you in the coming weeks right here on Questioning.

Susan the Tourist bounced from one day to the next with a joie de vivre that found delight in every little thing, from birdsong as we lounged on our lanai to the service aboard the Blue Dolphin cruise...when she wasn't completely flattened by the six-hour time difference.

Susan the Shopper, whom I had thought decrepit and thoroughly lacking in enthusiasm, actually came alive on Kaua'i. This Susan resisted the $120.00 koa wood fountain pen but came away with just the perfect keepsakes for the journey.

Susan the Writer, of course, gathered new sights, sounds, smells, and experiences, squirreling them all away in her memory bank to make elegant literary withdrawals when needed in the future.

Susan the Family Member enjoyed being with loved ones, reconnecting, and laughing, even if one of Eli's childhood memories left me horrified beyond telling (well, almost beyond telling, because it's really too funny not to share).

Susan the Nature Lover SNORKELED WITH SEA TURTLES!!!!!!!!!! Sorry for the all-caps and egregious exclamation points, but IT WAS THAT EXCITING!!!!!!!!! And George took pictures.

Susan the Reader surprised me the most.

The combination of these six parts of myself will give a fuller picture of what this trip meant to me, but more importantly, it might inspire you to find ways to enrich your own travel experiences, whether you're driving twenty minutes to hike in a local state park or jetting half-way around the world to some exotic paradise.

Like this.

Sunrise on the beach outside the Outrigger Waipouli, our resort

Yep. Life is tough in paradise. Come along with me.


  1. What a fantastic post - and trip!!! You have wonderful in-laws. How fun for them to do all of that for you. Memories to last forever. I'm looking forward to future installments. John likes to travel like you do. I get nervous if we don't have every motel room reserved, every mile accounted for - but I'm learning. We head for home next Tuesday and we'll be doing it John's way.

  2. So glad you had a wonderful trip! Kauai is a magical place. Definitely one of my favorite islands. I love your reflection on your six parts.

  3. Thank you for sharing your extraordinary adventure. I'll enjoy going along with all six Susans!

  4. I'm going to have to try to travel the way you do. I am a compulsive organizer when I travel.

    For my 50th birthday we took a seven day cruise in Hawaii with 10 people. Four islands; and I planned everything. The islands were fantastic.

    I will go back in a more spontaneous manner with just my hubby some day.

    I cannot wait to hear all about your wonderful trip.


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