Friday, July 2, 2010

Stress Free Hawaii

Sitting in my room at Seaside Hostel, Waikiki, it hits me that I've almost learned to relax. Ten months, in two days, and I'm almost at the point where I can completely shut down and enjoy – enjoy.

I'm sure this has nothing to do with being in Hawaii, where the wind blowing through the open window slats, causing the blue hanging blinds to dance in the wind, has nothing to do with it. Offset against pristine white, where the cerulean sheets line each bed allowing more to keep the six aye em sun out of your eyes, than acting to bestow a modest sort of privacy, the day simply is. I haven't looked at my watch all day, and just lying down, allowing the cooling air to brush over me, well it's just perfect.

I attempt to read my book, but not wanting it to end, I put it down. I'd rather savour the breeze than rush to the end of the sailing tale. And anyway, it's much better read on the breach where the world described appears right before my eyes.

Across of me another world traveller lays sprawled out, slowly flipping through the pages of his own text. There's no rush out here, and no feeling of need-to-do which has plagued me at so many other passes. The world calls, and I listen – though only half heartedly, mostly lost in a trance all my own.

For nine years the guy across sailed submarines for the British Navy, spending months at a time under the oceans surface, without ever coming up for air. For queen and country, he did his service, and he did it well. Until, at twenty six, he realized there had to be something more. Something like life along the beaches of Australia. He'd worked as a cook in a small galley under the waters edge, skills easily transferable to the land above, where ingredients need not be stocked and saved for ten weeks at a time.

And for a time, it was good there. With winter calling, he abandoned their shores for New Zealand, walking the same streets at the same time I was. There he found the same chill – and without any thought at all, he pressed on here to Hawaii where the sun was still early rising, and late setting; the beaches were still tempting, with sand far too warm to walk on for long, without heading into the water breaking on the golden beach. And here he plans to stay – for a while, anyway.

His plan? From here to San Francisco, where there is magic to be found, and then off to New York before he finally returns to a life, nearly forgotten, back in England.

I can't help but think that my own trip is coming to an end. My daily hostel jumping, and planning for one man alone, will soon be replaced with compromise, shared living, and an understanding that doing what I want when I want will no longer be an option.

My ten months around the world is at an end.

In three days I'll be boarding a jet for Buffalo to meet up with my charming compatriot, Katherine. And while I very much look forward to seeing her, and I very much look forward to the new style of travel that awaits me, I can't help but feel slightly saddened by the loss of that which has been so much a part of my life.

It's true that over the last few months, really the whole trip, I've never had to go very long before packing in the solo life and heading off to see friends, or family. But those were just islands in something all my own. Welcome reprieves. But now, now is truly the end.

September: I travelled on my own. However it was during this time travelling through Europe that I met all number of people I would soon call friends, and meet up with later on.

October: I met up briefly with my friend Shirley, in Paris. This would be the beginning of hardly ever spending more than two or three weeks without meeting someone I would consider a friend.

November: My friends came and travelled with me through Prague and Germany. As well I met up with a friend I'd met in Helsinki.

December: I visited Katherine, and family, in Florida. In Africa I would meet many people I'd later visit.

January: I stayed with a buddy down in Johannesburg, and later met with a girl I'd met back in Bruges came to hang out for a day at a hostel in Bangkok.

February: February was spent in South America – where I, shockingly, travelled alone once more. (It's possible – though hard to tell, as my dating has been not so good in my entries, that I hung out with the girl from Bruges at the very beginning of February.)

March: In San Francisco I would, again, see Katherine. I would also meet up with a friend from Africa, and a buddy who had long left Canada for the warmer climate, and better paying jobs.

April: All month I went from travelling with friends from back home, to hanging out with a buddy who now lives in Japan.

May: I met up with a friend of my parents in Beijing, and then hung out with a friend down in Singapore.

June: The girl from Bruges, once more, showed me hospitality in her home town in New Zealand. I also stayed with a girl I'd met in Prague. All number of people from Africa, and Antarctica, showed me around their home towns in Australia.

And, without a doubt, I've forgotten some entries – not due to malice, but due to just having found so many kind hearted people out and about. And I should note, this all happened through passive travelling. I know people who have set out to meet people, and never pay for more than one night in a country. Me? I just take it as it comes – being myself, and not trying to act any way differently than I otherwise would.

So – as you can see – there have been so many times that I've been travelling with others – but, I always knew that eventually I'd have the trip to myself again, that it would be my trip. And that is no more.

What starts on July fifth is Mike and Katherine's road trip across America. And I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that. Without a doubt there will be fights, and angst, and - compromise – but there will be things that make up for it as well. It's possible all will go swimmingly – strangely Japan went down without any real fights, but Japan had enough people to break off into groups, and do our own things. It also only lasted two weeks. It also didn't take us in a cramped car through one hundred and twenty degrees desert.

Still – to know there will be someone else to share memories with, experiences, with and – most important of all – take pictures that don't put my head in the middle of the frame, or merge me with the background – will be phenomenal. I can't help but feel, though, at the end of these however many months we travel for, I'll need to set myself off to some exotic location for one last hurrah – just to end things on my own terms once more.

But, as the heat pours in, at times, beautifully offset by the cool air, nothing really matters. It's possible there is no future – just an ever stretching now, away from the concept of time, and the abstract idea of place being anything more than where I happen to be at the moment.


I rolled out of be this morning an hour before noon – just enough time to get me showered, and down to Tommy's burgers by noon. That I will walk an hour, round trip, for a burger is a testament to how tasty they are. I wonder if Tonia would agree. When I think of these burgers, I hear her voice describe them with a giggling lilt so present through Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, all those months. ago.

With a full and happy tummy I head down to the beach, where I find some shade, under a close grown group of palms, and just sit. For a while, I do nothing, only sit an look out into the water, watching the blues coalesce, wondering where one shade ends and the other begins. Given a large enough spectrum, there is no change between colours, though the run the whole rainbow. Things just are, defying definition.

I open my novel, and read once more, picturing myself seated onboard an ocean going sailing ship, rolling with the waves, understanding what it is like to be free of routine and obligation. I then set up my tripod, in an attempt to take a photo of myself, here in this spot, on the beach, and toes in the water – a memory, that for if only one moment, I could shut my mind down.

With Yellow Canada t-shirt and maple leafed bandanna, todays date will forever be ingrained in the experience. July 1st, 2010. Canada day.

And then I'm reading once more.

It would be unfair not to say that completely tuning out to the world around is a near impossible thing on a Hawaiian beach. There are far too many pretty girls around to ever fully be at peace. I say girls, but that term has come to describe people ranging well up to fifty years old, over the years. One can only guess at the age of those I describe, and looking around – there are white girls who seem to have been born and bread for the breach, island girls, skins tanned dark, the odd flower in their hair, and Japanese tourists riding their Asian wave – I can only guess at their ages. Somewhere between twenty, and potentially early forty.

But for the most part, I just sit, and read, my thoughts suddenly pulled astray by a flicker of shocking pink, brilliant orange, or a deep blue – the artificially enhanced colour that exists far off shore.

The photos I take never find themselves shot in those directions. In fact, were it possible, I'd clear away all people, as I aimed to shoot nothing more than the sand hitting the surf hitting the horizon, or just a spectrum of the waters visual noise. This may come as no surprise – most people wish for an empty beach, with nothing but their own footprints in the sand as proof that it ever existed. But for me? I crave the peopled scenery. It's proof that there is life, and love, and joy, and fun, and – all those good things, often overlooked in solitude.

It is only in photographs that I wish to present the illusion of peaceful tranquility – a world apart. As I sit, and let my mind wander away, I am glad for those passing by, even if they are mostly men weighing a good stone or two more than me, or women matching them in volume, if not weight. This is proof of a holiday experience, and a moment in time where no matter how bad things get back in the real life, there will always be a memory here to Waikiki beach in Hawaii where all around me can think back and say, “remember how happy we were there?” And it's true. During the day, here at the beach, everyone is blissful, and everyone is in love with just being in love.

A Third Enters the Mix

Later in the day, a third person checks into our room. He must be in his early forties, though he doesn't look it. He'd spent the morning trying to sell his car up at Hickam. What followed could only be described as Mr. Toad's wild ride. Getting in the passenger seat with an old American man, whose right it will be to forever drive, is never less than thrilling, shall we say. The high speed turns, the rapid changes in direction – but, apparently – it's all part of selling your car.

On the way back, despite the bus being standing room only, he had the seat beside him all to himself. At one point an Indian woman sat beside him, only to be loudly chastised by her husband, told to, “watch out,” and was made to stand again and move away.

“Apparently, I'm the big scary black man. Who knew?” Later, he went on to explain that if you're black, and over 220 pounds, that's just how it is. Though in the touristy areas – such as Waikiki – it's worse.

After twenty two years in the navy, he'd just retired and is staying in the hostel until his flight out – back to the real world (with a brief stop in Las Vegas first, of course.) It turned out that he too was a submariner. What are the odds here? That I would be sharing a room with two ex-navy, who also happened to be submariners? There's some desirable about the extra padding on the pay check, apparently.

The differences between British boats, and American boats were discussed. While I tried to follow along, this is what I ended up gleaning from the conversation – American boats have soft serve ice cream machines, and a soda fountain stocked with five different flavours. British boats have orange drink.

At the end of the day, both of them sleep with their heads twenty meters away from a nuclear reactor. That's what really stood out in my mind. I'll have to check and see if they glow in the dark.

I was told that submariners on nuclear rigs only have girl. And while both said it's probably just nonsense, they started adding up the children of all their buddies. There did seem to be an unhealthy (80 – 85%) of female children being born. There's a study to be done here. You can't test the effects of radiation on childbearing by subjecting your average citizen to these standards, but with these naval officers, who unfortunately need to remain in close proximity as a job hazard...

They also talked about how both the British and the America military were going to soon be allowing females on the boats. Just like in Down Periscope. To be the only woman on a boat that remains submerged, for three months, with one hundred and fifty guys. I'm not sure if that would be awesome, or terrible for the woman. Time, and future studies, will tell. Apparently the Aussies have been doing it for ages.

The retired American runs down the plan of his day, “I was gonna go get some beer, get drunk, go to the internet cafe, stream some Stargate.”

“Stream some Stargate? ...Universe?”

“Hell no! That's crap.” [Authors note: no one likes Universe but me apparently.]

Here we have a Naval officer, an his plan was to go watch SG1 all day. I wonder if it's a show that is big with the military, or just with him. I could see it go either way. My five second layman hypothesis – and why Universe doesn't come off well – is that SG1 may be military, but it's also fun, and funny, and very light hearted. An escapist fantasy. Where as Universe is trying to be dark, and gritty. There is no light hearted fun to be had there.

Mr. Toad's wild ride, robbed him of the time to do that, however. Still – he rocked his iPad playing a game where you launch rocks, and fire, and ice, as castles to bring them down. Then he said I needed to play it. Once more, I'm glad that I don't have one of these things. So much time would be forever lost.

As the night pressed on, I accepted that I'd need some food. Heading out to the food court, I made a wrong turn, and suddenly saw police cars, and soldiers standing all around. Something had gone wrong at the club, I imagine. Press on faster. Next was the row of prostitutes. It's strange how they give off an air of prostitutiness, despite the fact that some of them are wearing far more, and less trashy, clothes than those just out for the clubs. I imagine it's something in the nonsensical posture that forces their breasts too far out, like men in drag trying forty percent too hard to overcompensate. Mind you, this is not consistent with all men in drag. Those in Thailand? Those in Japan? They have the art down.

When I passed the fifth professional, I decided that I was not headed the right way, and should turn back, make my way past the police – military vehicles now joining them – and then grab a few quick pastries at the local ABC shop.

Food eaten, and people crashing back in the dorm, I fell asleep in my clothes – not really caring that much, at all.

I love this place.

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