I call it the "Disneyland Illusion". But before I describe it to you, I must warn that some may find it offensive. After all, we all know those people who treat Disney like a religion and DisneyLAND as if it were Mecca. If you're one of those (or under the age of 12 and haven't been yet), you probably shouldn't read on.
I cannot even recall how old I was at the time...8, 9 maybe. It was the first family vacation that didn't involve a van stuffed with 10 (give or take) other siblings bound for grandma's house in Utah. This time, we were headed for none other than Disneyland! I couldn't have been happier about it. Just like every other kid, I had waited for this moment my whole life. I had a vision of what it would be like and it was a mixture of all the magical commercials I'd seen on TV: Princesses everywhere you looked, just waiting to greet you and give you a big hug, a huge castle with fireworks constantly going off behind it, a place where anything could happen....
Without going into too much detail, I was a tad...dare I say it...disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time and I felt so lucky that my parents brought my family and I on a vacation other than to grandma's house, but something was missing. Where was the magic?
I've asked myself the same question a few times since, when I have been super excited about something and then it turns out it's altogether pretty ordinary. Which is why, sadly enough, I try not to get my hopes up too much. I still get excited about things, but in a different way. Some may call me a realist, others practical, and some may think it's just a downright sad way to live. I would have to argue otherwise though. I don't think there's anything wrong with seeing things as they are. And in fact, some things, in reality, are so much better than I ever could have dreamed anyway. And that brings me to...Paradise.
At the risk of getting someone else's hopes up unrealistically, or making my paradise a universal paradise (which is, as you know, impossible), I'm going to share with you the place I can honestly say is the most beautiful place I have ever been...up to this point in my life, of course.
Ever since Max and his boys hiked the Kalalau Trail last year, I have been itching to do it. And since I moved to Kauai, it has been on the top of my to-do list. But--I didn't want to do it with just anybody. I wanted to hike it with the man I love (who also happens to be a great backpacking buddy). I had 10 days off of work while Max was here and it was the perfect time to go...except that it wouldn't stop raining. Now, a little rain doesn't scare me, but anyone who lives in Kauai (and especially those who work in the ER and hear the dispatch calls for rescues of people out on the trails during the flash floods), know better than to attempt the 11 mile trek to the Kalalau Valley in the rain. But time was running out. And I couldn't stand spending one more day inside while Max fixed my volvo (story to follow at a later time).
So, we had a few more days left and although the forecast was "questionable", we decided to take the risk. We got all packed up and headed out, way too late in the afternoon and it had started to rain. By the time we hit the trailhead though, the rain stopped, not to be seen again for the remainder of our trip.
We hiked, and sweated, and hiked some more (and sweated some more), and the views just kept getting better and better.
We arrived at our destination well after dark (as was expected), with aching legs and tired shoulders. And it was already my favorite place in the world. The moon was full and shone just bright enough so we didn't need flashlights to set up camp. But first we took off our packs and sat on the warm sand, looking out at the moonlit ocean. The night was so still, not a breath of wind. I had no idea what this place would look like in the morning, but I was already smitten. After our legs had a minute to rejuvenate, we rinsed off in a trickling waterfall, made some dinner (always gourmet when camping with Max), and went to sleep, so exhausted, but so excited for the next couple of days.
I woke up earlier than Max, partly because the sand was starting to feel like cement underneath me, but mostly because I wanted to explore our new home! And this is what I saw...
I could not have imagined more breathtaking views. This was certainly no Disneyland Illusion. It was another world out there. Cellphones were redundant, money was useless, and the only concern I had was whether or not I put on enough sunscreen. I spent the day relaxing, playing in the kiddie pool (a pool of ocean water that came up over the sand bar and got stuck, making a perfect bath), eating delicious meals, and soaking in as much sun as my freckly skin could handle, while Max played and boogie-boarded in the huger-than-life waves. I never wanted to leave.
Time seemed to stand still out at Kalalau and we were tempted to do as our nudist hippie neighbors and stay there for months (minus the whole nude part). Unfortunately, I had to get back to work, and Max had a flight to catch. So, the next day, reluctantly, we trekked the 11 miles back to civilization. It was so hard to turn our backs to this wonderland and the only thing that kept me going was the thought that we would do this again in the future.
Is it the future yet?