Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Best Vacation

I have had the good fortune during my lifetime to have traveled to quite a few spots across the globe for both business and pleasure. ( Australia & the Far East are still in my sights for the future) I have skied the Alps & the Rockies. I have played in the sun & sand on the French Riviera, the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Jersey Shore. I have hiked in all 4 time zones in the US and across glaciers in Switzerland. I have played golf at some of the great courses in the US. I have explored Cathedrals from top to bottom all across Europe. I even visited the Mouse before he discovered Florida. But never have I had as great a vacation as I had for 10 days this past March with my wife & three children in Maui.

I grew up basically spending my vacations in the mountains. I was either hiking or going to camp during the summer in upstate New York or I was skiing in Vermont or Colorado. Visits to the beach were few & far between for me. And Hawaii ? Well that was where Steve McGarrett wore a cheesy Hawaiian shirt and we all chugged when he said "Book'em Dano. Murder One." I never even thought about flying all the way across the Pacific to wear ugly shirts & munch on pineapple. My wife talked about her trips to Waikiki with her girlfriend and that made me want to go even less. Of course I had also made a promise to my wife when we got married (since it was on the 13th of the month) that any time our anniversary fell on a Friday the 13th that she could either have a party or we could go on a trip. As fate would have it our 5th anniversary fell on Friday 13th so we traded in our frequent flier miles, very reluctantly left our barely 1 year old daughter with our respective Mother's (they agreed to split time) and headed for Maui.

We chose Maui after doing "exhaustive research" on the islands. I called my Dad and asked him where we should go since I refused to go to a city (Honolulu) and I already worked in one every day. He told me to go to Maui and to stay down toward Wailea since he knew that my wife & I preferred quiet to crowds and low key to resort style. We lucked into a deal at a hotel in Makena and it was love at first sight for both of us. We relaxed on the quiet beach. We explored when & where we wanted to away from the crowds. When it was time to leave, we hoped to be able to come back some day with our children. I say "children" because despite the fact we only had one child at the time, we were actively trying for our second.

Five years later with now two children in tow, we headed back to Maui & the same hotel. The hotel was as before, perhaps a little more rundown but the vacation was still great because we were able to watch the joy, wonder & amazement in our daughters' eyes and smiles as we shared with them the same things that had made us fall in love with Maui during our first visit. We all agreed that someday we would again come back but with each passing day that prospect started to fade much like memories do.

Life has a funny way of getting you from Point A to Point B at times. We had a 3rd child. I changed jobs and stopped traveling. We moved just as the housing market began it's downward spiral. The financial world imploded in upon itself. Stress became more & more a major factor in our lives. Vacations became fewer & further between but in the back of mind Maui continued to smolder like Mount Haleakala whenever a Hawaiian reggae song came up on my iPod during my daily 4+ hours of commuting or when the darkness started to close in on me. I just knew we had to get back to Maui, I just didn't know how. Then my job shifted again from a desk based position back to time on the road and the miles started to add up. My children were growing up and my youngest had started to show signs that he would be able to make the flights. I knew it was time so I pulled the trigger. It had taken six years but I was able to get us five first class tickets to Maui with my frequent flier miles. Our old hotel had changed owners and they were looking for new clients (especially families) with packages that couldn't be beat.

So off we went. I can't even begin to put into words the relief I felt the first morning we woke up in Maui after our 11 hours of travel the day before. I could feel the stress flow out of my body like someone had poked a hole in a dike when my wife made me lock my blackberry in our in-room safe. I noticed the colors around me. I heard the waves crashing on the shore & the birds singing in the trees. I felt the breeze that rustled through the palm trees. Most of all I saw the smiles on the faces of my children & my wife and I saw the same love in my wife's eyes that I knew she saw in mine. Much like we had in our 2 previous visits, we played, ate, shopped, explored & experienced at our own pace. We were a family like we had always been and like we had never been. It was exciting. It was rewarding. It was unforgettable but most of all it was magical. The ten days flew by & crawled at the same time. We lost track of time and even missed the clocks springing ahead back on the mainland. It was a real vacation. Even the travel nightmare that befell us on the return flight home couldn't dampen our spirits. So what if it took 24 hours, two different airlines and a ton of unexpected expense to get home. We still had our ten days in Maui to keep us sheltered from reality.

It's been a month since we got back from our trip. I can still taste the fish tacos at Alexander's. I can still hear the Humpback Whales slapping their tails on the water off the beach in Kihei. I can still see the sun setting from the sidewalks of Lahaina. I can still feel the happiness, joy & laughter that enveloped our little family. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about this trip and what it meant to me and what it meant to my family. We are all stronger & happier for it. I don't know if you can really catch lightning in a bottle twice or see the same rainbow more than once but we are going to try again next year. Mahalo Maui.

And that is the view for now from Behind The Shades….swampy abides…

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