“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”~Henry David Thoreau
Lost can mean a variety of different things. Lost in direction, lost in a job, lost in a relationship or just lost in life in general. But being lost, in and of itself, does not lead to self discovery, however. It is the acceptance of being lost and the challenge of finding what is yours to rediscover.
Being lost for me this year came in the form of losing my identity as a wife. And in losing that, I also found that my future…the certainty of a future, was lost as well. While I felt misplaced in my life, I knew I wanted to do more than just exist. I wanted to surrender myself to what I love, to what makes me feel alive, in hopes that I would thrive and be found again. Travel.
From day one my soul stirred. I wanted to submerge myself in the culture and get lost from myself. I would be reckless in the pursuit of personal discovery. With the tropical terrain and the seductive sea as my guide, I would drift and discover, escape and engage, fearless in my journey.
In a land where the backdrop itself is poetic, the ‘aloha spirit’ enchants, and the air exhilarates, Hawaii provides a stunning utopia. Even on her cloudiest and rainiest day she can’t hide her beauty. My eyes witnessed her vibrant green mountains with abundant waterfalls, secluded beaches made for only movies, bamboo trees that touched the sky, and cliffs with soaring seas, holding views that defy imagination.
On my last day in Kauai, I ventured along the west side of the island to Waimea Canyon. Never in my life have I had a goal to see a canyon but I thought, “While in Kauai…” The lookouts over the canyon were admirable, yes. But the main attraction, for me, was The Canyon Trail and where it led me. The trail sign read, Trail Conditions: exposed roots and uneven surfaces. May be muddy and slippery in places, 1.8 miles each way. After being in Kauai for 4 days already and covering every corner, I was pretty sure I had seen all that the trails had to offer. My clothes had been torn, my shoes hadn’t been dry in days, and I had never felt so alive in my life. Pushing myself past personal limits, never realized before, was both liberating and addictive.
Using steps carved out of red dirt I move along at a steady pace. The air is calm and pleasant. I can hear myself breathing. I wonder which is louder, that or the beating of my heart. As the trail became more demanding, I found myself with an unexplainable smile and an unguarded frame of mind. “This is what I am here for,” I thought. I never wanted it to end. The trail proved to be all that the sign had warned me about. One minute I was sliding backwards in a mud slide, while the next I was grasping for branches to pull me up over roots and boulders. Nature was unapologetic in her course and she had an indescribable innocence about it all. No longer needing to think, just look, I felt alive! The familiar blue sky and brilliant sun found opportunities to say hello through the canopy of trees. Catching glimpses of the impressive canyon to my right, I trekked on. Destination unknown.
WARNING! Hazardous Cliff. The ground may break off without warning. Here I was, face to face with a sign trying to turn me away from quite possibly the most breathtaking moment of my life, only I didn’t know that yet. This sign could not be the trail end. No way. There had to be more. Be fearless in my journey, I reminded myself. Putting the sign behind me, I held true to my promise.
The sign did its job warning me about the cliff and its life threatening possibilities. What the sign failed to mention were the dramatic views I was about to witness. As I stood along the cliff’s edge, consuming a 360 degree view of the canyon, my body was paralyzed in awe. As if color blind before this moment, the majestic reds, the spots of lush greens, and the staggering beauty, aroused my senses. Standing at the top of the canyon, 3,600 feet deep, surrounded by such rich scenery, such mind-blowing size, a helicopter passing by at eye level was just another speck in the sky. Absorbing the details of the vast gorge to memory, I felt more connected to the universe than ever before. The pure, innocent story of a canyon…the pure, innocent story of us.
With my back turned to the canyon, making my way down the trail, I felt an undeniable surge of melancholy. The feelings (mind and body) that consumed me in that canyon are feelings that I can never fully portray. I can try. But they are just too powerful and words will forever fall short. Even the words on this paper fall short. Trust me. It is an experience that will leave you feeling full yet thirsting for more. I wish everyone the great fortune of experiencing a moment in life like this.
You see, people visit Hawaii to escape life as they know it, even if for a brief encounter. For reasons each their own, just like dust, some decide to settle. And although I did not settle, I returned home with more of a stirring in my stomach than ever before. An excitement and understanding that only being lost helped me regain.