Tag Archives: Backpacking

Finding Time to Relax While on Vacation

ImageThere’s something beautiful about a quiet, empty common area

I’m amused by the existence of this post.  It seems counter-intuitive that one would need to relax while vacationing in paradise, doesn’t it?  I’ve somehow managed to keep myself fairly busy this whole time, and it’s time for me to slow down.  Between the farm work that comes with WWOOFing, online classes (I’ve doing both an entrepreneurship course, and a “Rhetoric II” course), trying to maintain a blog (I know that the rest of yall are probably rolling your eyes, but I had no clue how much work this thing takes!), and rushing about trying to cram as many experiences as possible in to my time here, I haven’t been doing much breathing.

Today was especially busy.  We started early to avoid the heat as much as possible, but we still had a large harvest that kept us busy until mid-afternoon.  Afterward I had an essay to write, notes to take, and some information that I’m reviewing as a favor to the owners of the farm.  Toss in a bit of cooking, cleaning, dealing with the various social obligations that come with a communal living situation, and the hours just disappear.

I’ve decided that I’m going to relax now.  I think I’m going to start by maybe having a glass of kava, and hitting the sack.

Good night, yall

-NSTB

Taking a Deep Breath of Ocean Air

ImageI just had a very interestingly timed conversation- just as I was about to start typing.  It was short and to the point, but after yesterday’s little panic attack, it’s comforting.  A gal that I’m casually seeing- North Carolina massage therapist (NCMT) told me (and is telling me as I’m typing) how she’s back from having just diffused a situation.  A new WWOOFer was apparently a little stressed, and, in here words, “tripping.”  She mentioned how it wasn’t a big deal, and how she’d caught herself tripping out and stressing a few days before when she was snapping at me.  She then went on to say that everybody does it.

I have a habit of rolling my eyes when she talks about her intuitive feel for people, and understanding of human nature- especially when she drops full sized generalizations like “everybody trips out.”  The eye roll came, and I quipped that I hadn’t had a freak out yet.  Her was response?  “You and I are different.  Yours is going to be quiet and in your head.”  Yesterday came back to me, and I realized that, as much as it bothers me to admit it, she’s to some extent or another correct.

I had my little freakout yesterday.  I hadn’t put much thought to it today, but that’s probably because I managed to get it out of my system.  I panicked under the stress of a new environment, let the tension build up in me, and had a private meltdown last night.  It’s liberating knowing it for what it is, and even more comforting that I’m not the only one experiencing it, even if it manifests itself in different ways with different people.  I’m a little more ready to face the future and world.

Have any of yall ever had minor meltdowns or travel stress from a new environment?  How’d you deal with it?

The Ballad (Dirge?) of a Southern Man in Hawaii

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“But I guess it’s something you don’t understand.” — The Texas sunset (undoctored image)

It’s worth prefacing this by saying that I love life.  I’m thrilled to be in Hawaii.  I’ve been here for two weeks and my world is already changing and my horizons are expanding.  Some of my preconceived notions are being challenged, and others are being reinforced.  This may well be, as made famous by Dilbert, my paradigm shifting without a clutch.  Maybe it’s just not engaged fully and there’s a bit of gear grind.  It’s about time for my turn- god knows I’ve put my Jeep through it enough.

I miss Texas.

Change is good, Hawaii is beautiful, I’m meeting all sorts of wonderful people, and I wouldn’t even consider taking back this decision- but, dear god do I miss Texas.

I’m not just the only Texan here, I’m the only southerner here.  That seems like a silly thing to cause any sort of trepidation, but you begin to realize that there are distinct regional differences rather quickly.

The 10ish people who have been here or that are here are a surprisingly homogenous crowd, even though none of them are traveling together or even knew each other before this farm.  I’m about to break people down to in general categories.  It does them a disservice a individuals- I understand this- but is useful for painting a very broad picture.

  • There are a couple bay area (San Francisco and Oakland) people here- one bi gal who is a massage therapist/dula, and only eats “whole” foods whenever possible, and one guy who is gay and very quiet (he’s gone now to another island) and vegetarian
  • Two Canadian gals from Ontario, and two from Montreal.  Two are gone.  Of those that remain, one only eats whole, vegan foods and is incredibly fit, and the other is a massage therapist/naturopath who remains mostly vegetarian.
  • A girl from Chapel Hill who is a massage therapist.
  • A gay guy from NYC who likes to spend his summers as a drag queen.
  • A couple people who were leaving just as I was coming in were from Portland.

I’m an outlier.  Even as a somewhat progressive atheist who has actively campaigned for gay rights, I’m an outlier.  I’m not just an outlier, but much of what I value is seen as negative, destructive, or something that needs “fixing.”

Working construction in Texas means busting ass with a number of good ‘ol boys, sharing a sort of fraternal camaraderie, and shooting the shit about life.  Something as simple as walking around in Texas means occasionally holding the door open for a lady, and nodding your head and responding with a “ma’am” when she flashes you a big smile, full of genuine gratitude, and thanks you for it, even though she expected it the whole time.

That sort of thing doesn’t really happen here.  I feel very neutered in my ability to express myself, in both my actions and my words.

Being a Texan means being a part of that, and so much more.  It’s a large part of my identity, and I’m proud of that.  It’s rough not being able to share it.

On a related note, a link to a beautiful song- by a Texas band- that resonates pretty deeply with me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj7Zft8aiRc

Kua Beach

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Kua Beach

Today was quite the adventure! We’ve had several, which I hope to cover another time, but today was Kua Beach on the big island of Hawaii.

We don’t have a vehicle readily available here at the farm that I’m WWOOFing at, but we do have a great spot to hitchhike only half a mile up the hill from where we are.  We hitchhike everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  Which is okay, because Hawaii is very hitchhiker friendly.  I don’t think that we’ve waited more than 20 minutes for a ride.  Sometimes it takes multiple rides to reach your destination- today’s return trip took 4- but you’ll get there eventually.

Kua beach is a small beach by mainland standards, but one of the larger sandy beaches here on the big island.  It’s relatively busy, but friendly, and while the waves aren’t surfable (they close too quickly and break too close to the shore) the boogie boarding is loads of fun!  A note on boogie boarding: until today I thought it was pretty lame.  Those that can’t do, teach; those can’t surf, boogie board.  Much in the same way that I’ve learned that there are very capable, competent teachers, I learned today that boogie boarding can be hella fun, and pretty extreme.  Did you know that some people friggin stand on up on them when they catch a wave!?

The waves today were pretty big, powerful, and closed hard and quick.  You couldn’t surf it, but it was great fun on the boogie board.  We lined up, chatted, watched the sets, and when we saw the wave coming, everyone lined up and got ready for a rough ride.  Depending on your timing and luck, you either had a good 7 seconds of push and a graceful dismount, or two seconds of rush before doing a 1080 underwater and bouncing off the sand a time or two.  Neither outcome got old.

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We left at the perfect time, and made it to the farm in time to watch the sunset.  It was about then that I realized what happens when you combine intense sunlight, a fairly pasty white kid, and several hours at the beach- no matter how much sunscreen you apply and reapply.  I’m a bit burnt.  A bit might be a bit of an understatement.  I’m not going to the hospital with sun poisoning, but I’m red.  I’ve applied aloe, and, after a quick google search, also applied vinegar to all of the unhappy areas.  I’m hoping that it does what it’s supposed to, and I tan instead of peel.  Cross your fingers for me, please!

I’ve got a few online courses to take care of now.  I’ve been putting them off all week.

Do yall have any tricks or tips for dealing with sunburns? Leave me a comment and let me know!

-NSTB

The Power of “Hello, my name is…”

ImageMa in all of her glory

Only an hour ago I had one of those experiences that make you stop and think, “Wow, life really is a wonderful thing.”

After a hard day of work, we (the group of WWOOFers here at the farm and I) had hoped to go to the beach.  It ended up being overcast and drizzly, so we chose to forgo the beach trip and hang around. We were generally short on booze when I arrived, and after a bit of bumming, I decided that this downtime was as good of a time as any for me to replace what I’d used and contribute to future shenanigans.

One of the gals who’s been here for a little while was told by another WWOOFer who’d left recently that she needed to try Kava.  We had no clue what it was- only that it was a muscle relaxant and that there was a spot that sold it nearby.  I later found out that it’s a Polynesian plant whose root is commonly used for medicinal purposes.  We elected to go in to town together, grab the alcohol, and then give the Kava a shot.

The liquor store trip was uneventful, but the Kava shop was incredible.  It’s run by an older Polynesian woman with a very thick accent and a quick smile who goes by the name of “Ma.” Ma was quick to pour us a very large, communal bowl of Kava, and then content to sit and enjoy the cool weather- warm eyes and smile never leaving her face.

The Kava was very interesting.  It’s simply powdered root in water, and tastes like it. The powder numbs your tongue and throat on contact, almost like a novocaine gel, and after several minutes, mellows out the rest of your body.  There was a light, heady sort of feeling, and my nagging back pain, which I’ve been subject to for months, was kind enough to disappear while we were drinking, and for a bit afterward.

ImageThe bowl of kava and the coconut shell cups

I became curious about the old woman who seemed so happy just to be alive, so I introduced myself.  “Howdy ma’am, my name’s…” “People call me Ma.”  She picked up an old ukulele and asked if I could sing or play.  I told her that I could give the singing a shot, but I definitely knew how to play a few songs.  She listened, smiled, and occasionally rasped along with me when she knew the lyrics.  She explained that her lungs didn’t work properly, so she couldn’t sing much, and enjoyed listening to others now instead.  I’d hardly call what I do “singing” but she seemed to be enjoying herself, and I was having a pretty good time too!

Ma had me grab a binder near the table that she was sitting at, and flipped it open to a few loose pages of ukulele tabs with lyrics.  While she played, we sang together and laughed as we struggled through the song.

After we finished with the ukulele, we sat, sipped kava, and disccused life for a while.  She hit her stride for a few minutes and told me a few of her thoughts on life.  I made sure to take notes.  Some of it follows:

  • Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. If someone is upset with you because you falsely advertised yourself, you should be ashamed.  If someone doesn’t approve of who you are when you’re genuine, you can hold your head up high, and should seek better people instead.
  • Give respect to the mother and father of any household you visit.  Always bring a gift for the lady of the house.  It doesn’t have to be big- something as small as a flower- but you should always bring something.
  • “The older I get, the more I know that life is too short to hold grudges.”

We parted ways a few minutes later.  I promised to return, and will be bringing Ma something the next time I visit.  I can’t wait for next time!

ImageThe interior of the shop and Ma prepping our kava

Have any of yall ever had kava?  What about an experience with an elder that left a lasting positive impression?

-NSTB

Hidden Prices

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Our hero in his natural habitat

I mentioned in an older post how happy I was to find a cheap ticket to Hawaii, and just how easy it was to find them.  The ticket never got more expensive, but the travel costs increased a little more than initially intended.

For starters, there’s luggage fees.  I was prepared for these, but it’s worth keeping in mind when pricing out tickets whether or not you’ll be paying to check a bag.  In my case, checking my backpack cost me an extra $25.

Next is food.  I went to the airport entirely unprepared for long distance travel.  I expected that I’d be getting a meal if nothing else on my flight from California to Hawaii.  Sure- as long as paid a pretty solid chunk of change.  I should have looking in to this, and I should have brought snackage anyway.  Also, I’d forgotten just how expensive airport food is! I probably should have loaded up on a large breakfast as well. Instead, I spent $14 on cashews and beef jerky, and then, my stomach empty and crying after the long flight, I went to the airport bar and spent $28 on beer and a burger.

I’d like to think that I’m pretty good about eating healthy.  I also know that I’m awful about it when I’m starving.  Next time I travel, I’ll be prepared.

Are there any hidden costs to traveling that yall’ve found, and any tricks around them?

-NSTB

My New Office

I woke up this morning in Kona, Hawaii.

Wait- let’s try that again.

I WOKE UP THIS MORNING IN FREAKING HAWAII!!!

I’m at Kealaola Farm, sitting in the common area, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.  The hosts, Ken and Barry, are easy going, genuinely nice people, and made me feel at home immediately.  The other WWOOFers here followed suit, and I’m thrilled about the chance to get to know everybody more in the coming weeks!

A cool thing about my timing is that I’m getting in right as all of the old WWOOFers are leaving.  This means that a new crop of adventurers and I will get to learn about farming in a (excuse the pun) more organic way than if we’d been started out under the direction of more experienced volunteers, and likely with more hands on direction from our hosts.

Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of my new home:

ImageThe common area view from the doorway last night

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What happens when you turn 180 degrees in that doorway (taken this morning at 6:00 AM)

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My new office assistant 

I’m off to make breakfast and stretch out a little bit.  I hope yall are doing well, and would love to hear your thoughts or ideas on how I could make this most of this adventure!

-NSTB