This Little Miggy Stayed Home: Going Back to Hawaii

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Going Back to Hawaii

This Little Miggy || Going Back to Hawaii
It was August of 1996 and I was 19 years old with a freshly broken heart and a savings account that had over $2,000 for the first time in my life, when I boarded a plane headed to Honolulu Hawaii.

Having spent my freshman year of college at a community college in Orem, Utah hanging out with my high school friends and their new dorm friends from down the road at BYU in Provo, (the University I had initially been denied acceptance to, but would eventually graduate from) something was missing from my college experience thus far. I lived on my own, I went to school and got good grades, I even fell in love and had my first serious boyfriend that year, but it was not the college experience I had imagined for myself.

Dependence was the under-painting of my freshman year. I had become too dependant on too many other people for too many things. Dependant on other people for friends, for rides, for adventures and even for happiness. I had set out to live on my own and find my own way, but I fell back on the people around me. I needed to do something big and daring, and I needed to do it on my own. So I moved to Hawaii.

I was actually going to attend BYU-Hawaii on the north shore of Oahu and when I stepped off the plane I had no idea what I was doing. What I mean by that, is I literally had no idea what to do after I got off the plane. See I had never bothered to look at a map of Hawaii and so I didn't know where Honolulu was in relation to Laie, the town where I was headed, and I wasn't sure how I was going to get there. With this idea of "adventure!" and "figure it out on your own!" as part of my mantra, I had decided not to prepare too much in advance because I wanted to problem solve for myself how to do things and know that, for example, I couldn't just call a friend to come pick me up from the airport. In hindsight not figuring out a ride from the airport was actually super stupid and I could have gotten myself into a bad situation. I remembering asking a stranger if I could take a cab to Laie and he looked at me like I had 6 eyes. I walked away. Luckily I found a group of students who were smarter than me and had signed up for the school's shuttle and I was able to hop on.

Besides actively choosing ignorance as a game plan, I also remember stepping off the plane and feeling immediately at home. Not home home. It wasn't exactly a feeling of familiarity and safety. It was foreign and new, but something about that island resonated with me and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. I remember clearly the experience of witnessing my life changing before my very eyes and it was electric.

I will never forget looking out of the window on that bus ride up to the north shore and seeing road, beach, water and realizing I live here now.

That year in Hawaii was a pivotal year for me. I came to a place where I knew no one and no one knew me. The blankest slate of my life. I made friends, found housing, surfed, rock climbed, got scuba certified, hitchhiked, camped in the mountains, and I figured this all out on my own. I was not tied to my past or another person and I learned not only that I could do hard things, but I learned to define what hard even was. Moving to Hawaii was one of the best decisions I ever, ever made.
I came back to Provo, Utah in April of 1997. In 1998 I returned to Hawaii to work for the summer and I haven't been back since. Until...

Next week I'm returning to Oahu with my family for the first time in 20 years. TWENTY YEARS. I can barely comprehend that but I am so excited. I feel like I'm visiting an old friend. There are so many things I'm excited to see and show my family, but at the same time I know that in 20 years it has probably changed so much.

Here is what is currently on my to-do list:
Visit Laie and BYU-Hawaii, and the Hawaii Temple
Polynesian Cultural Center
Temple Beach
Suset Beach
Wiamea Bay
Hali'ewa and Motsumoto's shave ice
relax on the beach
possible scuba dive or shark dive excursion
Pearl Harbor (never did this the first time!)

Friends, what else do I need to see, eat, do while in Oahu? We will be in Waikiki for the first 2 days (my husband's dental conference) but the last week we'll be on the North Shore staying close to Turtle Bay. A lot of the hikes I did back in the 90's are no longer available, I'd love to take the family on a hike. Of course we want some down time too...we're going to be on Island time after all, but what else should I add to the list?

Has anyone else ever had that experience of packing your bags and changing your whole life in an instant? Where did you go and has the experience stayed with you? Did you find it to be a pivotal, life changing experience like I did, or was it just another place to live? As much as it freaks me out to think of one of my girls doing this in their late teens, early 20's, I so badly want them to have an experience like this--to do something drastic and daring with their life just once! Thoughts? 


  1. We were there last summer and may go back this July - on my MUST list:

    Skydiving over the North Shore (my dad and I did this last summer and it was hands-down AMAZING, better than the two times I've skydived on the mainland)

    Waikiki catamaran ride (we did one that had a fun maitai bar on it; you could find something a little more kid friendly ;) )

    Fish tacos at Haleiwa Joes (...twice)

    Breakfast at Downbeat Diner

    Snorkeling at Shark's Cove (!!!) I can NOT recommend this enough!!!

    Pearl Harbor is really emotional, but definitely something I think anyone visiting Oaho should do once. We won't go again if we return this summer, just because it's very emotionally exhausting - but incredibly meaningful.

    Hawaiian plate lunch and poke from Yama's Fish Market

  2. Your post brings back memories of my summer at BYU Hawaii several years ago! It was the first trip that I made happen without my parents' planning it (booked the plane ticket, found housing, scheduled the shuttle, etc) but I went with my roommate/best friend, so I was not alone. Still, it taught me how much work it takes to just plan a trip! When we took the shuttle from the airport to Laie, we were so surprised to see pineapple growing as bushes along the rode (I don't know if we thought they grew on trees, or what?) Our shuttle driver even stopped and let us take a picture of the pineapple plants. We did go sky diving on the north shore, which was amazing, but I personally don't think I would go now--as a mom to five kids, I feel much more aware of my mortality than I did as a college student. I remember Matsumoto's Shave Ice and so many things you mentioned. We used to walk up Kamehameha Highway to Foodland and buy Ben and Jerry's ice cream when it was on sale and then sit in our backyard which was on the beach, and eat ice cream out of the container in the dark. It was so simple, but its one of my favorite memories there! We loved Sunset Beach and went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. We were amused at the stop signs, which were BLUE, in Kaneohe, and the trash cans in Subway which said "Mahalo." We went to the Dole Pineapple visitor's center, Pearl Harbor, the flea market to buy lava lavas, and the PCC and the Laie temple. We hiked Diamondhead. Also, there was a small island that I believe was called "Goat Island" that we could swim/walk in the water to from Hukilau beach (is that the right name?) and we would go explore it and look for crabs. I'm not sure if my comment is very helpful to you, but it brought back a lot of memories! I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time!

  3. Long-time reader, rare commenter. I've got family in Hawaii and visit pretty regularly with my kids. Oahu is one of my favorite places, but it has gotten pretty crowded over the last 15 years, especially the touristy areas (just FYI). We always plan a lot of beach time--Kailua and Waimanalo are some of my favorite beaches (Kailua can be crowded, and the bathrooms last summer were some of the nastiest I've ever seen). Ko Olina also has nice beaches, but when we were there last summer, the parking was almost always full (and if you're not already on the west side, it's probably not worth it). We often take advantage of the time adjustment and little kids that wake up early to hit the beach first thing in the morning, sometimes even packing a breakfast to eat there. We can get in a few solid hours of beach time before things are too crowded and the sun is too strong. Going to the beach in the late afternoon is nice too--my kids have very fair skin and burn easily, so we can't spend the whole day.

    We always stop at Ted's on the North Shore for pieces of pie, and if you want a family-friendly restaurant option, Zippy's is a nice choice. They have a bunch all around the island. Another restaurant we tried in Honolulu last year was called Murakame Udon, which is a chain from Japan, and it was so good! My kids loved it! I think the Dole Pineapple Plantation is overpriced and cheesy, but they have a great gift shop. It also includes a section with local artists selling things like jewelry, art, and other things. I got a really nice bag there a few years ago. Much better than the swap meet. And you may already know this, but if you want souvenirs, WalMart or Longs is a better place to buy them than any of the gift shops.

    Some newer things we've tried recently include stand-up paddleboarding in Haleiwa, Waimea Valley (they have a paved trail up to a waterfall you can swim in), and visiting the Bishop Museum (great for a break from the beach if you need it--you can watch them melt rocks into lava). Also, if you're going to PCC, get the package with tickets for the night show because it is super worth it. Have a fun trip!

  4. My university experience had some similarities. I mean, I had a place to live, and my parents dropped me off... Oh and there were a big handful of other kids from my high school who went to the same university. However, I remember crossing the border from NY, where I grew up, into Quebec, where I was attending university, and seeing ALL the signs in French and being somewhat surprised, thinking "hmm I guess everything is in French here...?". Haha! I had taken 6 years of Spanish, but didn't know any French. Id been to Canada before, but to Alberta, where my mother is from. And no one speaks French lol. I mean, signs in national parks are bilingual, as is all product packaging, but that's about it. The entire university system is set up slightly differently. Additionally, the church has a *much* smaller presence in Canada than in the states, and especially in Quebec. Anyway, it all worked out and I've been in Canada for nearly all of the last 16 years. But looking back - oh man was I really had no idea what I was doing!

    1. P. S. Have an amazing time in Hawaii! I haven't really been to Oahu - we went to Maui, Lenai, the big island, and Kauai a few years ago and it was SO fun!

  5. My major 'independent' step was also a move to Oahu to start graduate school when I was 21, 6,000 miles away from everyone I knew. I stayed for 6 years and return often. I have really enjoyed sharing my favorite places there with my kiddo on return visits. Have fun and eat sandwiches from Kua Aina and Ba-Le for me :)

  6. I loved the art museum in Honolulu. They have a lot of art of Hawaii and by Hawaiians, and the building is lovely. It’s small enough to be doable with kids, too.
    Show your kids a pineapple plant. Mind blown!! ;).

  7. We’re in Oahu now. A friend needed dog and plant care for a couple of months, our family jumped at the chance. We’ve done all the stuff you said - got scuba certified, learned to surf, hiked, camped, and eaten all the Hawaiian treats (Mango Otai, malasadas, Ted’s haupia pie). It’s been amazing. We didn’t rock climb here, but spent three weeks in Yosemite on our way and got our fill. My husband, Erik, climbed The Nose on El Cap. Our visit is winding down and I’ve got a cross country road trip from San Francsico to New York City with four kids to look forward to while my husband is in a sailing race to Bermuda. Like you, we’ve got a book coming out in March 2019 (Congratulations!!!) so we have to get some work done. I say - go bold. We let our kids make their own choices and we let them pay their own way through college. They have been really grateful to own their own lives and are way more adventurous than I was at their ages.