Discover Genuine Experiences
Chance and circumstance can either open or close doors. But I’ve found that for those who are willing to slow down, keep their minds open and listen for opportunity, then good fortune provides the occasional amazing discovery...the open door.
For example, you may be visiting Maui and driving the scenically-gifted, but slightly tourist-centric “Road to Hana.” You could speed through it, shooting blurry pictures of countless waterfalls from out of the sunroof of your rental Jeep. You could fly in and out of the one public rest-stop midway along the drive and continue making record time, making it back to the hotel in time for happy hour.
Or, while you’re at that rest-stop you could walk to the far edge of the space and see a young Hawaiian man sitting at a picnic table making and selling jewelry there. Now you could choose to ask him “Where is the next waterfall?” and he would gladly tell you while he continued to make his necklaces, bracelets and earrings. You could then be quickly on your way, directions in hand, continuing to make good time and still making it back to the hotel in time for happy hour; one bonus blurry waterfall picture added to your collection.
But what if you slowed down to admire his craft for a couple minutes, and while doing so, began to listen to everything else he is saying after he gives those directions to the waterfall. Something about him growing up and fishing with his Grandmother, who he swears can actually call the fish to her. Or something else about what he calls the ‘hand of God,’ which apparently is a spot near Keanae where the outcroppings of all the land stretch into the ocean looking like outstretched fingers. And near this spot his friend, Auntie-somebody, runs an out-of-the-way shave ice stand, selling the most delicious banana bread on the island.
And you might even begin to have a soft dialog with this young man, who begins to tell you that he is the caretaker of the taro patches at the Keanae Arboretum. The 500-year-old taro patches were neglected and overgrown until he began caring for them. And, by the way, if you’d like to see them, he is heading down there shortly and he’d be happy to meet you there, to show you the plant that was the staple of the early Hawaiian’s diet.
So, foregoing the next waterfall, you meet him at the arboretum. Hiking past where most visitors turn around, he leads you to several ancient taro patches. He teaches you how it’s planted, nurtured and its significance, then and now. You spend time asking questions, talking story and learning about a way of life you knew little or nothing about.
And here’s the thing: no other tourist experienced this today and probably not this week or month; you just discovered something completely genuine, original and organic.
You drive back to the hotel, completely missing happy hour.
And honestly, I didn’t care the least damn bit.
Dennis Rockney is a freelance writer, director and photographer who lives in sunny (j/k) Portland, Oregon, but has the good fortune to visit Hawaii several times a year.