I love revisiting a place I have already been. Even better if I can do so in new company.
If I didn’t much care for the place on the first visit, it gives me a second chance to discover it with an open heart and mind. If I know the place well already, then revisiting with someone new unlocks a world of magic.
Maui is a place I feel like I know quite well. Better than the casual vacationer, anyway. My family has had ties to the island for many years, beginning with my grandparents who visited for the first time in the 1950s. I imagine it was quite a different place back then.
They passed their love for Maui on to my mother and her siblings, which then got passed along to my generation. Spending Christmas on the island every few years while growing up was both a luxury and an honor.
I can’t say I quite remember my very first visit to the island, seeing as I was just two years old at the time, but luckily, my family has always had an affinity for photography so I’ve been able to relive some of those memories through the stories and photos we’ve shared over the years.
The one of me standing naked on a boogie board in all my toe-headed, Michelin baby glory, always elicits hearty laughs. Perhaps this photo was simply a foreshadowing of my future island life. One can hope!
Before I returned to the island this year, my most recent visit had been with family back in 2015. In fact, every visit ever had been a family affair. And there’s nothing wrong with this by any means; I’ve loved exploring the island with the people I hold most dear.
But the thing about always visiting a place with the same people is, you tend to repeat a lot of the same experiences time after time, for the sake of ease and familiarity.
My family always stayed in Kihei, a town on the island’s southern shore. We frequented the beaches in the immediate area–Makena was always a favorite. We drove to Lahaina to enjoy the kitsch, the shops, and the family-friendly restaurants. We took boat rides to watch migrating whales, to snorkel, or to fish. We shopped at the Kihei ABC Store where my mom usually let me pick out a pretty trinket to bring home as a souvenir.
It was always delightful, and the familiarity served to make the experience quite relaxing–a true vacation (which I’m sure is all my parents really wanted).
Once I entered my twenties and had traveled extensively on my own, I began to crave a slightly different travel experience. One with more spontaneity and a dash of adventure. Our visit in 2015 certainly reflected my new taste in travel, and thankfully, it seemed my mom and brothers were up for a little more excitement, too.
We drove to the summit of Haleakala Crater for the most incredible sunrise I’d ever seen. We hopped into kayaks and enjoyed a morning swim with giant sea turtles. We explored new beaches and new restaurants.
I finally, after all those years of visiting, understood the layout of the island without having to consult a map. I could picture the imposing volcanoes and the valley that stretches between them. I could conjure up images of rainbows and banyan trees and roadside fruit stands. I could visit the island without even moving my feet.
So when my boyfriend (now fiancé) and I scheduled our recent October trip, I already knew it would be one to remember. I’d have the chance to show him all of my beloved island haunts, but also discover plenty of new ones.
A new travel companion for an old favorite destination meant new eyes and a fresh perspective, allowing me to see the island in a whole new light.
For starters, we wouldn’t be staying in Kihei or anywhere near it. Instead, we decided to camp in a VW Westfalia for our first several nights, which would allow us to explore the island at will, never worrying about where we’d lay our heads each night. After that, we would move into a condo rental on the far west side of the island in the Kaanapali area, a place that was entirely unknown to me prior.
And because neither one of us are meticulous planners, we left much of our itinerary wide open so that we’d be free to indulge in whatever experiences we chanced upon.
So, while I was hopeful that I’d get to show him the splendor of Haleakala, drive the perilous, winding road to Hana (a first for both of us), and visit some of my favorite beaches, we weren’t attached to any of these ideas.
Non-attachment is key to travel, if you ask me, as so many things can (and usually do) change. And it worked in our favor this time around because many of our “plans” fell through to make way for better things.
We spent days and evenings hanging out with friends from Washington who now call Maui home, experiencing a small taste of true island life (not the touristy version). We experienced a life-changing channeling session with mediums who specialize in light language DNA activations. We became mermaids for a day (yes, really!). We saw UFOs (yes, really!!). We got engaged!
We felt the energy of the island pulsing through us at every turn; its magnetism has continued to affect us long after returning to the mainland.
We never made it to Haleakala, or Hana, or the Iao Needle. And the trip was absolutely perfect anyway.
Different in almost every conceivable way from the trips with my family in the past, and yet comforting and familiar at the very same time.
With each new visit, I gain a deeper understanding of what really makes Maui…Maui. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever been, and I know in my heart of hearts that I will continue to visit for as long as I’m alive and breathing.
When a place truly captures your heart, there’s no good reason to stay away. When you can feel it pulling you in like a magnet, that’s an impulse worth listening to.
So who cares if you’ve been there before?
Give the old bucket list a rest and listen to your heart. If a place you know and love is calling to you, give in to the urge to return. No two trips are ever the same, and there is always, always more to discover.