Have you ever returned to a place that once meant a great deal to you? I did recently and it revealed things about the place and myself that I hadn’t expected.
My first visit had taken place in the enthralling years when the world was new and I was just beginning to decide for myself what I believed, where I wanted to go and how I defined a successful and happy life. In those days, every decision was a fateful decision.
So, my trip to a quiet island seemed to reflect what I was seeking – the tranquility needed to clarify my wishes. With few direct flights and recovering from a devastating hurricane only a few years before, the island prided itself on a relative lack of commercial culture. I would spend days going from beach to beach searching for the perfect swim. I would visit churches and monasteries participating in ancient rituals meant to remove obstacles. Past crowing roosters, sugarcane fields and amazing waterfalls there was enough peace and tranquility to listen to myself. The locals were kind and friendly – a mother and son opening the door to a stranger and giving me the fruit I requested.
That island, that time, became instrumental in my life. One day, in my rented room, surrounded by coconut trees, I sat down and deliberately codified my wishes and got serious about what I wanted. In a few short months, I would embark on one of the defining adventures of my life. I felt something there on that island – a belonging, a spirit, a magic, call it what you will – that began from the time I arrived at the airport perfumed by local flowers. It seems now with that long backward view that time provides, that nearly everything that followed in my life emanated from that island, or at least the focus that had overtaken me while there.
On my latest trip, mass tourism altered the island to such a degree as to render it unrecognizable. Gone was the flower scented airport, gone was the quiet, and gone was the tranquility. There were shopping malls where there was once agriculture, traffic where there were once few cars, litter where there was once not even footsteps. Though never quite wistful, I could not help but notice the changes.
Of course, I too had changed for better and worse. After a while, I no longer searched for the magic I had once known on the island, I accepted that it was gone. Then, a funny thing happened on my last day, just as I was about to leave. I felt a tug at my heart beckoning me to stay – the same thing I had felt all those years ago.
Want more Kauai? This original travel article first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.