Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kauai, the Garden Isle

For those of you considering a vacation in Hawaii, before you visit, do the research! Each island has its own unique qualities. Find the one that best fits you. For those of you who are into nature, Kauai should definitely be on the top of your list!

During the weekend, my husband and I flew to Kauai. It is a 20 minute plane ride from Oahu and it happened to only cost $48 dollars round-trip. That's a deal! There are also many affordable hotel deals right now, most likely because the economy is currently in shambles! For those of you desperately seeking a vacation though, Kauai is a relaxing place to be especially right now.

When we arrived in Kauai, we instantly noticed the island's beauty. There is basically, one main road that will take you to many of the spots you wish to see. One of the first things we noticed was how untouched the island still remained. Hopefully, it will stay that way! Many of the sights are eco-friendly and for vegetarians, this is the place to be! There were so many vegetarian options. It was incredible!

There are towering mountains and beautiful beaches all around too. Just watch out for the waves! The beaches can be very dangerous in Kauai. I was terrified to go into the water, knowing how treacherous the waves looked. The phrase I heard a lot in Kauai is, "When in doubt, don't go out!" I would definitely listen to the warning because the waves looked very treacherous. Waves have no mercy!

Everything is easy to find in Kauai. Since there's only one main road, it's difficult to get lost, although we did several times since we were too focused on the view. Some of the popular spots to visit in Kauai are Kilauea Lighthouse, Waimea Canyon, and the Na Pali Coast. Although there is much, much more ...

We actually found Kilauea Lighthouse by mistake. We had been driving down the road when we happened to see a sign for the light house. It's incredibly easy to find the light house, like most places in Kauai. When we first approached the scenic view with the light house in distance, the beauty of the waves crashing against the mountainside looked so hauntingly beautiful. It was our first real glimpse of Kauai's natural beauty. There were whales looming in the distance and birds everywhere too!

Waimea Canyon is another place many like to visit to see Kauai's natural beauty. It was my first time seeing a canyon and it was an amazing sight! There were several waterfalls and on the drive up to the canyon, you can see another Hawaiian island, Niiahu.

While Kilauea Lighthouse and Waimea Canyon are wonderful places to see, one of the most beautiful places to visit is the Na Pali Coast! Many tourists actually take advantage of helicopter tours. However, for those of you with a fear of flying (like me!) and who are strapped for cash, another way to see the Na Pali Coast is by catamaran or by raft. There's also a way to hike there, but it isn't easy and can be very dangerous, so one of the best ways to see the Na Pali coast is by sea!

For those of you with back, neck, or knee problems, the catamaran is an ideal ride for those wanting to see the Na Pali. It is a lot more comfortable on the catamaran, although the potential to become sea sick is slightly higher than on the raft! Either way, you will be able to see whales, dolphins, and sea turtles during a good season. If you are lucky, you will be able to snorkel with schools of fish too!

For those of you who are a little more adventures, try the raft! It was actually recommended by National Geographic, which says a lot! The nice thing about the raft is that you can get closer to the Na Pali Coast than the catamaran. I rode on the raft with Kauai Sea Tours and felt it was truly a once in a lifetime experience! The tour guides were amazing.

The only thing you may not like about the raft is that the ocean will be your bathroom. Our tour was nearly 5 hours long, so the only place to go is in the water. Let me tell you, I sure did hold it for the longest time! I think I could've beat a national record. However, I had to eventually give in.

While in the raft, we saw several whales, at least a hundred spinner dolphins, and a few turtles. I have never seen so many fish in my life either! It was the first time I had ever seen a whale or dolphins that weren't in a show, so it was a really beautiful sight to see. The tour guide also let us hear the whales sing through one of his electronic devices.

The ride on the raft is extremely bumpy, but it added to the fun. You basically have to hold onto two ropes and tuck your toes under another rope to avoid falling into the sea while the raft is moving. There are no seats either except for at the edge of the raft, so you better hold on tight!

When we approached the Na Pali, the waves crashing against the mountainside looked amazingly beautiful. You could even see salt in the air! Since you can't drive your car to view the Na Pali Coast, spending money to see it by raft or catamaran is definitely worth it.

Another way to experience the Na Pali coast is through hiking. For those who are serious hikers, hiking to Kalalau Valley may interest you. While most only hike the Kalalau Trail for 2 miles, if you continue you will experience what most have not and what the few have considered a "spiritual experience" from what I hear. However, to camp at Kalalau Valley, you are suppossed to have a permit and for your safety, I would recommend taking a friend! The picture below is what you will see at the 1-mile mark. Isn't it beautiful?

According to our tour guide, the 11 mile hike was rated a 10 on a scale of 1-10, so you can only imagine how difficult the hike must be. The beach is also incredibly dangerous in the valley I hear, but I am sure it would be the most amazing feeling in the world to camp at such a remote location after such a serious hike! I wouldn't know, but seeing it from the raft was enough of an experience for me.

I hiked only 1 mile of the Kalalau trail, although most tourists hike for 2 miles before heading back. I heard there is a beautiful location 2 miles out from the hike, but I didn't get the chance to hike any further since we were on a time crunch. However, for the first mile, I was still able to see an incredible view. The hike can be strenuous for those who aren't in shape and some areas of the hike are slippery, but for the most part all sorts of people seemed to be hiking on the trail including a female in a dress! I have no idea how she pulled that off! I am in shape and had to get close to the ground to help get down from some parts of the hike, so it's pretty amazing that she could hike with a dress. The hike definitely wasn't a stroll.

The picture above looks a lot harder than what you will experience on the actual hike. Well, at the begining at least!

When leaving Kalalau trail, on our drive back, there was a beautiful view of taro patches. It's rare to see areas with taro growing on Oahu, so seeing that on Kauai was nice. Everything in Kauai reminded me of "old" Hawaii and the time seemed to go by so much slower in Kauai. There wasn't a night life there. Everything seemed to close by 9:00, but as someone who loves nature, Kauai definitely the place to visit!

For those of you who plan to buy gifts, we stopped at Kauai Coffee and Kauai Kookie. There were a lot of great things to bring back for family and friends at these two places. There isn't a lot of shopping in Kauai. As a former shopaholic, I would have been totally deprived. However, at Kauai Coffee and Kookie, there were a lot of choices to choose from.

At Kauai Coffee, there is an area you can tour. There is also a gift shop and a place where you can purchase coffee beverages, ice cream, and even smoothies. Samples of coffee are abundant and one can test a variety of coffeee prior to purchasing.

Another place to purchase gifts at is Kauai Kookie. The first time we tried to find Kauai Kookie, we passed it because it doesn't stand out. Look below to see what I mean! However, once you walk into the building, there is a nice little cookie shop inside. Upon entering, you get a free cookie! Let me tell you, the crispy chocolate chip cookieI received sure was awesome!

Before leaving Kauai, I saw a little ad for T-shirts. It made me laugh. Wow, I never would have imagined such a T-shirt.

A vacation in Kauai is exactly what my husband and I needed. Three days there felt like an entire week. The island of Kauai is amazing and the best part of all is that there are so many eco-friendly attractions, as well as great food and friendly people. It was an amazing experience to be there and to see how different an island only 20 minutes away could be compared to the hustle and bustle of Oahu.

I really hope Kauai remains the same.

My Quarter Life Crisis

For the longest time, I had a "life plan," that I obsessed over almost daily. It was basically a little piece of paper that I would project my future plans onto and the things I needed to do to accomplish my goals, so that I could follow my dreams.

While in college, I felt I had the world in my hands. I pushed myself hard and earned the G.P.A I wanted upon graduation in the amount of time I had set for myself. I crammed the average 6 years of schooling into four years, worked part-time, and somehow, still managed to earn my dream G.P.A. It made me feel that my "life plan" had been working exactly as I believed it would. My life plan would help me build the future of my dreams!

Eventually, however, confusion set in and I suddenly began to become a ball of misery, as I faced many challenges. I felt completely lost in life and began the first wave of my quarter life crisis. I was stressed out and all I knew was that I needed to accomplish the goals I had set out to finish before 25, according to plans. I felt that there were so many things I needed to do prior to 25 because if not, I would be "too old." The pressure was on as I continued to push myself towards my goals, but it seemed that no matter what I did or how hard I tried, I remained in my current situation.

As panic set in, I was in a rush to go after my dreams. But in the process, I learned that there is more to life than following a structured pathway to your ideal life. While I may have loved structure and the security of my life plan, I soon learned the incredible feeling of being able to let go and be spontaneous - to live in the moment. Since then, life truly has been an adventure.

I have tried things I never would have had the courage to do previously. I joined a talent agency for fun and had the opportunity to be an extra for a McDonald's commercial. Although you can only see half my face for about 2 seconds, I was proud to have had the chance to experience something unique. I also had the opportunity to do a photo shoot for the Air National Guard! At the photo shoot, I was able to get my first autograph from country singer, Laura Bryna (see photo, left). It was a great experience!

I also enrolled in ballet and began taking yoga, cardio kickboxing, and Zumba, a dance fitness class. All have been an incredible experience and definitely an eye-opener. I never imagined how difficult ballet could be, but it truly gave me respect for those who are able to become professional dancers. It's no joke! Ballet is rough.

I started taking Indonesian language again too. I loved learning about South East Asia in college and continuing the language after graduation has been pricey, but well worth the cost. I can't wait to visit the country!

Instead of saying "no" to opportunities because of my fears or lack of confidence, I go for many new opportunities because I know that they can lead to incredible experiences that I may cherish for a lifetime.

When I was invited to a formal party recently, instead of being shy, I decided to attend. I danced to my hearts content that night, even though I was hesitant at first. At the end of the party, I was basically the only one left on the dance floor. It may have looked incredibly embarrassing to on lookers especially since I have two left feet, but it felt great! I had a really good time.

The day after Christmas, I went hiking with my husband and friends. We hiked up the mountainside, making our own path where we saw breathtaking views of the ocean from a cliffside. I am terrified of heights, but scaling the mountainside over boulders ended up being awesome. I have no other words to describe it. Afterwards, we headed out to eat lunch and of all people, President Obama happened to be at the Koko Marina Shopping Center with his family. If I stayed home, I wouldn't have ever experienced all the events of the day!

This past weekend, my husband and I decided to visit Kauai. It was on a whim, but one of the best 3 day weekends ever. We saw Waimea Canyon, hiked up the Kalalau trail, and more. The highlight of the trip was when we rode a Navy seal style raft with Kauai Sea Tours and saw the Na Pali Coast. During the tour, we saw breaching whales, packs of spinner dolphins, and green sea turtles. The Na Pali Coast is also incredibly beautiful and being in a raft made it all the more fun, although it was an extremely rocky ride. Your body will pay for it the following day!

Besides having fun, I truly believe in self-improvement. Math and public speaking are two of my greatest weaknesses. I signed up for math and finished up my last class -- pre-cal -- during the summer. I also joined Toast Masters to improve my public speaking skills. My first speech is tomorrow! The nerves started kicking in yesterday.

While I still continue to work at my high-stress job, I've learned to manage stress. I've made wonderful friends at work and have learned so much. Although I was initially in total misery, I now know that you can take a difficult moment and turn it into something positive. If it wasn't for my job, I might not have felt the need to explore my life, but because of it I have had the chance to learn more about myself. That doesn't mean I don't want a new job because I'm definitely looking! However, i am grateful for being able to gain something positive out of such a difficult experience and of course, to also have a job.

Now, I am thinking of directing my career towards something less ideal, but more fitting to my personality. I am not 100% sure what I want to do, but I'm happy anyway. On Saturdays, I tutor ESL students and it has been a fulfilling experience. I also volunteer for other events too. It allows me to learn more about what I may want to do in the future.

During the first phase of my quarter life crisis, I was a train wreck waiting to happen. However, as time passed, I soon realized it was a blessing in disguise. I used to put enormous amounts of pressure on myself to "succeed," but I now realize how important it is to live in the moment and to work towards your goals with patience and perseverance. Life is a journey and taking the time to live your life the way you want is much more important than rushing to get to your ideal destination. In fact, in the process, you may discover that the life you always thought you wanted may be nowhere near the life you actually desire.

For the lucky ones who know exactly what they want, they are very fortunate. However, for those of you who feel the same way I do, let life happen to you.


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