Life Lessons Learned On Maui

Sometimes fear is just a bad habit.

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For the record, when someone says, “I’m organizing a trip to Maui; you should come,” unless that someone is a serial killer, the correct response is, “Yes!”

Yet when faced with that same proposition, I immediately launched the excuses: I’ve already committed my vacation time elsewhere; I always go to the Poconos with my family; I already went on a big trip this year, for Pete’s sake!

Then a thought occurred to me that made me pause: how many stupid, unimportant things do I say yes to every day? And now how quick am I to say “no” to something that deep down I genuinely want to do?

Less than a month later, I booked my non-refundable ticket from Newark Liberty to Kahului. I was going to Maui!

On Maui, I did so many things that I once told myself I couldn’t do and learned so much about myself and the broader scope of the world around me.

It never would have happened if I had listened to that first little voice, scared, pessimistic, and self-limiting.

Life Lesson One: We have a very narrow view of food.

Before Maui, I didn’t think it possible to get excited about a banana. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like them; they’re sweet and make a killer “nice” cream. But those gargantuan Cavendish bananas upon which we “Mainlanders” rely pale in comparison to…basically every other banana variety in existence. I tried a lot of unfamiliar, “exotic” fruits and vegetables on Maui, but go figure, my mind was blown by a humble banana. (Okay, I also fell a bit head over heels for breadfruit, especially smeared with freshly ground peanut butter, but I digress.) When I waxed poetic about these ethereal bananas to my guide, all he said was, “You should taste the ones that grow in Nicaragua.”

It really is a shame that we are so underexposed to the immense diversity of natural foods. It not only leads to breeding efficient yet ultimately less flavorful crops, but it also threatens the sustainability of our agricultural system.

Life Lesson Two: Sometimes fear is just a bad habit.

As I stood clutching a rope swing, staring into the natural pool of water below because peer pressure cajoled me out of my play-it-safe, “I’ll just sit this one out” attitude, it hit me: I wasn’t actually afraid. I told myself that I was afraid. I sure acted like I was. But I actually had no fear of jumping in whatsoever. I was just so stuck in that rutted mindset of automatically rejecting something even remotely risky (and, let’s face it, fun) that I didn’t even consider the possibility that I might actively want to do this.

(Bonus life lesson: do not scream while simultaneously jumping into a pool of water, as all this gets you is a mouthful of not-so-appetizing river water.)

Life Lesson Three: Seek solitude.

Look, this trip brought some junk out of my closet for sure, but I found myself as the trip wore on getting particularly anxious and sensitive. Eventually I realized that I was clinging too much to the comfort of those around me, and that constant reliance on others was wearing on me.

I needed to be alone.

Solitude can feel daunting, but we all need to learn to sit comfortably with the truth of our own beings now and then, away from the comforting distractions of others. Holding our solitude sacred is, I believe, how we ultimately grow.

Life Lesson Four: Surfing is really f-ing hard.

I mean, you have to know that going into it, right? But I’m an achiever. I’m good at what I do. I catch on.

Um, except not so much. I floundered: epically, thoroughly, and anything but gracefully.

I got knocked around, pulled under, and slammed into poor, unsuspecting other people. I struggled to maneuver the board, awkward and heavy beneath me. I felt, quite frankly, like a total A-hole, and every fiber of my being begged me to give up. End the humiliation. Go back to something I was good at.

In that moment, a part of me did give up. But anything new is hard, and surfing requires immense skill, strength, and practice. I was going to feel like a total A-hole in the beginning; that’s ok. We’re allowed to be bad at things. Things are allowed to be hard.

Life is about sometimes majorly sucking at something but finding a way to do it graciously and to enjoy the process. It’s about putting yourself out there anyway. Life is learning the difference between the inner voice that speaks out of habit and fear, and the one that has your back and helps you grow.

And so we’re clear, when someone who isn’t a serial killer invites you to Maui…go.