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Going Home to Hawaii

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A few weeks ago I was fortunate to head to Hawaii for a visit. The first thing I always notice when I get off the plane there is the fragrant smell of flowers mixed with the smell of the ocean. To me that is the smell of paradise. And home.

My father was incredibly lucky to be born in Honolulu in May 1939 and raised there until he left at 18 to attend Boise State. Family legend has it that on Dec. 7, 1941 his grandmother hoisted him onto the tiny roof of their house in Paloma Valley to watch the unfolding drama at Pearl Harbor. I'm not sure it's true, but the first time I heard that story I secretly both thanked and credited my great-grandma for her spunky nature that I feel fortunate to have inherited.

My father passed away in November of 2007, and being in Hawaii reminds me of him. He was a wonderful and kind man; smart, successful and handsome. He taught me most everything I know about business. I miss him terribly and being in Hawaii also reminds me of how much he loved and cherished his home state, even after living in Washington, California and even doing a stint in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Coming home never fails to remind me of my roots, my family and the important things in life -- for me, nothing is more restorative than being in Hawaii. Time slows there to an imperceptible crawl and life seems to move more with the rhythm of the gentle coming-and-going of the tides. Urgency takes a back seat to a simpler life. There is a concept called "Hawaiian Time" which is defined as "whenever I get around to it."

Although I don't have the space here to catalog every possible beach or attraction, I do want to share a few of the favorite things we did during our 12 days there.

We began our trip in Oahu where most of my family resides. My boyfriend, Jim, had never been and being there with him was a treat because it was like seeing everything for the first time. He was fascinated by every sunrise and sunset over the ocean. If I was amenable, we would have raced from shore to shore to catch them daily, but my idea of a vacation is lounging around a bit after sleeping in. However, I do recommend catching at least one sunset from the Banyan Bar at the Moana Hotel in Waikiki beach. Walk through the lobby to be taken back in time to old Hawaii, or sit for a few minutes in a rocker on the balcony.

I saw Hanauma Bay with a new perspective. Although they've built up a bit of rigmarole to get into the park (you must view a mandatory video) I think it is worth the time they take to educate people on the potential damage caused to the reef by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Coming around the corner to head down to the park I was reminded of the special nature of the place. Although I consider it somewhat "tourist-y" and it would not normally be on my to-do list, I was so glad to be able to appreciate its stunning beauty anew.

After six days on Oahu -- and many thoughts of "why did I ever move away and how can I move back" -- we headed to the airport to spend a week on Kauai. Once there we checked into the Kaha Lani in a beautiful one bedroom condo with unrestricted ocean views. We woke up each morning to a spectacular sunrise. I haven't been to Kauai in a long time and I won't make that mistake again. If you are my boss, please stop reading here because I'd like to surprise you when I walk in and announce I'd like to open a Hawaii office for our company. Or to run a bed and breakfast. Not sure that either will fly but it should be an intriguing conversation.

A big first for me on this trip was a scenic ride in a helicopter. I was terrified to go up and had to be forced, dragged and coerced by Jim. He has worked on and been around helicopters a lot and has zero fear of flying. My first helicopter trip a few years ago consisted of being airlifted from Alta Ski Area to the hospital. It was more expensive than the tourist variety and less fun, but that's another story. Other than the almost indescribable scenery, one thing from the trip that will stick with me was the comment from our pilot Captain Jimmy that Kauai is the perfect antidote to the frantic pace of life.

The next day we relaxed at Poipu Beach and were treated to swimming with a large sea turtle. A few minutes later we watched an even larger one crawl up onto the beach and create quite a stir. People came running down the beach as the lifeguard roped off an area to give it some peace. We later walked by a beached monk seal. Poipu beach offered great snorkeling, turtle and surfer watching and swimming.

The Na Pali coast line begins at Ke'e beach and if you are in great shape, adventurous and seek the greatest views in the world, you can hike 11 miles along the Kalalau Trail. It is one of the most rugged, remote and spectacular places in the world. We had seen the coast line from the helicopter and I wanted to hike the entire 22 miles in and out. You need a permit, supplies and if you are smart, probably a couple of months of training prior to attempting the hike.

Hawaii is a magical place. I appreciate it so much more now when I visit than when I lived there. Perhaps scarcity is the ultimate secret to appreciating anything in life but regardless, I'm going to plot, plan and scheme to someday move home. And then never leave.