21 Years Waikiki

It’s a balmy evening and a younger me is cruising north leaving Waikiki in the distance and towards Makapuu just after sunset. He’s watching the final dying glimmers of sunlight clinging to the surface of the darkening horizon across the Pacific ocean to his right. Entranced in the beat of the song on the radio, gazing back at the fading land sprent with the city lights of Waikiki, drugged by the calmingly humid and cool air flowing through the open windows in the rental sports car that he’s driving satisfyingly too fast.

There are times when the perfect visual, atmosphere, and audio, come together to pull my mind into another reality. If only ephemerally. It was at that exact moment when I was utterly stricken by my first and lethal dose of the travel drug. What was surreal became real and had suddenly illuminated my shadowed and shrouded world view. This was the first time I felt the ability to realize that I was creating and living inside a special moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

The shroud had dissolved forever; the sluice had opened and I watched the potential opportunities rush before me as I realized that my life didn’t have to be a micromanaged, linear and railed path of decades languishing in traffic and windowless, nondescript offices; scorched and barren from the inside by relationship failures and betrayals; shattered and fragmented by broken dreams, and ignorant to what good food actually was.

Travel forcefully injected opportunity, choice, freedom, knowledge, accomplishment, and memorable food with complex and potent flavor into my life. An entrancing sunrise in the darkness of routine and the mundane. I wanted more. I gave in, fell apart, and descended into and accepted my helplessness.

10 Years

It has been a little over ten amazing years since that trajectory-altering solo trip. I’m happy to say that I still have other vivid and fond memories of that trip. Like how quiet and deserted North Shore was as the moon was obscured by thick and lazy clouds that passed along into the darkness of the night. Or never having been as close to fireworks as I was on that Friday night on Waikiki beach. This was one of my first meaningful and discovery trips and it still ranks high on my list.

Forgive the blurry, phone photos from ten years ago when I didn’t know anything about photography.

Now it’s 2022 and as I walked through the airport and down the streets of Waikiki, the 2011 visions and ghosts of myself driving by and following the paths of the past that began to carry me away from the moment. Smiling at the ghosts who will forever retrace their steps long after I’m gone.

21 Years

I look back at the year I turned 21 and even then I knew I will never have pleasant memories associated with that stretch of time in my life. I’m sure some good things happened but they’re like flowers struggling to grow in the dark waters of the events I don’t want to remember. Back then, something as elective as leisure travel was a comically unfathomable concept. And destinations like Tokyo, Istanbul, Paris, and Hawaii were just mythical places in stories told to a hurt, heart-shattered, backstabbed, naïve, hungry, and lost kid from the Phoenix desert.

Luckily my life now is so much better than I deserve it to be. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that things will be better than he could have ever imagined. And that in just a few short years, he’d be in one of those mythical places experiencing what he thought wasn’t meant for him. That I would still have my health with plenty of opportunities to see the world at my leisure or in the case of this blog post, on a whim. I definitely wasn’t planning this trip to Hawaii because this time, I didn’t go alone…

A Parallel Redemption

My friend Abi turned 21 on the day we travelled to Hawaii. A combined gift from her boyfriend and her mother. They invited a seasoned and experienced traveler to accompany her. Ten years ago I never thought that I’d be helping a young person with something I had just learned about.

Because of how my 21st year came to pass, I wanted to make sure Abi had the chance to carve better memories of her 21st birthday and beyond. We did the things she wanted, and I gave some suggestions along the way but ultimately I gave her the hammer and chisel to etch her memory mural. It helps me bring some closure to the events of my 21st knowing that I could help her in ways I hope she never comes to understand.

XX Years

I feel like even the things that exist in the ether can also be tangible if you know how to grab them. And how a photo of a good time in your life can imbue happiness. Instead of a material gift, I wanted to use my photography skills to capture a few more reasons for both her and I to smile in the future when presented with the eventual nostalgia. To give her the destination where the future and past can coexist. Instead of taking forgettable photos in a hyper-touristy area, I mainly wanted to get some high quality photos of Abi on her once-in-a-lifetime, milestone trip. I hope with the story behind these photos, the photographer, and the model, they’ll be more impactful to her and you.

Our friend Cameron also joined us on this trip. He bravely held our phones with the flashlights on to try to illuminate Abi as much as possible. He did a great job with the lighting and not dropping our phones into the ocean. These photos for Abi wouldn’t have been possible without his help.

Photos taken with a Nikon Z6, S-Line Nikkor 85mm f1.8. Edited in Lightroom for iPad.

I hope in Abi’s healthy old age, she’ll gaze upon these photos and shed a tear of joy in a time when the slow and mounting losses feel like the only thing we have left in our lives.

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