Photo credit: Thomas Huggins
MONDAY, JUNE 8, 2015
Today was the day. Today was my very last morning waking up in Maui. It was time to gather my thoughts and belongings. There were a few more attempts at hasty ideal packing and “dummy checks” and soon after we left. Our Airbnb host left very specific directions on what to do for check out and we followed them. I am almost certain that before we left, I gazed at Maalaea Bay longingly accompanied with a deep sigh. It was time to be a grown up and understand that I was fortunate to have this opportunity but it was indeed time to go.
First on the list was to find the post office. Lessons were learned from the delivery debacle in Alaska and I was mostly prepared this time but needed tape. I picked up a roll and sealed the small box of who knows what shut. While I was adding the last piece of tape, I noticed a person in line that appeared to be a newbie mailer - much like we looked in the Alaska post office. Once I had my package and tape paid for I realized I wasn’t going to do anything with the tape once I left, so I kindly offered it to the young man. Hopefully, he too has now learned the lessons of mailing preparation.
It was going to be a very long trip home and we decided to get a champion breakfast that would fill us up before heading to the airport. Denny’s it was. Funny story, only years ago I started eating eggs. I still have not ventured past scrambled eggs, but nonetheless I have grown as an eater (patting myself on the back). During that period that I did not eat eggs, I remember going to Denny’s and ordering a ham and scrambled egg sandwich with Swiss and American cheeses on grilled sourdough called a “Moon Over My Hammy,” minus the moon (eggs). There was absolutely no way I was going to eat that with eggs years ago. You wouldn’t have been able to pay me. Now, I was very excited to eat it with the eggs. Maybe too excited; breakfast sandwiches with any mix of an egg, protein and cheese makes me happy. We ordered our food to go, but ended up eating it in the car in the parking lot. That sandwich was delicious, oozing with butter and way too greasy. I couldn’t in my right mind eat the entire thing, but oh how I tried.
After that monstrosity of a breakfast, we returned the rental car with no problems. Everything was conveniently right in the lot in front of the airport. When we were inside there was quite the line to check in for our flight on Hawaiian Air. We had to wait a while. Standing there, you couldn’t help but notice all the bronzed happy faces adorned with leis around their necks. Sigh. I didn’t want to leave yet. With time to spare once we were past the security gate, we took turns perusing the gift stores. I had a few more trinkets on my list that I wanted to pick up and I took my time carefully considering each potential item. I bought a decent amount and tried my best to stuff all I could into my bag with the hopes of not smashing it all up into bits.
Today’s journey began with our flight from Maui that was scheduled for 1:15 pm, getting us into San Jose, California at 9:10 pm. The plane was humongous. It was about the size of a British Airways cross Atlantic flight with 4 seats in the middle aisle with its accompanying overhead bin storage. It was a full flight and Thomas and I did not have seats together. At first I was a little disappointed, but quickly realized he may actually want a break from me anyways since he had been stuck with me and my hair-brained schemes for 2 weeks and at times, in very close quarters. Not too soon after I got somewhat settled I was asked to switch seats by a couple so they could be seated together. Ok, sure. No problem. I still had an aisle seat.
The baby in front of me was extremely upset. As a person without children, I find that watching parents with a newborn is always insightful. You have to be the best entertainer in the world, or at least on the plane. The trials and tricks to soothe a crying baby on a flight, appears to be the luck of the draw. I witnessed the walking down the aisle method, the cooing method and eventually the anything that will get the job done method. Plus, there is always the experienced stranger that tries their hand. My hardest task, while on this flight, was to try to stay awake in order to get back on an east coast body clock schedule. Alaska was 4 hours behind and Hawaii was 6 hours behind.
Another flight observation quip: I try my best not to have the use the restroom on an airplane. Not that I won’t, but I prefer not. There is something about using the facilities for something so personal in a room the size of the locker. I also don’t know how I feel about my flight neighbors retrieving items from the overhead bin. There is no room to escape if they are suddenly incapable of not dropping something on your head. Items will shift during the flight. Can we trust them to be prepared to catch all their items in the middle of the aisle, especially on larger planes like this? Mid air wit aside, the flight was as good as it could get. Hawaiian Air was very hospitable, which was a nice change from the domestic flights that nickel and dime you now for everything, from baggage to snacks. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start charging for oxygen. Not on Hawaiian Air - no way, José - top of the line. They served 2 drinks, coffee, and dinner with free wine if you wanted, a full tasty turkey teriyaki meatball dinner with another coffee service and then, more water. Now, my travel experience and budget is limited, so perhaps I am only used to substandard travel and that is why this flight blew my mind. If I were to fly United Emirates, business class, I am sure my expectations would be a bit higher. Nonetheless, Hawaiian Air is bomb.
Many hours passed and we land in San Jose. There was a much smaller group waiting to board this next leg of our trip. At 9:30, the waiting passengers looked weary and ready to get to the next destination. Thomas and I were only on leg 2 of 3: departing San Jose at 10:30 pm and arriving in Atlanta at 6:02 am. Now it was ok to sleep. Even if it wasn’t, it was going to be impossible to avoid. Thomas and I had a row of our own. We were in the right seats at the very back, which served as a perfect sleeping nest. I used the complimentary blanket to hunker down for the flight. As I sat there, I thought I was watching and enjoying the new Cinderella movie, until I woke up and realized I had fallen fast asleep and it had been watching me.
We arrive in Atlanta on time. The last and final leg of our return was a departure at 7:26 am, getting us to BWI at 9:18 am. I was a thread away from exhaustion, but I still thought that I must have gotten adequate rest on the flight. Luckily there was not too much of a wait to board. This time we had seats to ourselves and spread out in separate aisles and went to sleep again. I knew when I opened my eyes I would be home. Compared to the last two legs, this was a short flight and this rest would be more of a cat- nap. Soon enough we landed. As I grabbed my belongings for the last time, I tried to regroup as much as I could. The walk from the gate to the baggage claim seemed like forever. I can’t even remember if Thomas and I even talked. The carousel went around and there is that last tug of the bags. Now that we were back, I was over the airport routine. Thomas’ father was picking him up and he arrived first. Our goodbyes were said and we would be able to return to the lives that we left behind for this splendid voyage. I soon was picked up and became overwhelmed, mixed with a bittersweet feeling of the trip officially coming to an end but very excited to share the stories of all of the unforgettable experiences. On behalf of my grandparents, I had now traveled to Alaska and Hawaii to see what was yet unseen and it was a true privilege. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to complete their journey and for being inspired. For this, I thank them endlessly for giving me the gift of wanderlust.