My Journey to Maui
Updated: Jul 9
Struggles, signs, and the path that lead me to this magical island ⋮
I'd just dropped out of school and I was craving adventure. I wanted to go places; see things. Being locked up in a classroom 5 days a week looking at Instagram pictures of other people your age traveling the world while you sit and leaf through a chemistry textbook will really spark your wanderlust.
Hawaii had been on my radar for quite some time. It seemed to be the vegan hub; the spiritual hub...a place for people like me. Free spirits who wanted to live a simple life full of sunshine, happiness, fresh fruit, and love. (Not to mention, the movie Moana had just been released & made me even more determined to live my life on an island lol).
In general, island life just seemed so simple; a complete contrast to what I was currently experiencing. No rush, no stress.
I just didn't know how to get there.
I thought maybe it was too big of a jump. Hawaii isn't really a place you can backpack so I'd have to find a place I could stay long term. I also wasn't really sure about going alone. How much money should I save? Will I be safe?
Maybe I would go to Europe instead.
I spent the next few months toying around with various destinations, truthfully just distracting myself from my fears. I needed to buy a ticket and commit. I needed to take the leap and trust that everything would work out.
So I impulsively booked a one-way ticket to Copenhagen Denmark.
The minute I clicked "book" my stomach sank. This didn't feel right. I was rushing things. This wasn't where my journey was supposed to begin.
So I cancelled my ticket.
I feel that often times, most of us can figure out the "what" in life, but we struggle to work out the "how". In this case though, I couldn't figure out the what or the how. I realized I was facing option paralysis. For the first time in my life, no one was telling me where to go or what to do. I didn't have a curriculum to follow or a degree program to abide by. I was free. Yet somehow I still felt paralyzed.
I was sooo frustrated. I felt trapped in an endless cycle. On one hand, there was this strong desire to leave and on the other, this lurking uncertainty...confusion and fear. No one in my life had ever done this before so I didn't seem to have any sense of direction. I was taking all my notes from people online. And while it all seemed so magical in my head, any time I tried to make the dream into a reality, it got scary. It got real.
Months later, one of the girls I followed on instagram at the time made a facebook group. This group was for likeminded people looking to move to the island of Kauai, Hawaii.
I had been researching the island of Kauai for months, looking up pictures, watching youtube videos, searching for a way to get there. It appeared to be the most magical place on earth. A fairy land.
The leap to actually move to the island seemed extreme, as I was only 19 at the time and had never been away from home for more than a day (I commuted to university) but it was nice to have likeminded people to talk and connect with nonetheless. And for the first time, it felt like I may not have to travel to the island alone.
I had seen a girl post in the group when I first joined, and for whatever reason, her post stood out to me. It wasn't anything in particular that she said, it just seemed to stand out to me more than the others. But again, weighed down by limiting beliefs and the fact that I was only 19, I didn't respond to the post. I just didn't know how I could actually move to the island right now. How would I tell my parents?
Months passed as I, yet again, let myself get wrapped up in life. But still, the island called. I just couldn't get it out of my head. I was seeing signs; numbers, everywhere I looked.
So I jumped back on the facebook group and saw that the girl who had posted before, the one who stood out, posted again. I decided to message her.
We hit it off right away. We wanted the exact same things- a long trip (but not a move) to the island, a friend to go with, and most of all, freedom.
As it turns out, both of us had struggled with anxiety in our lives and were terrified of traveling alone. We both wanted to live in Hawaii one day but for now, we just wanted the experience of staying there for at least a month. So we started messaging each other every day and looking for a place we could stay on the island.
This is where the real struggle began.
We started by looking for places to rent. But they were all quite expensive and we couldn't quite find one that ticked all our boxes. Then we had a revelation! What if we tried WWOOF (world wide opportunities on organic farms) or Work-away and did a sort of work-trade? (Work-trading is where you do a certain amount of work for a host and in return, you get a free stay and sometimes free food).
It seemed incredibly hopeful. It was September at the time and we were looking to go anytime after Christmas. So we started applying for January and on.
As it turns out, applying that early in advance doesn't really work when it comes to work-trades. Since workers often only stay for a month or so at a time, the host usually doesn't know what the work availability will look until a month, or even a couple weeks, ahead of time. It also turns out that it's very difficult to get a sort of position like this on the island of Kauai. We learned that the hard way, applying for months and months and never getting a reply. So we broadened our horizons. We started applying to all the islands and got more flexible with our travel dates.
By the time January rolled around, we had been applying for 4 months... and I was getting frustrated.
We finally got a message in the middle of the month from a host who was interested in having us. They said they could take us in 2 weeks time. I was elated!! It was finally happening!
But suddenly, the girl I was talking to said it didn't feel right; she suddenly just wasn't ready. She wanted to save up more money and wait for an opportunity that felt like a good fit. Although I too was scared to make the leap, I was just so tired of waiting. I was willing to take anything we could get because I just couldn't take more rejection. I was trying to rush into it so I could finally feel like I was moving forward.
Looking back, this would not have been the right decision. But all I could feel at the time was frustration.
We came to the conclusion that maybe traveling together wasn't going to work out. If we couldn't get on the same page, we would just keep running in circles and waiting around until we were both fully ready.
So I got a babysitting gig and started applying to more work-trades on my own. Disheartened, I moved ahead and kept looking.
2 months later, I get a message. The girl I had been talking to before had news. Her brother had recently broken up with his girlfriend and started dating a girl who apparently had been to the island of Maui! She stayed there for a few months and - get this- work-traded at a hostel on the north shore. She told us she was good friends with the owner and that we should give them a call.
This was it. I could feel it.
I called up the hostel and talked to the owner. I mentioned that we were friends with a girl they had previously hired and he instantly gave us the ok to come work in May.
Everything felt right. Every passed-up opportunity in the past had lead to this moment; every decision I had made, every sign and feeling I had followed. All the set-backs, all the waiting, all the times we had been told no... they were all detours; a whisper from the universe saying "be patient, I have a greater plan in place for you".
I had been made to wait, to save up a bit more money, to hold out for the perfect opportunity... and I realized that now.
My whole journey took a turn in an instant. The way it all fell together was bigger than us. We had most certainly had the universe on our side.
But we couldn't have predicted that. We just had to have patient and trust that everything happening, whether we perceived it as good or bad, was working in our favor.
We finally booked our tickets, packed our stuff, and met in person for the first time in the Chicago airport on a connecting flight to Maui; headed to a hostel that would end up entirely changing my life.
Keep reading to find out How I Spent 10 Months Living on Maui for Free!
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