"My life wasn’t going to change until I made it change."
I’m writing this face down on a massage table while getting tattooed in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii.
I’m leaving Sunday afternoon to head back home to Philadelphia. I’ve been on the big island for almost three and a half months, staying at an eco resort on the Puna side.
I came here in April, just two weeks after announcing to my first “big girl” job that I had decided to leave the company. Before this, my best friend Chelsea and I spent our lunch breaks eating ice cream and complaining how we were falling into the category of college graduates who were at a standstill in life. We had no real idea what we wanted to do or how to do it. We decided that we should treat ourselves—get away for a long weekend. Maybe a vacation would give us a creativity boost?
While searching for our get-a-way we noticed one hit kept popping up, Kalani Eco Resort, a retreat center based on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kalani offered one to three month volunteer opportunities where you’d stay and work 30 hours a week in a department and in return, live in paradise. We decided to apply.
We sent in applications and our deposits, not really thinking about it until we heard back, less than a week after requesting a phone interview. Chelsea was ecstatic; I was too, but a little hesitant.
Could I really quit my job to go live in the jungle for a month?
What about money? What would my parents say? What would their friends say? A flurry of questions floated through my head that all had me doubting my sanity, why I even decided to attempt to up and leave in the first place. I decided against going through with the phone interview, while Chelsea had gone through and been accepted to go for the month of May. She put her two weeks in at work and off to Hawaii she went.
I was jealous, but even worse, I was angry with myself for being so scared to take risks. I can remember sitting at my desk at work during a particularly tough day looking at a banana that I had packed for lunch and having tears well up in my eyes. I was crying over a banana. How I would never see where bananas grew or do anything daring because I was scared of taking risks.
The night that I made the decision that my life wasn’t going to change until I made it change. I put my two weeks at work and shortly after, received a text message from Chelsea’s mom saying, “I’m sending you to Hawaii to visit Chelsea. Not taking no for an answer. Send me your availability.”
When I landed in Hawaii something happened.
A lot of people I’ve talked to, who live on the Big Island or have visited the Big Island, at some point, agree with me on this. I felt a pull. I immediately got off the plane and had felt more at home than I had ever felt in my entire 23 years. I found solace in this place that was as foreign to me as anything. I couldn’t describe it.
I woke up in the jungle. It was a chaotic layout of nature that literally brings me to tears. Chelsea had already planned out our whole day, a trip to Kole Kole beach and then Akaka Falls. I don’t think my mouth shut once that day. I was in awe of everything. People’s calmness, the stillness that exuded from them. The sense of rush and franticness was no longer apparent like it was back on the mainland. My father often joked that I drank the kool aid. My response is always, “Yeah, and then I asked for seconds.”
Hawaii had stolen my heart. I fell more deeply in love with a piece of rock than I ever had with another human being. For the first time in 23 years, my anxieties, worries and fears melted away like lava and I became at peace with life. I knew that I needed to stay longer than my scheduled five days. The island was taking care of me.
So I stayed. I stayed for three and a half months, and lived harder and did more than I ever expected I would ever do in my whole life. I lived where some people save their entire lives to vacation for a week. It’s in invaluable experience that I’m grateful for every day.
The island brings up lots of issues for people and really forces you to deal with things you’ve been trying to avoid.
I had some of the hardest days of my life there and also the best. I swam with dolphins. I hiked to a waterfall. I lived next to an active volcano. I made family for a lifetime. When Majik says that he is blessed, well, and lucky—well it’s true. I am too.
So here I am on a massage table getting a tattoo on the back of my neck (sorry, Mom and Dad). It’s an opening lotus with a person meditating in the middle. I’ve blossomed here. It’s been one hell of a journey.
I’ve learned about the power of saying, “Yes!” and facing our insecurities head on.
Let me know how it goes when you do it."
Guest blogger Stephanie Juris is a yogi and writer. She will be moving back to the Big Island in June. To learn more about Kalani Eco Resort, you can visit their website, here. To continue to follow Stephanie's adventures on the island, find her on Instagram, here. Interested in becoming a Waiakea brand ambassador, or submitting a piece to be featured on our blog? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.