To be honest, I almost didn’t believe it. It was 7AM and by the end of the day, I would be in Hawaii, a place that I had secretly always dreamed of going. Sure, it may not have been hard to believe with how seemingly easy travel has become but with such a history of life letting me down, I couldn’t let it get my hopes up.
Just then, my alarm went off but I was lying there wide awake, too excited to be tired.
Up until that moment I had been suppressing my enthusiasm in an attempt to counter jinx anything from canceling this trip. Typically I keep my excitement to a minimum with anything awesome until it was a sure thing. But if you were watching closely you’d see the crack of a soft smile as bit of excitement escaped my lips.
After shutting off my alarm the United Airlines boarding pass alerted me: “5 hours until boarding for Oahu Hawaii.”
…the word rattled around in my head…
I kept thinking of when people would mention Hawaii how incredible it was and how much they loved it. Almost as if I haven’t lived unless I experienced it. Plus, I couldn’t think of a SINGLE time anyone had something negative to say about it. Now it was my turn to see what all the hype was about.
It felt so close, but we still had 18 hours and over 5000 miles before I could really show my excitement…
So December was just a few days away and although 2012 had a great start1* the second half was plagued with obstacles.2* Most of them were felt like just another challenge to conquer but with the recent loss of Rockett3, our rescue kitten – that hurtle was just too hard to handle. Even knowing full well his time would be short when we took him in, I still wasn’t prepared for how deep of an imprint his paws would leave on my heart.
It had been almost 2 months now, but it still hurts like hell. Working from home everyday definitely didn’t help… but a trip to Hawaii was certainly a welcomed distraction.
With everything ready and all the bags packed waiting for us in the living room, it was time to go. I grabbed the last and perhaps the most important item for this trip, the camera.
If you’ve read my bio you’ll understand my slightly obsessive documentation and value I place on capturing moments which create memories. But what you might not have known was that this trip began an important evolution for me in photography. I was on the verge of purchasing a new full frame DSLR and since Canon’s 5DmIII left me disappointed, so I took a gamble with the Sony a99.
Behold – my switch to Sony began.
As soon as I stepped outside the cold sleeting raining hit me right in the face. I guess I needed a break from NYC and these East Coast winters more than I realized.
With the first leg of the trip underway – our first obstacle was to get out of New York City. Just a week ago it took us almost 2 hours to get out of the city with all the Thanksgiving traffic. But this time I was pretty surprised how quickly we made it to the Mahattan Bridge. There was hardly a car on the road. We blazed through the city and out the Holland Tunnel – probably the fastest we’d ever done.
The Journey Begins
The Journey Begins
Ok that was a complete lie. There were cars everywhere. Canal street felt like a parking lot. I definitely would have been late to the airport if I didn’t have a secret weapon… Miss Carolina.
See, I was known as what Mike Birbiglia could call a “Latie.” My whole life I had struggled with the disease of tardiness. I’m not entirely sure what makes others late, but for me it was a semi-skewed perception of time, combined with a never ending need to full every moment with something. The ladder a trait I inherited from my father and amplified on my own. It was so bad that I was late to my own parties. If it started at 9, my friends would know not to show up until 1030 at the earliest.
Arriving at the Newark Airport Long Term Parking to drop off the Jeep we still had to catch the Air Tram over the Turnpike to our terminal. I think by this point I would have been bored already or frustratingly anxoius to be on the plane. But a new camera to play with helped keep my anxious energy focused on the subtle details involved in the journey.
We met with my parents at check-in, who made their way up from South Jersey. (For those of you in the Tri-State area, I’m talking SUPER South Jersey… and no Trenton is not South Jersey. Cherry Hill? Keep going. Rowan University? Farther. Atlantic City? Too far. Good ‘Ol Franklinville, NJ.) Anyway they were joining us for a trip to visit my brother Nick and his wife Val who were stationed out there for the Marines.
The airport was surprisingly empty, which I typically like but it did leave me questioning our ability to leave before the weather took a turn for the worse. Had to keep that excitement bottled up a little longer.
I mean seriously – how much would it suck if our flight was canceled? I had never flown in snow before. How much is too much before they call it off? At this point we were so deep I wasn’t going to give worry the benefit of the doubt. No sign of delay meant we were clear for takeoff as far as I was concerned.
Our flight time inched closer and closer but time kept slowing down. What to do with time to kill?
To my surprise, not a single delay allowed us to board the plane on time. The four of us had seats in the same row, which always maked a long flight much more tolerable. Combine that with a window seat and I had it made.
After getting settled, I slid up the shade to reveal an ice covered window. Another first in my book. I had seen ice start to form on the window while 30,000 feet in the air but never on the ground. Drips began to drop – if it’s melting, that’s a good sign right?
Sure enough the pilot made an announcement over the intercom and we pulled back out of the gate. As we crawed across the tarmac in the distance I saw these crazy looking vehicles just hanging out in the middle of a runway. It looked like a herd of praying mantis’. Or Manti? What do you even call a group of Praying Manti? A congregation of Praying Mantis? Do they even hang out in groups? I’ve only seen them alone. They’ve always been kind of rare and it was exciting whenever we found one. I remember as a kid catching one and that thing bit me so hard! I yelled and smacked it with my other hand. Pretty sure I killed it out of reflex but don’t tell anyone… word in the woods was killing a Praying Mantis was illegal.
What was I even talking about?
Oh yea – The Praying Mantis Trucks. Turns out they were De-Icing Trucks to spray the plane before takeoff. As if I weren’t concerned enough about the weather.
They finished hosing down our plane and we finally made it to the runway for takeoff. The Pilot chimed in over the speakers with that glorious phrase “Prepare for Takeoff.” The engines kicked in and the force pushed me back into my seat while I tried to keep the camera steady filming the obligatory takeoff shot out the window.
As the ice melted to water and streaked across the window, the world outside began to moved faster each second. Sometimes I like to pretend that the plane never actually moves, just the world around it.
My favorite part of every flight is that split second when you shift from wheels on the ground to lift off. Sometimes it’s a drastic change from bumpy to weightless but other times it’s so seamless I almost can’t notice without seeing the earth drift farther from my window.
I could fly every day and takeoff would never get old. Always glued to the window with my inner child’s curious excitement making it’s way out. Sometime I pretend I’m just turning off Google Maps’ Hybrid overlay and try to see how much I can recognize as we float further away. But none of that was possible since our flight’s view was consumed with stormy clouds – a total white wash.
Just as I thought there was nothing to see – we emerged from the clouds, and rose above the storm. We were in a completely different world than moments ago. I always forget how much atmosphere is above the the storms we experience back on the ground. Sure – I could insert a handful of cliché rise above the storm metaphors relating but I think you get the picture. It was now a bright sunny day with blue skies and fluffy perfect white clouds.
The view was pretty magical.
We made our way across the country, chasing the setting sun. Even at 550MPH and the additional time-zone hours added, we were still loosing it to the horizon.
By the time we reached the Pacific Coast, the sun had left us far behind taking with it the last remaining light which left us stranded over the pitch black pacific. I drifted in and out of consciousness as the plane was surprisingly soothing this time around. But then again it was a long day.
The rumble of the plane and chime of the pilot’s landing announcement jolted me out of a pretty deep napping session. In the distance I could see the Honolulu lights getting closer but the next 15 minutes felt longer than the first 2 hours of our flight. Anxious as ever to exit the cabin the plane touched down.
After 5000 Miles and 18 Long Hours…
…We Finally Arrived
At the airport we were greeted with smiles from my brother Nick and his wife Val who had a Hawaiian lei for each of us. I hadn’t seen Nick since his wedding almost a year ago when I roasted him in the best man speech… haha. No but seriously it was so great to see him again especially this far from home. I guess Oahu was home for him now but to have my parents out here with Carolina and I visiting them was an significant experience for me.
See this was the first major family trip I’ve had since senior year of high school almost a decade ago. Growing up, my family vacationed every couple of years usually to visit my grandpa in Florida (which was always awesome btw). But over all the years we had only flown together once… back in 1995 when little Nickle missed the barf bag. And although my other brother Scott and his wife Tracy couldn’t make this trip (don’t feel bad because they came out to visit a month or so before :p ) sharing this family trip with Carolina and my family felt very important. Especially knowing this is the furthest my parents have been from their home back in New Jersey.
Actually now that I think about it – I’m pretty sure this was the furthest from home I had been too. Which was fine because for the next week, home was right there – in that circle of smiles.
Including one smile which was waiting for that exact moment to show its true excitement.
WE MADE IT.
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