There is a lot of stress to be had trying to plan a trip somewhere one has never been before. However, I have found there to be a lot more in planning a trip somewhere one used to live.

I can’t take all the credit, though. My mother planned the majority of it, as it was a high school graduation gift in 2013. Destination: Hawaii.

The entirety of the ridiculously long flight, we were sitting on almost literal pins and needles – part of from the horribly uncomfortable airplane seats and partially from anticipation. At last, after eight long years, we were going home, if only for ten days.

My mother moved to Oahu when she was fourteen to live with her father who retired from the Navy on the island. That is where I was born, in the same hospital as President Obama: Kapiolani Medical Center. (Seriously, look it up.) We ended up moving away in 2005 when I was about twelve (more information on that another time). And finally, at eighteen, I was able to go back to my old stomping grounds.

There was only one thing that could darken our moods, and it was brief thoughts of how we would feel after the ten days were up, when we would be forced back to our normal roles in Richmond, what felt to be an entire world away from our paradise.

Even stepping off the plane, we could tell the difference in the air quality. Although, that could have been the normal feeling one gets after being emancipated from the confines of a smelly, cramped plane, shoulder-to-shoulder with a stranger. Either way, we were greeted with leis and a kiss on the cheek from high school teens on summer jobs.

They led us to a shuttle that made multiple stops to everyone’s hotels. The following morning, they picked us up again and hauled us off to a complimentary breakfast, where we were pitched timeshare opportunities as we gnawed on dry bacon and cold bland eggs and forced down watered down lilikoi juice. That ordeal was not cheap.

See, we were after the tourist experience, in which we were expecting to be treated like queens. And we were right: they do make tourists think they are being treated like royalty. Robert’s Hawaii is famous for creating that magical experience for visitors of the island, all the while finding ways to take money from them. They are also known for their big green shuttle buses. If you saw one of those, you knew there was a bunch of tourists packed in their either on their way to or from some exciting adventure or another.

Some tour guide-like employee would hop up in front of the bus with a microphone and shout “Aloooha!” (For the record, no one says it like that in Hawaii except for these vacation package group companies. It’s simply “Aloha”. That’s it.) Aynway, “Aloooha!” And they wanted us to reply with our own hearty “Aloooha!”, which we did the first couple times. Everyone else ate it up, of course, because they don’t really know any better. It’s like they’re intentionally filling tourists’ heads with a false sense of the island life so as to better pick them out of a crowd or something. Next time they visit, they will catch the strangest looks trying to greet people that way, but that really isn’t my problem.

Every “Aloooha” we heard marked the start or the end of another time share-like experience. We were carted to a miniature cruise ship to sit arm-in-arm with a bunch of strangers eating buffet food. Getting knocked in the face by a hula dancer shaking her hips wildly in the tiny aisle was just part of its charm. Sea sickness, along with being up close and personal with a stranger’s hairy sweaty arm was just the icing on the cake that we did not have. (That’s right, no dessert!)

We got to attend a luau right near the beach, so it had a beautiful view. That was probably the only good thing about it as any activities you wanted to watch were crowded and uncomfortable and any souvenirs you wanted to bring back with you cost you the soul of your first born child. What you were there for, the traditional luau food, had more to be desired – at least, to someone who knows how the food should be prepared and can probably cook it better themselves.

We also paid a fortune to see a magician, one famous in Hawaii. But when we got there, an entirely different man was introduced to the stage without any apology or explanation. It was as if they thought they could introduce a completely different Asian man and no one would know the difference. They weren’t expecting us, the kama’aina (meaning “child of the land”…or someone who is actually from Hawaii). That was probably the most expensive part of the trip other than the hotel and plane tickets. And don’t get me started on the cost of the seven Blue Hawaiians you had to knock back in order to be fooled by the impostor magician’s tricks. It took the entirety of the next day to get us to reimburse us for it.

Come to think of it, there were only two “vacation package”-type deals that were successful. One was visiting the Society of Seven.


A lot of the original guys have been replaced, but a few of them remain from when I last went as an elementary school student. They definitely weren’t as dreamy as I remembered them being, but definitely the same ol’ guys.

There was also an interesting double-feature: a shuttle to the Pearl Harbor museum and then to the swap meet at the Aloha Stadium so we could buy all the inexpensive souvenirs that we could carry. The guy who drove us around also gave us bits of information about the interesting things we passed on the way. His name is Kimo and he created one of the best experiences we had.


There were a couple days we had entirely to ourselves. We traveled around the island in search of all the places we used to live, reminisced about the things we missed. McDonald’s supplied us with a real breakfast of spam, eggs, and rice. We stopped at every beach we came across to dip our feet in the water. So it definitely wasn’t all bad.

But we seriously wish someone would have told us the dangers of trying to play tourist in a place we’ve been before – it simply doesn’t work. It did give us an entirely new perspective, even though it wasn’t the best one.

Either way, we are still counting the days until we can go back home.



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