Christmas in Hawaii

You’re going to love this guest post by Nicole, who runs her blog, Door No. 2. Nicole Tombers is a Physical Therapist and writer in Palmer, Alaska. She’s an avid reader with a love of learning and a growing interest in educating others. She enjoys eating good food, traveling, and exploring Alaska with her husband, Brad (Mary Z’s grandson).

As vitamin D deprived Minnesotans turned Alaskans, it was strange to spend the Christmas holiday on an island where it is 75 degrees and sunny nearly every day. I had the distinct feeling that people on the islands shouldn’t even bother with Christmas when there is no snow on the trees or cozy fireplaces around which to gather with cocoa and eggnog. But that is an important purpose for traveling – to see something different, experience something new, do something outside of your normal, and share in a different kind of life. And so we soldiered on through the warm sunshine… *sigh*.

For our first few days on Kauai (including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), we stayed at the Palmwood Guesthouse – a beautiful bed and breakfast tucked in the hills of Moloa’a which is private, charming, and loaded with zen. We were greeted by Ina, our host and chef during our stay, who was most gracious and provided positively delicious, locally sourced meals for us each morning, including a lovely bit of fruit and croissants left at our door on the day we had to be up early for our helicopter tour. Each morning was different, but somehow just exactly what we needed to start the day.

As we took a walk around the grounds, the attention to detail was clearly visible – the house beautiful and modern, the landscaping pristine, and the amenities seriously on point! We stayed in the West Suite, one of three rooms at the Palmwood, each with its own private outdoor space and each unique in some way. Our piece of paradise offered a large outdoor lanai with an outdoor shower, small jacuzzi hot tub, hammock under the palms, and a bubbling water feature that softly sang us to sleep each night. And then there was a pool. (OMG you guys, the pool. It was basically made for Instagram.) When we were not out exploring, it was morning yoga by the pool and afternoons in the hammock with a beer and good book. Every moment at this place was peace and serenity. It was paradise on a whole island full of paradise. If you are visiting Kauai and it is available, I recommend The Palmwood with the highest of praise.

While every day at the Palmwood was fabulous, Christmas Day was a special one. But not in the way you might expect. While our families back in Minnesota played games and opened gifts with a fire blazing in the hearth and lights twinkling on the tree, we shared dinner with strangers. And it was amazing. On most days we simply crossed paths with the other guests who we shared the house with, but on Christmas we all came together for a wonderful multi-course dinner carefully prepared by Chef Ina. We shared the table with Mario & Christine, honeymooners from Toronto, and Shawn & Katie, fellow Midwesterners now living in Seattle. Three couples, of similar age, taking a break from their busy professional lives, who had come from different places to spend Christmas at the Palmwood.

Maybe it was because we’re millennials, maybe because we had good food and wine, or maybe because we were strangers with no preconceived notions about who we should be or how others knew us to be, but we had such great conversation with these people over dinner and late into the night. We talked about everything from work & family, to politics & religion, to excess of choice & the search for happiness. We found that when you begin to dip deep and get meaningful with others, we’re often fighting all the same battles within ourselves. In a world where we so easily get bogged down in image and “success” and meeting expectations, it was one of the most refreshing evenings we have spent in a while. We are lucky enough that we do not have to struggle through each day, each month, each year, to have securely conquered the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy in a way that many have not. We are lucky enough to have choices in abundance. I fully recognize that there are many who do not have this freedom, whether due to poverty or poor health or discrimination or lack of access to resources. What WE have are truly “first world problems” and, though I am sure we often fail, we make a conscious effort to recognize our privilege. We have a deep desire to do great and wonderful things – to be profoundly generous, kind, joyful, and honest. To live our best life, and use our privilege to do what we can to give others the chance to do the same. On Christmas, it was reassuring to know that we are not alone in our struggle to figure out what that looks like.

As I was telling one of my patients about this recently, she said, “If you tell parents that you had a great trip or you really enjoyed yourselves, that’s just whatever, BUT if you tell them you learned a lot then they’ll think it was worthwhile.” We were sorry to have missed out on time with our family at Christmas, but we really did learn a lot on this trip and are better people for it.

Here’s to meaningful time spent with friends and strangers alike, and to living your very best life.

~ Nicole Tombers

 

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