August 27, 2010

On the road again. Or really, and in truth, in flight. And in a blink, summer in Hawaii is over.

Just a couple of evenings ago, my fellow co-leaders and I were in the open air dining room of our resort on the Kohala Coast, raising seemingly bottomless glasses of wine with our guests; to epic bike rides, tradewinds that never die, to their children successfully “shredding” waves in the bay that afternoon, to the friendships and memories that had been made with this island, and amongst traveling companions in our time together. With tiki torches burning brightly, linen layers wisping about and keeping us warm, and the tinkling of deliciously cleared white plates being gathered and set, we closed the season in proper fashion.

We were tired, for sure, even though this had been a lovely, entertaining and not-so-demanding group. A weeks’ worth of racking and wrenching bikes in the sun, playing games with the kids, being a social butterfly, hucking luggage, shuttling this and that, prepping picnics plus kayaking/surfing/cycling/living can do that to you. But on that night, when our compatriots around the globe would have been ordering triple cappuccinos for appetizers, we were energized – not sapped. Smiling, not shifting in our seats. It must be the culture of this particular Pacific “office.”

There is no mistaking that this job, being a leader with Backroads, sounds dreamy. Many times (times that I have felt lucky to enjoy while here in Hawaii) are completely idyllic. It is true that some of the finest restaurants and resorts are our home away from home, and many of the most beautiful views in the world aren’t out the office window, they are the actual OFFICE. This is to say, however, that we are not “traveling” or “travelers,” even though this is exactly what we spend most of our time doing. We are at work. The fine line between business and pleasure, between professional and playtime can be a fine one to walk. Because part of work can be SO enjoyable. But also, quite difficult and really not even close to dreamy at all. But I am quickly working that there are mysterious ways that your work can be transformed into (GASP)…enjoyment. If you play your cards right, it can be very easy to forget that you back might be sore from racking bikes, your fingers and hands and even shoulders, sometimes covered with bike grease. That cut you got on the back of your leg from-heaven-knows-what doesn’t seem to bother you in the least. Emotional hardships don’t seem insurmountable. Communication doesn’t seem to tricky to facilitate. Breathing room (even when you are sharing a suite with two others leaders) isn’t difficult to find.

The secret seems to be to adapt. To carry small microcosms of our “worlds” with us, transplanting them wherever we might be. But also pulling bits and pieces from the places that we find ourselves, from our offices, reminding us of how unique our work, and the places where we find it, are.

Tactics can only take so much credit in this case. Indeed, packing my favorite dress, and a yoga mat are quite helpful. Very early morning runs around the hotel properties as the sun was coming up gave me the opportunity to greet the day with a smile. Taking a few split seconds to slather on that amazing gardenia oil from Tahiti that the little old woman at the natural food store pushed into my hand has worked wonders. As does a mai tai via room service. Choosing to walk to the grocery store so that you can pick up the fallen plumerias, enjoying quiet, simple meals at home and sharing cold beer at the end of the day is amazing. Hoping in the sea for a dip each day to balance myself, and greet the turtles, fish and crabs of our neighborhood certainly helped to keep me at ease. Giving thanks helps – thanking those that work with you, being appreciative of the unique resources available to you wherever work might be. My newest tradition is to bake banana bread with the leftover ingredients from our trip trailer — there are always bananas left over. Especially in Hawaii. And banana bread for breakfast at the end of a trip, might be the most delicious fuel for enjoying your time off (or your prep day) ever. These thanksgivings feel like a way to take a bit of a place with me — they are more than just intrinsic to the place, but rather gifts I am lucky to receive. Unique bits of my day that cannot be replicated anywhere else. They are the sights, the sounds, the conditions of now.

Just 48 hours later, the tinkling of glasses and china had quieted and our trailer had been packed, cleaned, inventoried and parked for the season along with the bikes and equipment that will stay in the region long after our flights depart, Kimberly and I found ourselves down the street from our house in Keauhou Bay on paddleboards over azure waters, heading swiftly south on the glassy sea. There weren’t many waves to surf this day, but still we enjoyed the connection with the ocean (and the opportunity to earn ourselves a second stolen-mango smoothie and another slice of Trip-End Banana Bread as a mid-morning snack.) We paddled for a couple of hours along the coast, riding the waves when they came, but mostly pushing out into the deep blue, allowing our act of walking on water to renew us, every so often leaping off the boards for a dip in the deep, and really just reveling that this was even possible on our day off. We have so enjoyed being residents, and visitors here. Next week, when I am in Puget Sound, it will be riding along the coast watching the orcas swim in the sound. The week after that, likely the stars as they come out over Zion. And who knows what might be next. As I go, I mindfully will take a bit of these places with me wherever I go — their circumstances become my experiences and build who I am. And create my work.

I rode my bike the 4 miles and change north into Kailua-Kona in this mornings dawn hours for a farewell swim in the Bay before my flight. Having a dose of salt water seemed the only way to truly prepare for a long Trans-Pacific flight, and a good outpouring of self in the form of sweatless good effort seemed the only way to pay homage to this island for all that it has given me in the time that I have spent here this summer. In return, she gave me 15 spinner dolphins to swim with, frolicking in the just rising sunlight. Quietly and with understanding. We swam along together, off of the coast guard buoy, until they moved as a pod deeper into the blue and I turned and headed back to shore. I might have heard the sounds of the waves before this, but I certainly don’t remember hearing anything after my encounter. All I could think of as my strokes carried me over the waves and into waking Kailua was that that had been the moment I was waiting for all summer. I had become every bit a part of this island as it is a part of me.

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