Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Pt. 1

The year of 2013 was jam packed with travel. The Hawaii, Smokey Mountains, and Maine trips occurred in fairly rapid succession, happening in June, August and September. By the time the annual Christmas trip to Delaware & New Hampshire rolled around, we were infected with the exploration bug. Of all the memorable trips Katie and I have gone on, the two most unforgettable are the Hawaii trip and the Smokey Mountains trip.

By the beginning of 2013 I was, in hindsight, 100% burned out from my job. We're talking the kind of burn out that changes your personality - makes you irritable, passionless, and generally depressed. Combined with my relentless stubbornness to finish what I have started, this burn out effectively turned me into a robot existing just to work. Working because I was committed. Committed to a task that ran all day, every day.

Katie can handle a lot. She's pretty damn composed when it comes to helping out those whom she loves, but this absenteeism from me was affecting her more than she would vocalize. I could see it in her face. I could feel it energetically exuded from her.  I could feel that she missed me, even though we were together every day.  

The cumulative effect blew a fuse inside of me and I needed a change. Fortunately my boss was very in tune with how I was feeling, having done the same job himself for many years. He suggested a heavy dose of recovery with the requirement that I wait until after the vacation to decide if I could go on. The medicine was a trip to set up and demonstrate a piece of equipment in Hawaii.  

When I told Katie about this she was excited for me. She was even more excited when I asked her to come! We started making plans. Katie read restaurant reviews and I read about scenic and outdoor attractions. Everything was booked a few weeks in advance, and all we had to do was wait.

On Thursday, June 13th, we stayed at the Orlando Airport Marriott, since our flight the next morning left around 6 a.m. There aren't many better ways to handle a trip to MCO considering it processes out of control kids coming and going from Disney & Universal for the 80 or 90th time, and their exhausted parents. Come late, stay over night, leave early. Might as well park in the Marriott garage to complete the luxurious experience; by now certain to make the penny pinchers wretch over in an excruciating loss of precious dollars.  

By the time we boarded our flight to Honolulu from San Diego, ten hours after we left Orlando, we were pretty much over traveling for the day. An energetic flight attendant, with a demeanor similar to comedian Gabriel Iglesias, quickly reminded us that we were headed to Hawaii baby! Aloha and mahalo for flying Hawaiian Airlines!  Might as well get comfortable for the next 5 hours...

Fortunately they had Kona onboard. 

When we finally arrived in Hilo, on the Big Island, it was 8pm Hawaiian time - a good 17 hours after leaving Orlando. Although we were exhausted and all strung out from flying, we were in Hawaii and we were about to get our Jeep.  Twenty minutes later we were in our room at the Hilo Seaside Hotel.  Minutes later we passed out.

4:30 a.m. rolled around and we were awake!  Time to explore :)  We grabbed the cameras and went for a walk along Banyan Drive, past the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, and found our way on to Coconut Island Park just before the sun came up. I should mention that this was Katie's maiden voyage with her new DSLR that she got for her birthday two weeks prior, and my maiden voyage with a GoPro Hero. Our plan was to document as much of the trip as possible, so even if we never made it back we'd always have the photos to spark the memories.

Sunrises are held sacred by many groups, particularly those in touch with Mother Earth, as a time of new beginnings, new chances, and new opportunities. Viewing the splendor of a sunrise over Hilo Bay, the first morning we were on the Big Island, brought about a new energy. This was the time I was supposed to be considering my future employment with the company. How could I go on giving it my all when other certainly more important areas of my life were begging for attention?

Katie's shot of a sunrise from Coconut Island - Hilo, Hawaii.

We weren't alone with this sunrise. We shared it with another gentleman who was also engulfed in the photogenic panorama, and perhaps a deeper understanding of the environment, Dr. Clifford C. Cain. Cliff introduced himself to us as an environmental researcher who was studying the way certain religious groups perceived their responsibility towards Mother Earth in the light of God. He was spending a few months on the Big Island, conducting his research as a professor of religious studies for Westminster College in Missouri. Cliff had heard about the project in Hawaii that I was working on, for which I was helping develop methods for converting wasted agricultural biomass to useful algae biomass.

He told us he thought what we were doing was a good thing. Using culled papaya to create biofuel could not only help the bottom line for rural farmers, but also create a valuable commodity for the isolated island state. The synchronicity of meeting Dr. Cain at that moment in time, him knowing about our project and its importance for the state, and me understanding the importance of his research may have given me a short-sighted hope that I was heading down the right path with my current situation. Perhaps, though, it planted seeds in my mind that I also wanted a deeper understanding of life on this planet - "to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - H.D. Thoreau

Go on to Part 2


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