So you need a warm & toasty getaway – that’s a given.
It’s the dead of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and half of the US is covered in snow. Your feet are pasty, your skin is dry and you’re daydreaming about somewhere – anywhere – with pretty water, miles of beaches and tropical drinks.
Deciding where to escape to is the tricky part, especially if you’re a novice traveler without much international experience, so I’ve got a suggestion I’ve been meaning to share.
How about Kauai, Hawaii’s garden island?
You’ve seen the pictures from my trip back in October/November 2012. It was my fourth visit to Kauai and I had a fantastic realization while I was beach hopping with my brother one afternoon. On Kauai, you get all the thrill of a tropical, wild, foreign destination with none of the hassle and stress that can come with a true trip abroad. Read on to see what I mean. (Apologies in advance to my international & regular trip-taking readers as these suggestions are mostly for the occasional traveler & US folks. Enjoy the pictures anyhow!)
- Sublimely exotic yet familiar. Visiting Kauai is like plunging yourself into a faraway land of mystical jungles, endless beaches and intense adventures – yet, it’s still a part of the US. You immediately feel both comfortable and 10 million miles from anything you’ve ever known back home.
- Try a foreign language on for size. Hawaiian pidgin offers a glimpse into another dialect without ever having to leaf through a guidebook to figure out common phrases just to get by. You’ll easily pick up words that make you feel like you’ve been in Hawaii as long as Captain Cook. And trust me, aloha and mahalo will be second nature by the time you leave.
- New cultural experiences. There’s nothing quite as eye-opening as experiencing & embracing a different culture, and Hawaiian history is one of the best-preserved indigenous cultures in the US. From hula to the legend of Pele, Hawaiian history is just as fascinating and exotic as any you’ll encounter in the rest of the world.
- Cuisine. One of the most amazing parts of traveling is trying new foods, and in Hawaii, there’s a whole new menu to taste. Poi and poke and opah and kalua pork and shave ice with ice cream and azuki beans! Nomnomnom!
- No currency exchange. That is, for my US friends! It’s hard to imagine traveling such a long distance, landing in paradise and not having to switch currency upon arrival, but that’s the case in Hawaii. It’s just one less to-do list item to worry about, and after traveling internationally for two years and losing Lord-knows-how-much-money in currency exchange fees, it’s nice to go somewhere you don’t have to worry about it.
- No passport. Again for my US readers! Landing on a lush tropical island, it’s just such a pleasant, relaxing feeling to step off the plane and into the jungle without going through 7 circles of hell… I mean, immigration. Aloooooooha!
- No vaccinations. Having my arm stabbed and jabbed multiple times prior to my RTW trip, I have to say I really, really appreciate destinations that don’t warrant vaccinations.
As with any destination, there are downsides.
- Stock can be limited. On my last trip, I couldn’t find a Carmen San Diego red trench coat anywhere, so I had to be Cleopatra for Halloween instead. (#firstworldproblems) In Hawaii, you make due with what you have.
- Gas is bloody expensive. As is just about anything that has to be imported. It makes a great excuse for trying locally grown foods and purchasing homemade products from the many farmers markets… and for biking & hitchhiking!
- Not all residents are thrilled about the constant onslaught of tourists. I heard, “Like Kauai? Tell a friend about Maui” more than once.
My point here is not that you should always go to easy destinations within your comfort zone so you don’t have to experience any culture shock. Culture shock is awesome! But if you’re a little antsy about taking that first BIG trip, give Kauai a chance to ease you in. It’s the perfect place to get all the benefits of an epic escape with none of the hassle. Alooooooooooha!