“It’ll always be here when you’re ready to come back,” Melissa said, clutching a cup of tea and pushing a plate of shared cheesecake to the side. Tears welled in my eyes, it was our last day on the Sunshine Coast before moving to Maui. The next day, we packed our two little bags, threw our dog into a crate, paid something ridiculous like $400 in luggage fees to ship our Mac, and wheeled our luggage to the front entrance at Brisbane International Airport.
Adam’s dad hugged me tight. “See you soon” he said. I missed him already. Swiveling around, we entered the doors and boarded a plane to Maui, somewhere we’d never seen before. Because why not? Clear water, year ’round warm temperatures – the perfect sea change.
Some people thought we were nuts. We sort of were. I remember our approach into Kahului like it was yesterday. Thick mist hovered over the West Maui Mountains and threw our plane into a series of jolts and bumps. We navigated the airport parking lot to our Kimos rental, picked up our dog in cargo, and attempted to navigate to our rental in Haiku with less than 10% battery. We’d picked up the rental while in Australia, scouring craigslist for dog friend accommodation, told by many residents to give up because there was no way anyone would rent to us off island, ESPECIALLY with a dog. The same day we posted our ad, a lovely woman named Karen offered us a place to stay – she couldn’t resist Marley’s crimped ears. Haiku it was.
When we arrived to our rental, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The smell of damp jungle hung in the air, the driveway lined with lush foliage that gave way to a two storey home skirted by banana trees. As we approached, a dog waddled up to our car and wagged next to our front door. Greetings, Lei Lei.
Karen had left us dry dog food in a bowl, freshly ground coffee, toilet paper. That night we retired to the sound of dozens of roosters and peacocks whose voices thundered from the animal shelter adjacent to the property. If this wasn’t what we dreamed of, I’m not sure what was.
In the years that followed, we experienced every imaginable up and down. We welcomed our first child, sure that we wouldn’t be able to raise him on our own, and made plans to return to Australia. They fell through, it was an expensive trip and we just weren’t prepared. Twice more we tried, and again, it wasn’t the time. My heart ached every day to be near family, to show Ashley his home, to plant our roots. While we saved for our big trip back, we enjoyed an enviable lifestyle that, while not without challenge, was utterly free and beautiful.
When we welcomed our daughter two years later we felt the familiar pull of home, spending many free moments arguing, in tears, mostly on my behalf – I was ready to go home, it was time to make a date. Finally, we were ready. As I write this we have five days until we depart and my stomach is turning – packing up our lives, with two kids, has been an extrordinary feat – but we’re doing it. And still, so many places I’ve not had the chance to say goodbye to.
I’m coming to terms with leaving the place we had our children. The nights I spent in the hospital with them, rocking their fresh little bundles to sleep while gazing out the window as the sun set across Iao Valley.
Those times before kids where we’d have the full day to ourselves, lazing about or working on ideas or just taking our dog to the beach. The first job interview Adam had, the time he quit three months later and we embarked on our business journey full time.
I think Maui set us free when we were ready. Adam and I always talk about how we’ve never thanked a place more in our lives – every sunset: Thank you Maui. Every sunrise… Thank you, Maui. A half hour window of sunshine when clouds surrounded our shoot location – Thank you Maui! The love and respect we have for this place runs deep. I’ve never known this feeling, I’ve never lived in a place where everything came together or fell apart at precisely the right time.
So now it’s time. Our house is bare, our walls echo. In a few days we’re closing the door to the home where we brought our baby girl home for the first time, the countless nights I spent rocking her by the lanai, strands of Christmas lights twinkling against the stars. Then night we moved in those lights shone brightly and I gasped when I turned on the porch light and saw how beautiful they were. Strand by strand, the lights are going out. In a few days, they’ll be gone. It feels like we’ve been here so long but also no time at all… our journey continues.