Twenty one hours after Chicago, we were treated to a stunning sunset thousands of feet in the air as we came in for a landing on Maui. This will be our third trip to Hawaii, and the fourth island we have visited. The only difference is this time we get to stay for a month!

How?? Why?? Where??

Well, last year when we were just about the leave our jobs, a little purple envelope came in the mail with an offer for one of those discounted time share stays at the Westin. You get a steeply discounted hotel rate and rental car in exchange for two hours of your time sitting in a time share pitch. We sat on the offer for a while, and discussed it with our friends Kristin and Chris, who were gifted a time share stay in Hawaii for their wedding. The opportunity for a luxury hotel stay AND a friendcation with a place to stay started to look pretty good. After some research and number crunching, we realized between camping and the other housing options, we could go outside of our regular housing budget for that month if we count the Westin stay as a 'gift' from ourselves. I turn 30 this year, its our third year married, we'll be half way through our first year of travel.....we used all these excuses to convince ourselves to pull the trigger and book the Westin and flights for an extended stay in Hawaii a year from that point.

Fast forward to now, and we are here! I am stoked that we had the means and opportunity to experience the island life during our long trip. It is one of those things I always envied from other travelers, who had seasons off in Puerto Rico, or decided to take a few months and live in the Caribbean, or people who could take an internship in the Virgin islands. I hate to admit it, but I had built this fantasy that if we could pull that off too, I will have officially completed a “young a free” experience. Plus it would be fun as hell.

So now I am writing this entry in my tent, on the cliff side campground in Haleakala National Park while it is pouring rain. It is freakin' great. Day six and I feel like I've already experienced this island fantasy, and we still have three weeks to go.

Eric and I spent this first week on the East side of Maui, the more rural side. This is also the wettest side of the island, which we have not had too much trouble with despite our normal crappy weather luck. The trade winds have been blowing fiercely the majority of our time here, which at first was a bit annoying, but it makes sleeping so much easier. I expected to be uncomfortable in the tent, but it has been so long since I have camped in temperatures above 80 degrees that I forgot how miserable a still night can be in high humidity. Thus, we have been pleasantly surprised how nice the temperatures have been while camping all thanks to those notorious trade winds. We will be camping on the Southern side of island later in the trip, so I expect that to be not nearly as nice.

Right off the plane we stayed at Maui Northshore Hostel, which was way better than we were expecting. We got a private room with A/C and a half bath, and they provided pancake mix and eggs for guests to cook in the shared kitchen in the morning. It was great to have a good night sleep before camping and after a long day through airports. Though, I am glad we are camping most of the time because this was the cheapest lodging we could find, at $110 a night for a room and $80 for a bunk, DAMN who can afford that!!?

We traveled here with our backpacking packs stuffed with camping gear, hammocks, and basic necessities, and bought a few things from Walmart our first day. I was happy we had our own gear for the most part, as we saw plenty of international travelers outfitting themselves for a few nights of camping, and even from Walmart, that shit ain't cheap. We bought some camp chairs, extra cooking utensils, some beach mats, and a whole lot of canned food. Without our normal set up, we realized refrigeration or even a cooler was out of the question. Eric was not too sad that Spam was on the menu for the next 10 days, along with canned veggies, pasta, instant rice, and tacos. It has not been the vacation food you dream about, but it was filling enough and cheap so we have been content.

I have already forwarned Eric that when we are with Kristin and Chris, I will be eating the delicious peel and eat spicy shrimp as much as possible. I also want to eat some siamin, poke, and of course shaved ice. Most of that will happen when we are actually close to a town.

Right now we are staying around the town of Hana. Hana is a small two lane town with a few community buildings, couple of shops, a small hotel, and two general stores, but mostly residential and farm land. The road to Hana is a famous tourist drive that is narrow and windy, so it is not the safest since most people have no idea what to do on “mountain roads”. Our first camp stop was at Wai'anapanapa State Park, famous for its beautiful black sand beach. It did not disappoint. Our first night we grabbed a spot in the open field they allow camping in, which was what I was expecting, nothing great but a place to sleep. However, the next day we were lucky enough to see a couple packing up at one of the bluff campsites, and snuck right in behind them to score this amazing site, which we stayed at for the next four nights.

During the day, Wai'anapanapa is flooded with people, as it is one of the last big stops on the road to Hana. Being at camp was not great because people would literally be walking right next to our tent all day. The lack of privacy was totally worth it for the quiet mornings and evenings in the park with only the campers walking around. More than once we had the beach all to ourselves for breakfast or sunset. We also had plenty of time to hike the state park and chill at the other beaches around Hana. Our favorite was Hamoa beach, it was exactly what you think of when you think of Hawaii. White sand, juts of lava rock encompassing crystal clear water with lush green jungle all around. It never got real crowded either, and camping on this side of the island made it easy to get prime real estate in the morning.

Now we are camping in Haleakala for two nights before we pick up Kristin and Chris, and we have lucked out again on an awesome campsite. About an hour ago we were hanging in the hammock watching the waves crash on the rocks, as a huge double rainbow shown vibrantly in the sky. Can't beat that!

This afternoon we hiked the trail up to Wiamoku falls, which included a view of the O'he'o pools and the bamboo forest. The pools were closed to swimming, which was fine because the rainwater was flushing a lot of mud into them anyway, but the hike and views were incredible. The bamboo forest took me by surprise as well, because we were early, we had it all to ourselves. We could hear the wind bend the bamboo into each other, creating a natural wooden wind chime that was eerie and beautiful at the same time. Any hike that ends with a grand view of a waterfall is always one for the books in my opinion, and this one was mighty grand. After the hike, we played a few rounds of Konane, the Hawaiian version of checkers, and headed back to camp.

Eric and I both agree, even if the rest of the trip fails miserably, this first week was a huge success.

Oh yea, except for my ear infection. I can't forget to mention this for future me to remember, but FYI do NOT get an ear piercing before an island camping trip. One dip in the ocean and an hour later my new piercing swelled up. I thought I could take care of it, as I have had many piercings in the past, but I was very wrong. By day three my ear was so bad that my lymph node behind my ear was swollen and my neck felt like it was on fire. Four hours of driving and one urgent care visit the next day took care of it, but I had to take out the piercings and stay out of the water for the rest of the week while on antibiotics. I was so heartbroken because I had gotten this piercing with Jess in Chicago, and wanted to keep it forever. Though I am glad I was able to fix the infection before anything too serious happened, and I will still be able to swim, surf, and snorkel later in the trip. Sorry Jess! We'll get it done again when I don't live outside. Lesson learned.

10/10: would camp again on vacation in Hawaii.

Song: Soul Rebel – The Gladiators remix

Check out the full Maui album here

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