Hawaii, The Big Island, February 2009. At the last minute my good friend had to cancel coming along on this trip. She got a job offer and had to take it.
Never having traveled on a long trip alone before, I was intimidated. We had planned to camp for 9 days and hotel for 2. Most of the websites I looked at said definitively “women should not camp alone”, but my dad had always taught me that a woman’s best protection is her mind. I had camped solo all over Washington state, taking along huge size 12 boots, an extra chair and humongous rapper t-shirt. With just those props, other campers assumed I had a very large man with me.
This was different though, it wasn’t just a couple of nights, it was 9 days in a tent. In a place where I knew no one. One website, thankfully, had some great suggestions. Keep your phone charged and next to you, make friends with other campers, especially couples and families, lock the inside of your tent flap at night so it will be obvious if someone tries to enter, and keep mace in close reach for that worst case scenario. Make sure you’re camped within yelling distance of other tents and be prepared to make noise if in trouble.
Right before I left, I talked to many people about camping solo, and half said it would be no problem, especially in Hawaii. The other half thought it was a terrible idea, they advised me against it. But I had a ticket already paid for, and as I talked to him about it, my dad, always the voice of perspective said dryly, “There are worse problems in the world than a paid ticket to Hawaii”.
So there I was, off the plane, dazed and tired from the flight and carrying all the camp gear. I loaded into my rental car and pulled out a CD that my friend Michele had just given me: Pink Floyd’s Meddle.
Every time you take a chance like this, it’s scary. But as the opening pulses of the album started, the feeling changed to one of adventure and intrigue. Yes, there is a storminess to life, but there is also beauty and opportunity. The first day, a couple of Canadians I met on the plane and had told about the campsite I knew, showed up. They became my guardian angels for the trip. Also, a family from California was there most of the time, I became semi-adopted and they fed me the most amazing food. I met so many people and saw turtles, whales and a 5-foot manta ray (the manta was black on top, white on the bottom, doing somersaults in the water and Shawn the Canadian SWAM with it).
The locals were inspiring and so relaxed about everything. I laid around all day at the beach, walked the woods, and took drives in the heat of midday. It had been years since I enjoyed driving, but this was so different. No one was in a hurry, and it was gorgeous.
The weather at Spencer Park was perfect. If you drove 10 miles North, East or South it turned rainy and/or cold, but somehow we had landed in this perfect place. Every morning I spent a long time taking tea and staring at the ocean.
The 9 days went by way too fast. It was so sad to say goodbye to the Canadians and the park most of all. But the hotel was like heaven after sleeping on the ground for so long. Yes, I had been scared to come here alone, but facing that fear made the experience all the better. It was better than I could have imagined. Here’s one more song from Meddle, and the lyrics.
“Fearless” by Pink Floyd
You say the hill’s too steep to climb
Just climb it
You say you’d like to see me try
You pick the place and I’ll choose the time
And I’ll climb
The hill in my own way
Just wait a while for the right day
And as I rise above the tree lines and the clouds
I look down
Hear the sound of the things you said today
Fearlessly, the idiot faced the crowd
Merciless, the magistrate turns ‘round
And who’s the fool who wears the crown?
And go down in your own way
And every day is the right day
And as you rise above the fear-lines in his brow
You look down
Hear the sound of the faces in the crowd
Join DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm for Nite Life on KEXP. Every Friday at midnight she does this album spotlight, telling a story and playing 3 songs from the record. Michele also produces KEXP Documentaries and hosts Wake Up Thursdays from 6-9am for KEXP in NYC on Radio New York 91.5FM.