July 2nd, 2021 at 12:58 PM HST
I’m sitting in a sparsely filled United flight with the seats on either side of me empty, giving me the space needed, physically and mentally, to process the past 4 weeks I spent in the Big Island of Hawaii.
Less than 5 weeks ago, I was on a two-hour-long phone call with a representative from Citi, holding in my frustration (and tears of exasperation) as I repeated my request to book a flight using my points for the tenth time, only to be transferred to someone else and start all over again. Finally, I got hold of someone — Juliana — who stuck with me until the end and played a vital role in helping my dream come true.
A friend of mine once told me in a conversation,
“I’ve realized that making decisions is not hard for me anymore. All I need to do is observe my intuition and follow it.”
That’s the only way I can describe my reasoning behind wanting to go to Hawaii.
I trusted my intuition, and in turn, the universe rewarded me with the following:
I lived in a beautiful, lush intentional community with people who made me feel home away from home.
I was let into a new way of living one’s life; a way that is slow, carefree, and devoid of structures.
I built an unshakeable connection with nature and Mother Earth that is bound to influence all of my future decisions.
I entered altered states of reality that resurfaced the inner child in me, letting me be reborn with a sense of clarity, confidence, and carefreeness.
I gained more conviction on the goals I set for myself for the next 6 months, starting with launching my first online course.
And, I finally realized the meaning of the phrase “some infinities are greater than other infinities” with someone I formed a deep connection with.
Figure: Taken by my wonderful Couchsurfer, John, at Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai
I came across this idea of masculine vs feminine energy recently. They are not to be confused with gender, however. While it may be more common for a male to have more masculine energy, it is a sliding scale and it’s entirely possible for a male to lie on the feminine side and vice versa.
Below is a brief description of both the energies,
“The feminine energy is flowing and dynamic. Its moves can’t be predicted or always explained with the rational mind. It is unrestricted by the social norms because it doesn’t follow any rules other than guidance coming from the heart. The masculine energy is stable and more predictable. Its strengths are willpower, clarity, and focus. The masculine energy likes to create structures and rules, so it knows how to apply the logic correctly. Another way to look at the masculine energy is as knowledge whereas the feminine is knowing.”
Traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii felt like I traveled from a globe of masculine energy to one of feminine energy. Life was simply slower in Hawaii, in all its interpretations. The way people moved, walked, talked, and even the way they breathed, was slower.
Of the roughly four weeks I spent in Hawaii, all except for two days were spent on the Big Island. I spent one weekend in between in Kauai, one of the smaller islands of the Hawaiian archipelago.
Figure: An aerial view of the Big Island (left) and Kona Airport (airport)
The Big Island airport was unique and made up of shacks. Public transportation was sparse with just one bus that went around the entire island, twice a day. The cost of living compared to San Francisco, which took me by surprise. There were no skyscrapers. Most of the island was covered with empty, lush land devoid of houses and humans. Weather was a pleasant 29 degrees Celsius during the day and 24 degrees Celsius during the night.
The island also had a clear demarcation between the west (Kona) and the east coast (Hilo); with Kona being the more touristy, drier side with sandy beaches, and Hilo being the more local, wetter side with rocky beaches.
I chose to live on the Hilo side. More specifically, I stayed in an intentional community in the Puna district on the Hilo side with ten other people, called Lolia.
Lolia is an 8-acre off-grid, ecologically sustainable, permaculture community that is solar-powered and generates 100% of its water from rainwater.
I spent 6 hours figuring out my accommodation in the week preceding my departure, and still had nothing booked beyond the first night (thanks to a generous Couchsurfer named Yash who agreed to host me). All I knew was I wanted to stay in an intentional community (IC). This stemmed from my experience of staying in an IC in San Francisco presently. However, I wanted to decide on the specific IC after seeing it in person. I wanted my intuition to guide my decision.
And so it did.
On day 2, I took the 6:00 AM bus from Kona to Hilo to be dropped off at the Hakalau bus stop, which really was just a tiny sign in the corner of a remote highway. My wonderful friend Jenni, who I’d met for the first time the day prior and hit it off within an hour, came to pick me up and spend the entire day driving me around to visit various communities I had researched the past week.
After a short hike, we spent the next five hours driving to four ICs, with Lolia being the last one. By the time I reached Lolia, I was already saying yes to another one. But I visited it anyway since a friend had recommended it to me.
60 minutes in, I had changed my mind and decided to pay the rent for a month and spend the rest of my days at Lolia.
The people and energy there made me feel at home, instantly.
Figure: Pictures from the beautiful hike in Hakalau with Jenni.
Figure: What I woke up to every morning at Lolia.
My mornings in the initial days were spent sitting in the dining area (called Lanai in Hawaii), reading and writing. Below is an excerpt from my journal describing one such morning.
June 9th, 2021 at 13:30 HST
Lolia is my current home. I’m sitting comfortably against pillows on a bed, witnessing a beautiful sight filled with papaya trees, white pineapple plants, banana leaves, all kinds of other vegetation, two coconut shells hanging from the ceiling wrapped in beads and strings, the sound of a beautiful wind chime and wind against the trees, the smell of earth and soil, and the sight of tents, houses, a sleeping cat, yellow butterflies, 8 person wooden tables, and more greenery and nature.
Throughout the day, I would see my community members walking from the Lanai to their rooms, from the bathhouse to the co-working space (yes, there were two rooms converted into coworking spaces!), from the garden to the meditation center. Walking through Lolia amidst the kale plants and coconut trees was pure joy for me. There were several moments when I would pause to capture a mental picture, reminding myself of my good fortune.
My favorite memory in those initial days was the moments before I went to bed. I would walk over to the land next to the tents, look up at the night sky, sway gently with the wind, and record a brief voice note under the stars.
Like most ICs, Lolia had a set of values it wanted to uphold.
The two values that were a pleasant surprise to me were the Nudist and Ecological Sustainability culture.
Having grown up in a suburb in Southern India, I was fed with stories of rape, assault, and harassment when I grew up, with the blame being placed on the victim as much as the perpetrator. There was a huge emphasis placed on my clothing, that conditioned me into being wary of wearing anything that was too revealing, even now.
From that vantage point, it came as a shock for me at first to witness, both men and women, walking either partially or completely nude at Lolia. The shock wasn’t the act of nudity though; it was the comfort they felt in engaging in the act. Especially the women. They felt confident enough in their body and safe enough in the environment to be nude, which gave me a completely new lens to look through when it came to the idea of clothing. While I still have ways to go before I can shed my 21 years of conditioning, experiences like these certainly expedite that process.
Secondly, it was also my first time living in an off-grid, solar-powered, permaculture community that engaged in rainwater harvesting. We ate so much of what we grew: papayas, lichees, pineapples, kale, avocados, tomatoes, cherries, and much more. I truly appreciated the beauty of that in my third week, when I was tasked to retrieve kale from the garden for cooking.
Figure: A shot of the dining lanai at Lolia. Source: Trip Advisor
At Lolia, each of us gets to cook for the entire community once a week, and that evening, my cooking partner John and I decided to make salad and tacos. When I went into the garden, I didn’t know kale from papaya from lettuce. In the beginning, I felt helpless, and a little ashamed. Most of the expertise I had on worldly matters was cerebral, and it was obvious at that moment. Thankfully, my friends Sunny and Patricia helped me pick the right leaves, which I later used to make a salad for the first time in my life. I remember standing at the kitchen counter, breaking off the lettuce leaves and thinking, This is incredible.
Figure: Connections formed at Lolia. <3
The first half of my 2021 has been filled with people. My Facebook friends list tells me that I made 50+ new connections in 2021, all of whom were people I’d met in person, thanks to being part of an IC in San Francisco. And this theme continued in Hawaii.
The people at Lolia came from all walks of life, unsurprisingly.
I met a former Olympic athlete, yoga and meditation instructor, philosopher, travel vlogger, startup founder, engineer, massage therapist, and more. The founder of Lolia, Robert Silber, is a tantra teacher and author of the book, Conscious Sensuality.
Yet, it was so easy to connect with everyone, possibly because we all internally acknowledged that at Lolia, we were all one and the same.
We ate dinner together every evening, engaged in a Sharing Circle once a week, sat together to listen to Yoga Sutras, broke into an impromptu music jam and dance session one night, and spoiled our appetite with late-night snacks.
There were some people I connected with more deeply than others, but I am so grateful to everyone I met at Lolia for making me feel at home away from my home.
Figure: One of the 5 sculptures at the Human+Nature exhibition in Chicago.
“Trees share this deep relationship with each other. That’s the way trees thrive, is in their relationships. I think we need to acknowledge that, and we need to acknowledge our relationship to the trees, what they give the planet, and how much they give us. Accessing the depth of what it means to be human, what it means to be sentient, what it means to be alive, what it means to be here on this planet. If we start to look deep, deep inside our human nature, we’ll find that it’s extremely close to the natural world around us.” — Daniel Popper, Creator of Human+Nature art exhibition in Chicago.
I didn’t, and couldn’t, fully appreciate what Daniel said until my trip to Hawaii.
In the one year and few months I spent in Bellevue, Washington, I went to the park and the public library almost every day. They were my safe haven in the evenings. Sometimes in those months, I made a vow to myself to one day build or adopt a park (or a few). That was the closest I’d felt to feel connected with the nature around me.
On this trip, I felt something deeper.
Below is an excerpt from my journal on my trip to Kauai, where I stayed with one of the most wonderful and thoughtful Couchsurfers I’d met so far: John Bohling. On my second day in Kauai, John lent me his bike to ride around the island. I rode along the shore on the Kapa’a side and found a wheat maze which led into a secluded clearing where I spent the afternoon.
June 20th, 2021
[…] I was hopping on rocks, dancing on them slowly, really just expanding my arms and legs to take in the sunlight and energy from the ocean. I felt connected to nature. To the trees, rocks, water. I also for the first time felt beautiful without my glasses. I really enjoyed seeing the world clearly without having to rely on a peripheral. I took some pictures, and finally left that spot feeling blissful. The ride back, I was still feeling the connection, dancing slowly as I rode free hand, giving high fives to the trees who extended their arms for me, standing on the bike to touch tree tops, and smiling at those on the road who met my eyes.
Figure: A few pictures from my bike ride across Kauai.
Walking through the garden at Lolia every day, occasionally running through roads embraced by tall trees, and driving around an island that is a biological treasure with over 10,000 unique species changed my perspective. I went from appreciating the nature around me to beginning to feel it is my duty to protect it.
I don’t yet know how this new perspective will manifest itself in my life, but I’m excited to explore it further.
There’s a reason why traveling is glorified.
If you do it the right way, with intention, traveling can be the best catalyst for you to grow exponentially in a very short period of time, especially in a post-pandemic world.
The best gift I gave myself in 2021 was this trip.
I hope you get to do the same for yourself.