Or, Honeymoon for One
a week alone
is one of the most romantic places in the world. With its lush,
verdant greenery, make-love-on-the-beach moonlight and mile-long
stretches of soft, golden sand, you have to wonder which came first
the postcard or the scenery. Its an exotic-looking island,
albeit an American one, overrun with thousands of well-tanned tourists
speaking a hodgepodge of English, Japanese, Spanish and German.
Some are senior citizens wearing baggy Hawaiian shirts, sport socks
hiked up to their knees and neon pink visors. Some are families
with small, squawking children screaming to take scuba, surfing
and snorkeling lessons while their overwrought parents suck down
sedating Mai Tais (on family vacations, everyone is allowed to be
an alcoholic). And most are young honeymooning couples, canoodling
in the hotel check-in line, exchanging salty, wet kisses on the
beach, making out in restaurants
And then theres me, one miserable, lovelorn single girl whos
just broken up with her boyfriend.
Its five days after my loveable but delinquent boyfriend, Jake,
has just packed up his beat-up, burgundy Chevy "Im going
to get my life together, I swear" and moved from Los Angeles
back to Phoenix to live with his parents. And Im sitting all alone
on a beach in Kaanapali, a resort area in western Maui, trying to
figure out how I can simultaneously go swimming in the ocean and protect
my backpack with my travelers checks, credit cards and camera in it from
Jake and I had only dated three months, but he was funny, sweet, and looked
insanely adorable in a pair of Ralph Lauren swimming trunks. He would
have fit the bill so far as romantic getaway companions go. And yet, here
I was, alone, surrounded on all sides by hordes of annoyingly affectionate
honeymooners on whom the phrase Get a room! was completely lost, while
making some lame attempt at writing the Great American Novel and instead
came up with, well, this.
It all started with Drew Barrymore. I had read an article in some magazine
about how Drew (yes, we are on a first name basis) had treated herself,
pre-Tom Green, to a week alone in Hawaii. Drew babbled on and on about
how in Hawaii she found her best friend, her true confidant, the person
she could count on most in this world.
A year or so later, after scrounging up leftover savings from my paltry-paying
job as a small-time magazine editor, Im sitting on my oversized
beach towel, repeating the words Its o.k. to be alone, its
o.k to be alone so many times that the hotel cocktail waiter serving me
my third complimentary piña colada of the dayand its
only 10 a.m. asks if I would like to see the hotel doctor.
Am I going crazy?
True, I had traveled alone before, several times, in fact, to Europe,
to the Middle East, to Mexico. And yes, there were honeymooners there
too, but there were also starving student backpackers and art museums
to tour and mountains to hike, all serving as convenient distractions.
In Maui, theres just, well, beaches to kiss on and waterfalls to
kiss under and the ocean to kiss in
And then theres me. All alone. By myself. Drinking piña coladas
at ten a.m. Repeating self-help mantras. I swear, Im scared of causing
a spectacle. I picture laughing, pointing, a news reporter from Mauis
Channel 2 News Single girl! Single girl!
And then, late on day one of my solo Hawaiian holiday, I meet Javier and
Keith, two single, straight guys in their late thirties who were upgraded
to a honeymoon suite after being mistaken for a gay couple by the hotel
management "Have fun getting lei-ed. Get it? Getting lei-ed?"
They are almost as miserable as I am.
Javier works for the Democratic Party in some vague capacity (party coordinator?),
and Keith is a union leader who claims he sat next to Barbra Streisand
and her nails at the Democratic National Convention (Keith, if youre
reading this, Im still counting on you for concert tickets).
That night, Javier, Keith and I we decide the only three single
people on the entire island of Maui reap the glories of their honeymoon
suite, star gazing on the balcony while downing homemade screwdrivers
and making out animal shapes in the navy-blue clouds. We laugh about the
string of dysfunctional affairs weve all hadI come in first,
with seventeen, or is it eighteen? and by the end of the night,
I slowly begin to rediscover the joys of traveling alone.
The next morning, after taking a trip to the local pharmacy for Monistat-7
(Jake had left me with one souvenir), I inhale a breakfast of French toast
soaked in cinnamon-vanilla egg batter and macadamia nut syrup, a Hawaiian
specialty. I pull out a book to read in between luscious bites, but instead
find myself talking to an attractive, middle-aged Italian couple, Nico
and Alberto. Nico and Alberto, who just happen to be staying at my hotel,
will come in handy the rest of that week, trusty towel watchers they are.
After breakfast, I go snorkeling with Javier and Keith. We rent masks
and flippers for nine dollars and soon find ourselves gliding beneath
the smooth, translucent blue water in Olowalu, just south of Kaanapali.
We spot tropical fish of every imaginable color, and I see what a yellowtail
tuna looks like in its natural environment before turning into sashimi
at trendy, overpriced sushi joints like Sushi Roku on Beverly.
For a few minutes I think of Jake, because hes been to Hawaii, probably
snorkeled, but am luckily distracted by Keith, who keeps trying to flirt
with me underwater by pressing his snorkeling mask against mine. I remember
how pathetic guys can be, and shake Jake from my mind.
After lunch, we drive north, to Kapalua Bay, where we make friends with
a group of good-looking college kids from San Francisco who are smoking
joints while cliff diving into a secluded cove. First Javier jumps. Then
Keith. It takes me a while to muster the courage (Im by this time
sufficiently stoned), but with all of these younger kids rooting me on,
I dont want to look like a coward--
"One, two, three!"
So I jump.
The drop is long enough for me to think about what Jake would do if I
cracked my head on a rock, broke my spine and bled to death all over my
brand new Gottex bathing suit that I bought on sale at Bloomingdales.
But I hit the water with a loud splash no blood, head in tactand
I hear the college kids sound an enthusiastic round of applause, like
Im some wheelchair bound octogenarian who crosses the finish line
in a family reunion potato sack race. When I surface, my bikini bottom
wedged up my ass, hair slapped wet in my face, I feel good, I feel confident,
like a star in one of those old Mountain Dew commercials from the Seventies.
I feel like I have completed one of those things on a mental List of Things
to Do Before I Die. I am invincible. I am a superhero. Whats next
cliff diving in Acapulco?
That night, I sit at the hotel bar, writing in my journal about my courageous
cliff diving experience while listening to a Jim Croce impersonator sing
Time in a Bottle and dedicate it to all the young couples in love.
The next morning I waste away the morning watching some local cable access
segment called Hawaiian Word of the Day. I repeat mahalo (thank you),
Maui no kai oi (Maui is the best) and aloha (hello, goodbye) until
I am ready to practice them on the Polynesian hotel maid.
That evening I take in a traditional/touristy luau (Open bar! Free Mai
Tais!) and meet a Russian familyVladimir, an electrical engineer,
Galina, his blond wife, and Jasha, their well-behaved nine year-old son,
who by the way he tinkers curiously with a camcorder, will probably grow
up to be an electrical engineer as well.
The next day I take a drive to famous Honolua Bay, where I bathe in the
clean, clear waters, and say screw it about my towel and backpack; Ive
left my travelers checks and credit card in the room, and anyway that
Visas been maxed out since college. I coincidentally run into Vladimir,
Galina and little Jasha and spend hours building sandcastles with my new
nine year-old friend. At least hes single.
That night, eating dinner alone, Im getting weird stares because
Im the only one in the hotel restaurant with a laptop, not a spouse.
Guests are coming up to me, curious, asking what publication I write for
("Myself, for now," "Uh, the New York Times?," "Random
House"), what kind of computer I suggest ("Im a Mac girl")
and what my name is so they can look for my byline ("Evgenia Herskovina,"
"Mila Rasmonikov," "Lacy Goodheart"). And then theres
my favorite question of all, asked with raised eyebrows and in a sympathetic
tone: "Daahhling, Why are you in Hawaii alone?"
Because I WANT to!
Day three. Javier and I decide to rent surf boards. The swells are low,
and the waves are mushy, but I stand up on the board for what Im
sure is a good ten seconds (4.5 by Javiers account) and strike a
Malia Jones-like pose. Seconds later I spot a shark, its mottled-blue
fin cutting a cylindrical shape in the water. I freak out and flail my
arms in the water, toppling over my surfboard, the theme song to Jaws
drumming in my ears. I suddenly fear that this confidence building week
will culminate with me as fish food. I wonder if Jake will come to my
The shark turns out to be a harmless sea turtle, bobbing playfully up
and down for breath, and I make it to shore alive. But I like the idea
of me having escaped the jaws of a shark so much that I end up telling
everyone I meet that day in the quaint little port of Lahaina that I dodged
a great white. (When Im informed that great whites generally dont
swim in warm waters I change it to a tiger shark). I soon have all of
Maui convinced that I am a local hero.
But I am scarred by the experience. I am now officially afraid of sharks
(sea turtles). I see a rock in the water and I think its a shark.
I see my shadow, I think its a shark. Seaweed. Shark. Sailboat.
Shark. I spend the next day swimming close to shore, alongside an elderly
couple in plastic bathing caps, hoping that if a shark does attack, itll
eat them firstwait, is that mean? Well, they have lived longer.
Day four I do nothing. I hop from the heated pool to the lukewarm ocean,
back to the heated pool. I observe peoples tan lines (and lament
that topless sunbathing is illegal). I read my third in a series of new
breakout novels by wunderkind authors and assure myself than mine will
be better. I watch a man in a bathing suit that says Budweiser across
the butt reading James Micheners Hawaii and laugh. Did he read Poland
in Poland? Texas in Texas?
For dinner I go to Burger King (money running low), and watch the sun
set while I wolf down my chicken sandwich (no mayo), fries and frothy
Coke. I spot a young couple on a benchhes reading a Steven
King book, shes flipping through the new Oprah magazine, and they
dont look very happyand I think to myself, I like being alone.
The thing about being alone is that until you get used to it you always
feel like you have to be doing something. Like, you cant just eat
breakfast; you have to be reading while eating breakfast. Or, you cant
take a leisurely stroll along the beach; you need to be collecting shells.
But once you stop being so self-conscious, thinking that everyone around
you is watching you being alone, it becomes the most liberating feeling
in the world.
I finish my sandwich and sit for a while, doing nothing, just happy to
watch the stars, just happy to be.
I even turn down an offer that night to go clubbing in Lahaina from Javier
and Keith. For one, Im growing tres bored of Keiths tiresome
flirting techniques "So, you want to take a walk along the
beach tonight?" Wink, wink. And how much can I listen to Javier babble
on and on about Tipper Gores hemlines last voting season?
Instead, I shower, watch Pay-Per-View, and check my messages. Jake hasnt
called. But its OK. I apply aloe vera to my brown-red skin, and
fall fast, fast asleep.
My last day in Maui. Napili the bellhop insists I visit Hana, a rainforest
on Mauis unspoiled eastern coast. So, I take off in my red Chevrolet
Cavalier rental (after searching an hour for it in the parking lot among
all the other red Cavalier rentals) and head towards Hana. Along the way
I pass the plantation town of Paia, a windswept beach favorite of
windsurfers, and stop at Twin Falls, where I sample a pure sugar cane
I then hike to Twin Fallss two twin (duh) waterfalls, sloshing my
way through the moist undergrowth, letting a flow of fresh, clean water
drip all over my body. I snap a few photographs of myself, angling the
camera on my own face, the result of which Im sure will be squished,
blown-up and squashed, like a reflection in a carnival fun house mirror.
Oh well, at least Ill have physical evidence that I was actually
The road to Hana is video game-curvy, winding its way along thousand-foot
high cliffs and thick, rich rain forest, and the entire time Im
driving I feel like Im going to toss the sugar cane juice shake
all over the steering wheel. For 52 miles of one-lane roads and rickety
bridges its stop-go-take-a-picture, and Im inevitably always
stuck behind some senior citizen tour bus going two miles an hour or a
newly married couple with the incessant urge to make out at every vista.
After two hours of feeling carsick and wanting to kick myself for not
having Dramamine, I finally decide to turn around. I suppose a co-pilot
would have come in handy, because Hana is considered by some to be paradise
on earth, but right then and there, all I want is my hotel pool, a patch
of sand and an ice-cold Coke.
Its my last night in Maui and Im sitting on the beach, ready
with camera, waiting for the sunset. Balmy, tropical, trade winds are
blowing lightly through my hair. My skin is slightly sticky from the salt
water (all my zits are gonepresto!). I dig my toes into the cool,
And there is a moment, when the sun is white hot and then glowing orange
and then a flash of green and then
And I miss Jake terribly. But I also feel serene. I feel alone,
but good alone, like I can do whatever I want, go wherever I chose. I
dont need a soul.
And nobody else can touch me.
The next day I say aloha to Maui. After a short inter-island flight I
am sitting in a Burger King in the Honolulu Airport. Its 6:30 p.m.
and my connecting flight to Los Angeles doesnt leave until nine.
Im eating my favorite meal in the whole, wide world, the number
#6 chicken sandwich (no mayo), fries, Coke. Im reading my
book by a wunderkind (yes, I decide, mine will be better). The evening
sky is muted blue with leaky streaks of pink and purple. A bird is flying
around the drink dispenser, flapping its tiny wings. Im happy. Im
alone. And it occurs to me
Im not at all lonely.
My week of being alone has taught me how lucky I am to be alone. No boyfriends
to fight with. No kids to chase around. No friends to argue with over
which bar we go to. There is just me. In the airport. Reading a book.
Eating Burger King.
And that, mahalo, is enough.
© Malina Saval March 2003
She had it down cold, that thing that made people fawn
Malina Sarah Saval
It's hard to give it up
all rights reserved