It was a hot, humid morning in Hawaii, and I was walking from the airport to a shopping center downtown. I’d just flown into Hilo, the biggest town on the eastern side of the Big Island, and I planned to take a bus from there to Pāhoa, where I was staying for $15/night at a hostel in the back of a bar. I was alone without much money and I had days to kill before my friend was meeting me to start working on a farm together.
I was ready for two months of living on island time, at a slower laid-back speed, in the time vacuum that seems to come with a small place surrounded by ocean. I thought I was, at least.
The air was thick and still that morning, the heat was penetrating through me. My back was wet behind my 40lb. backpack. My feet were chaffing from my sweaty sandals. I knew it was a long walk to a bus stop with a long ride down one of the only inland highways. I was reading a vague and blurry map I’d picked up at the airport, trying to analyze which part of Railroad Avenue the woman meant to highlight for me. This “map” was a hand drawn grid of lines and illegible street names, and the highlighted portion was supposedly the bus stop… it took me an hour to figure out that it wasn’t.
I asked locals to direct me to the bus stop. Sometimes I got laughed at–sometimes scoffed at–but mostly I got nice people with genuine suggestions–none of which turned out to be right. I’d get a “I think it stops at Walmart,” then an “on the other side of Macy’s,” followed by an “oh yeah, at Mcdonald’s,” and an “on the corner over there across the street somewhere.” So I spent the day running back and forth between these places, missing one bus and then another, until it was almost dark and I was standing in the road, screaming with frustration. “The bus stop??” someone asked me like I’d spoken a different language, “yeah, they don’t really mark it.” I was in a strongly local area, full of really nice people, but people who also didn’t know or care about a thrown-together bus system that took them to an even smaller town. And why should they?
Island time was announcing itself loudly. I found myself not at all ready for it—for the general disregard for urgency, the lack of specifics, the vague confusing directions using landmarks if you’re lucky. It’s one of the most charming and lovable things about Hawaii. And it’s infuriating, at least to someone not used to it. I’d come from New York City, where there’s a very different kind of island time—a constant hyper speed hustle where time is as much of a currency as money is. I lived a life of being where I said I’d be, when I said I would be there; of squeezing myself into subway cars so I didn’t wait the extra two minutes for the next one. But here in Hawaii, it finally sunk into me—I had nowhere important to be. I’d spent my first day in paradise in an all-day frantic frenzy, and for what?
Eventually I found the bus stop, not far from where I’d been all day, at a bench with a handwritten paper sign. It was dark and raining and my eyes were swallowed into my head. As I boarded the bus and put one wrinkled dollar bill in the donation box, the driver told me to “enjoy the ride!” I sat down in a seat with all my stuff stacked on top of me. The rain was hard and dripping through a crack in the ceiling. The engine was quietly roaring. Island time was massaging itself into my shoulders. “Enjoy the ride,” I kept saying to myself, for two hours with my head against the dewy dirty window.
A visual postcard courtesy of Wall Street, New York City may or may not rival one from island time, Hawaii. Maybe not in pace: