I never planned to be in Hawaii. I’d never imagined it. But the paths of an around the world trip are unknowable. I planned to end my Asian leg of the trip through Philippines and then move on to New Zealand. But things change, and opportunities start to come like falling dominoes.

With Freya we traced a new itinerary to ‘escape’ Asia. Instead of the Philippines, we opted for South Korea and Japan as a route to cross the Pacific Ocean. The reason, as for any backpacker, was moneywise. To fly from Osaka to Honolulu was incredibly cheap, just a hundred dollars and an extra fifty for overweight luggage –which, considering I flew 10 flights with that company in the same conditions, is a bargain–.

A hundred bucks, yes! I know, amazing. As an unplanned part of the trip, Hawaii was a blast in all senses. We had only one week to explore Oahu. A hostel dorm bed was 20 bucks, and in a day eating out you could potentially spend as much as in our ticket into the island. We had to be careful, but managed to keep our budget safe.

“I was beside myself with excitement just to be in Hawaii. All surfers, all readers of surf magazines –and I had memorized nearly every line, every photo caption, in every surf magazine I owned– spent the bulk of their fantasy lives, like it or not, in Hawaii. And now I was there, walking on actual Hawaiian sand (coarse, strange-smelling), tasting Hawaiian seawater (warm, strange-smelling), and paddling toward Hawaiian waves (small, dark-faced, windblown). Nothing was what I’d expected”.

Barbarian Days: A surfing life. William Finnegan.

The good thing was that the seven days were packed with awesomeness. The unpromising concrete jungle of Waikiki beach, a hell built into paradise, provided the funniest waves to surf, a good respite despite the ugly and ultra developed shoreline. Apart from surfing a fabled spot, this part of the island is not much to talk about.

The North Shore and beyond is what gets you hooked with Oahu. With a one-day car rental we had enough time to rejoice on the true island views. Lush vegetation, high cliffs and giant waves await you. The roads, yellow lined and a perfect black asphalt, like in the movies, show you around in a spectacular fashion. Our road trip from Honolulu up to Kaena Point was one of the highlights of eight months of constant travelling.

For me, Hawaii had an important significance since it was the scenario of Lost, an all-time favourite TV show. Trekking to a cascade just at the top of Honolulu or walking a beach next to where the show was filmed brought back memories. I was expecting the polar bear to come out, but I guess he was sleeping that day.

Without getting into the tourist hotspots, the vibe of the island reminds you of the adventures of Jack, Kate and all the other Lost characters. For the most curious, there’s a ranch where most of the series were shot. You gotta pay, of course.

“In the mags, Hawaiian waves were always big and, in the color shots, ranged from deep, mid-ocean blue to pale, impossible, turquoise. The wind was always off-shore (blowing from land to sea, ideal for surfing), and the breaks themselves were the Olympian playgrounds of the gods: Sunset Beach, the Banzai Pipeline, Makaha, Ala Moana, Waimea Bay.

All of that seemed worlds away from the sea in front of our house”.

Barbarian Days: A surfing life. William Finnegan.

Hawaii is, like any other exotic territory, a land of conquest, war and colonization. The States annexed the territory in 1898, the last of a series of foreign invasion that supressed –rather killed– the old cultures of the island. The locals still preserve an own approach to life, but always under the strong influence of the American lifestyle and more than three centuries of foreign presence, since the British sighted the archipelago in 1778.

This US influence has been bad for the island in a lot of senses. Tourist masses are obvious, but also the overuse of natural land to create energy, petrol for the mainland. The west coast of Oahu has no clear spot without big chimneys and concrete building on the horizon. Also, just from 1970 to 2015, the Native Hawaiian population has been reduced in representation among the islanders: from 57,7% to just 9,9%.

When visiting and walking around Hawaii, it’s important to know that the forests you see are mostly replanted. The original species and landscape of the island are long gone. They were either used for industry purposes or died because of environment changes (provoked by human activity, to be precise). Already during the first colonization, the Sugar cane industry swept the island’s jungle away.

All things considered, it’s a shame, because the American version of Hawaii you get to enjoy today is still pretty amazing. Imagine how this place was in the past…

P.S. I strongly recommend to read William Finnegan’s autobiography, quoted here twice, a surf poised story that encapsulates, between big waves and reefs, a story of all us.