Relax. It’s OK. You have my permission
Immediately following this year’s WSOP, I set aside time and made travel arrangements to take a proper vacation. This probably sound ridiculous to those of you who think my life appears to be one big vacation. Paris, Monte Carlo, Bahamas, Vegas, China, New York, the list of desirable destinations I get to travel to on the poker circuit is enviable. But any of you who spend a lot of time on the road or travel for work can attest to the immense difference between a proper “vacation” and traveling for business.
I can’t remember the last time I hopped on a flight and went somewhere for an actual vacation — sans poker, meetings, or anything remotely resembling a professional responsibility or commitment. None of this, “Oh I’ll just hop over to such-and-such for a couple days after I’m done playing such-and-such tournament” piggybacking allowed.
To actually relax is kind of hard work. As a responsible and productive adult, it’s a bit foreign to intentionally do nothing, especially when there are so many things one can do on vacation.
Usually, when taking trips we saturate our time with an itinerary of activities. In fact, I think most of us feel a sense of guilt if we don’t fill our vacation time with sightseeing, activities and excursions that allow us to appreciate our local surroundings and culture. We feel “lazy” if we stay in bed all morning or lounge by the pool all day. There is a weird, unspoken pressure to do and see things when we travel to other places.
It takes a lot of brainpower to leave behind your worries, your work and your responsibilities (maybe even, dare I say it, turn your phone off) and give yourself permission to be irresponsible and unproductive with your time. Kind of ironic, the idea that you have to intentionally focus on not focusing on anything … A.K.A relaxing!
So, on this trip I decided to give myself permission to be lazy; give myself permission to relax. I made it a point not to plan anything or put a single item on my agenda, thus giving myself total permission to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, for the duration of my six-day Hawaiian vacay. Spoiler alert: It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had! Without an agenda, Tiffany and I were free to let the Hawaiian winds take us wherever they saw fit.
Oh yes, did I mention that my vacation companion was Tiffany Michelle? I just figure at this point everyone knows that she is my other half and comes everywhere with me. This proper Hawaiian vacay was no exception.
After a really strange travel experience, which included an exorbitant amount of grumpy airplane passengers (all on their way to Hawaii, nonetheless), an almost mini revolt in-flight when Tiffany and I attempted to change seats to sit together, topped off with a 100 person line when we arrived at the airport rental car counter, we were finally on our way to our hotel — Sam Smith soothing our travel grievances over the airwaves.
Upon arrival at the Andaz hotel in Maui, we slipped into our island garb and headed down to the pool bar for a quick introductory drink. Somehow a quick drink turned into two drinks, turned into appetizers, turned into watching the sunset, turned into playing bar/drinking games with the bartenders, turned into enjoying the evening poolside music entertainment, turned into more drinks, turned into dinner … which ultimately resulted in eight hours of unadulterated and completely unplanned fun. This no-plans-and-letting-the-Hawaiian-winds-take-us-wherever thing was working out pretty well!
For as grumpy as all the airplane passengers had been on our way over to the island, the staff at the Andaz was lovely, uplifting, laid-back and high on life. (Gotta give a specific shout out to Archer and Travis, the hotel pool bartenders, who remain one of the highlights of my trip!). How could you not don a perky, fun-loving, and grateful kind of attitude when living in Hawaii and going to work with a view of the exquisite ocean sunset each night?!
After three solid days of unapologetic laziness and total relaxation, I felt ready to embark on a mini local adventure. Somehow I convinced Tiffany to wake up at 3 a.m. on our fifth day in Hawaii and make the two-hour trek with me to the top of the Haleakala Crater. After our two-hour drive in the complete dark, with the last hour being a windy mountainous road, we made it to the Haleakala summit … Sam Smith, yet again, providing us with some early morning tunes. We weren’t quite prepared for the freezing temperatures atop the summit. (Guess we forgot to pack our parkas and mittens in our Hawaiian vacay luggage. Damn!) So, we very fashionably bundled ourselves in layers (so sexy) and found a couple hotel pool towels in the trunk to help act as a windbreaker from the 40-degree temperatures (also … so sexy).
A 3 a.m. wake-up was a bit daunting, but if you ever find yourself on the island of Maui, I would highly recommend waking up, making the trek and catching the Haleakala sunrise. It’s beautiful, so incredibly peaceful and even though it’s an early wake-up call you’ll feel rejuvenated and ready to embark on the day, after witnessing the sunrise. I guess, in so many words, you’ll be high on life too!
Not only did we get to catch a breathtaking sunrise, but we arrived early enough to witness the magnificent colors at the break of dawn. It was teeth-chattering cold (until the sun made its debut) but Tiffany managed to cocoon me up in the pool towels and her arms, so much so that I’d imagine even a baby Joey would have been quite content!
We decided to tackle two Maui-Must-Dos in a single day: the Haleakala sunrise and the Road to Hana. It was a lot of driving around the island, but compacting all touristy activities into one day meant more full days for my lazy ass to sit by the pool and do absolutely nothing but work on my tan and enjoy the never-ending stream of original cocktails that Travis and Archer would whip up just for me, and deliver to my side. Talk about excellent customer service!
If you want to See The World According To Maria, make a note to drive The Road To Hana the next time you’re in Maui. It’s one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken, along the Maui coast; ocean on one side, rainforest on the other and straight ahead … heaven. It really did feel like I was driving toward heaven.
I could go on and on about my Hawaiian Heaven — bathing in the Seven Sacred Pools, hiking the Pipiwai Trail and being enveloped in the most breathtaking and magical bamboo forest, consuming the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted at Braddah Hutt’s BBQ (which is less of a restaurant and more of a broken down ice cream truck on the side of the road), and even getting stranded for a few hours due to a flat tire. The latter might not have been “heaven” per se, but Tiffany was an angel and came to the rescue, chasing down a cab driver and asking him very politely and convincingly to help a couple’a stranded sisters out!”
Not making any specific plans on this vacation allowed me to fully enjoy each moment, whatever I was doing. I was never preoccupied with what time it was, because time didn’t matter, since I didn’t have anywhere I had to be. If I enjoyed what I was doing, I kept doing it. If I wanted to do something else, I set out to do that. I can’t remember the last time I felt so freed from burdens and responsibilities, thus able to completely relish in every given moment and experience in front of me. I think we need more of that in life.
I highly recommend clearing some time and putting your responsibilities on the shelf, forget your woes, set aside your schedules and itineraries and just see where life takes you. Rediscover what it is like to live in the moment. I hope you’ll be surprised and rejuvenated at the beautiful, spontaneous, colorful and inspiring people, places and moments that are swirling around you … be it in Hawaii or be it at a special little spot in your own hometown.