Sunday, August 5, 2007

Traveling Solo Contest: Winning Essay by Joy Maulitz

by Amy Novesky

Congratulations to Joy Maulitz, winner of our Traveling Solo Essay Contest! Joy will receive a free copy of Go Your Own Way: Women Travel the World Solo. Thanks to all who participated! Please come to the Go Your Own Way event tonight, Sun., Aug. 5, 2007 at 7:00 pm in Corte Madera.


On the Big Island by Joy Maulitz

Everything was fine -- taro fields glistening from the morning rain, the home-grown pakalolo's jittery jazz -- until he asked me to spend the night.

I'd made the grand conversion from Tourist to Traveler, thanks to an invitation from some locals to join them at their barbecue. This was no ordinary lanai -- I was in the deep, green Waipio Valley, accessible only by foot or four-wheel drive, home to about 50 locals and the rare visitor. It was like Brigadoon, only warmer.

I'd hiked down and forded the little river that slices the canyon in two. As I reached the steep cliffs marking the far side of the valley, I made the left turn away from the ocean to head toward the waterfalls -- and then I saw the house.

"What a place to live," I breathed, slowing down to take it in -- the outdoor shower, the well-tended garden, and -- oh! -- the circle of friends hanging out in back. As it turned out, I wasn't the only one ogling. "Where're you going?" a voice called. "Come have a beer with us!" beckoned another. The waterfalls could wait.

And so I met the motley crew: Charlie, the owner/builder of this dream house, a tanner Robin Williams with wild sparkling eyes; his friend Django, who'd "gone native" in the nearby jungle; Yvette, a French-Canadienne with a thick delicious accent; and a few others. It wasn't long before Charlie started the begging and cajoling. When I say everything was fine until then, I don't mean the idyll was ruined by this crude intrusion of sexual innuendo. Not at all. I mean that I was forced to decide, on the spot, who I was.

He seemed like a sweet guy. He even said I could stay in the guesthouse if I wanted, adding with a blue twinkle that he'd "pretty much" taken care of that spider infestation. And if I was ever going to have a fling, what a place to do it! But he was a total stranger, maybe even -- ladies, say it with me -- an axe murderer. Everyone else had left. I decided I should go too.

Charlie was in the middle of one final, goofy pitch on the beach when Yvette happened by. I told her Charlie had invited me to stay, and asked: "so, is he an axe murderer?" Her smile grew wide as she made a bow-tie gesture at her neck, "Oh non! He ees a gentleman! Eef you want heem to fock you, he weel! Eef you do not want heem to, he weel not!"

Gentle reader, I shall not bore you with details regarding whether I chose to stay in the guesthouse, or which nine square inches Charlie told me ruled his world. Suffice it to say that the ocean roared in my ears all night long, and in the morning as I waded back across the river, I had an idea for a new kind of guide book.

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