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This Workstay Story was written by Luxie, if you’d like to learn more about the Heavenly Hawaiian Workstay Program, click here!
As soon as you step on the Big Island, you’re overwhelmed with growth. You spot the obvious – the lilikoi vine snaking off the side of the road, the ‘ōhi’a trees persevering through fields of volcanic rock, and the world-famous coffee trees flourishing in the Kona Coffee Belt. But what you don’t always see is the growth happening below the surface. The growth blossoming from the people. In this specific case, the growth springing from a young woman, who deep down knows she’s a free spirit, and took a leap of faith to grow alongside the island and become more herself than ever.
I grew up in the panhandle of Nebraska, where everybody knows everybody and where cows outnumber people 3 to 1. The cornfields stretch to the horizon, which is visible no matter where you are. Nebraska holds a beauty that requires a special heart to appreciate. I’m grateful that I get to call it home. But when May 2022 rolled around, I moved from everything I knew to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It changed my life.
I remember the night I arrived at Basecamp – the communal living home at the bottom of Heavenly Hawaiian Coffee Farm’s steep, winding hill. I was coming off a 20-hour travel day, was the farthest away from my family I had ever been and was about to walk into an unfamiliar house with unfamiliar people. The party lights were flashing, and music was blaring Internally, I was so excited. But externally, I was a true “deer in headlights.” (According to my loving roommates.)
I did a great job at living in the moment the first four months I was there. I got to know everyone in a way that has made me treasure human connection at a new level. I was able to form great relationships with the people that I was living with, working with, and even the guests on the farm. While I was using this experience to focus on what I want out of life and how I want to do it, it would be ignorant to not highlight what special things I learned from the people I was surrounded with while at Heavenly Hawaiian. In the end, I give them most of the credit when I think about how happy I was then, and even now. Even though I was living under the same roof during my time in Hawaii, I lived with two different groups of people. Now when I look back, I know those people came into my life when I need them most.
Kayley taught me to not be afraid of people liking me or my ideas. She taught me it’s okay to be selfish sometimes because I matter. I can do life the way I want to and I don’t owe anyone an explanation, especially if I am happy.
Cooper taught me many things, but the one that I think of most often is “Don’t be a passenger in your own life. Be the pilot.” The first time he said this to me, I let go of everything I had thought I was supposed to do with my life. I started to take the reins on my life and prioritize my happiness. He also taught me that the lid does come off on the salt grinder and it is indeed not broken… sorry about your salty eggs, Coop.
Adam inspired me to do what I had to do to be happy. It was such an eye-opening experience to see a man leave his corporate job and move to Hawaii, not only to slow down and take a break, but to also start the life he wanted, and do work that he enjoys. He also taught Kayley and I that we may have been consuming too many ice cream bars considering we had a natural clock that went off at 9:27 P.M. every night to tell us it was time for a treat.
Randi taught me “If it looks like a parking spot, it’s a parking spot!” One of my first nights on the island, I rode with Randi into Kona to get dinner and drinks with everyone. I was still finding my bearings and figuring out what the culture was like on the island. I remember a Toyota 4-Runner parked up on a median in the lot and was shocked that people even did that. That moment was when she hit me with that quote. I am not sure if she knows that I think about this often, but it gives an opportunity for self-interpretation. I find myself saying it often, whether it be to myself or other people.
Nate reassured me how important it is to reflect on your day, whether it be in your journal, or intimately, with your people every night, as you sit down and eat dinner. He always made an effort to ask what everyone’s “rose”, and “thorn” was of the day. I think about those nights in the dining room lanai often.
Ashley and Abbey gave me confidence like I’ve never experienced before. We danced like no one was watching, sang like no one was listening, and laughed all day every day. They taught me to be carefree, and to do things I enjoy without being scared of being “bad” at it. I was able to look in the mirror and see myself radiating confidence in everything I did, which is a feeling I wanted more of. (Don’t worry ladies, I still have kitchen dance parties alone.)
Ben taught me more than I can put into words. I clung onto him right when I got to Hawaii, especially after the brutal walk up the hill from Basecamp to Hilltop my first day. He taught me that it’s okay to have walls up, but also to be vulnerable. He showed me that it’s okay to slow down and rip the harmonica sometimes – and to stick your head out the window to let out your loudest scream when you need it most. I learned to be present in the moment. I learned there is time for anything and everything I want. He will also gladly remove any spider, as long as they’re not clumsy spiders, from the house if I let it live.
Krishna, my sweet Taurus sister, taught me to be intentional in everything I do. Whether it be in with words, or cooking, driving, singing, dancing, or even applying sunscreen – be intentional. Krishna and I text every Friday to catch up on our week, tell each other what kind of coffee we’re drinking, and what we’ve been up to. She hasn’t missed a Friday since February.
Helen was my first familiar face, my work stay manager, and an even better friend. Helen gave me this opportunity when she hired me, and I wouldn’t be where I’m at now if she hadn’t given me a chance. She taught me to find joy and humor in the smallest of things, and to find enjoyment in everything. Some of these include saying everything in an English accent, sticking googly eyes to everything, celebrating Chewsdays (Tuesdays), drinking Dr. Pepper and pepperoncinis at the same time, and appreciating a good marker. Also, loving your cat more than you love anything else, and that bugs and insects are NOT the same thing. 🙂
These special things that I’ve taken with me don’t come close to everything that I learned during my time at Heavenly Hawaiian, and there are many people who have had a significant impact on my life that weren’t mentioned.
In Hawaii, I grew around everything. I ended up flourishing myself. While this opportunity taught me more than I ever thought I would know about coffee, it also taught me so much about myself, and brought me some of my favorite people on Earth. I’ve always strived to be a light in peoples’ lives, but this experience truly lit up my life, taught me how to find joy in the little things, and reminded me to learn something from everyone I meet. While I physically left Hawaii and some of my favorite people, deep down, I feel like I never left.
Because just like the lilikoi vine and the ‘ōhi’a tree and the coffee tree, I have a little bit of Hawaii in me – thanks to that little piece of everyone I grew to love along the way.