A Tropical Pilgrimage: the story behind the shoes

A Tropical Pilgrimage: the story behind the shoes

Those familiar with me and my fitness business may know the image of the Plumeria stuffed sneakers.  The picture hangs on my wall at the Studio and for years I have used the image for custom greeting cards to recognize all occasions.  But there is story behind the shoes as it reminds me of the many years during the deepest, darkest month of January three generations of our family relaxed and bonded in a little corner of Maui between the mountains and sea.  It started in the early nineties when my Mother’s friend bubbled about a holiday spent with her daughter at Napili Bay on Maui’s West Shore.  Inspired and curious, the next year my Mom treated my eldest sister to a holiday in the same location.  It was love at first visit.  For the next 20+ years, Mom continued her 4 week tropical pilgrimage to Napili Bay, generously flying various combinations of daughters and grandchildren in relay fashion with overlaps of several nights so we could enjoy one another in the one bedroom apartment in paradise.  It was the one time a year my Mom (really) splurged, a holiday exclusively designed for her girls and her grandchildren.  Dad stayed home to hold down the fort for although they adored one another, Dad wisely knew Mom deserved this time away and would return recharged and refueled to continue their life together.  It was Mom’s time.

For me the luxury of those weeks away was defined by our self-designated, spa-like approach.  We ate almost exclusively at home (healthy and more affordable) enjoying what my Mom affectionately referred to as “chick fixes”: mountains of Maui grown salads, legumes prepared every which way, fish and an embarrassing amount of papaya, avocado and pineapple.  As a Mom and busy self-employed fitness professional, it was a treat for me to expend a portion of my holiday time and energy embracing my own fitness every day: swim and or run and or yoga/stretching on the beach.  Every day.

My daily go-to was an early morning run.  Rising before the sun crested the West Maui Mountains I ran north past the last few resorts, past Flemming Beach and within 10 minutes found myself blissfully in the midst of pineapple fields, jungle and crazy bird calls.  On my return I lengthened my stride and dug into my endurance reserves fueled by the light on the Molokai Mountains, the scent of the jasmine and anticipation of the day before me. Spent and sweating, I would take a short cut down to Napili Beach, strip off my sneakers and socks, make do with my shorts and running top as a bathing suit and jump in the ocean.  Bliss.  Dripping, barefoot and salty, I strolled back to our place gathering the windfall Plumeria before the gardeners came to rake and “tidy”.  In an effort to bring home more flowers, I began using my sneakers as makeshift flower baskets.  Once home, we would arrange the Plumeria in various floating bouquets throughout the apartment, with extra blooms collected and kept in the fridge until we had enough to string together lei’s for our one special dinner out.

So this image is so much more than tropical flowers oddly stuffed in a pair of old runners.  It is a story about mothers, daughters and grandchildren building lifelong bonds, embracing wellness and large helpings of joy on the edge of a different sea under what felt like a different sun.  And maybe one day I will follow in my Mother’s footsteps and splurge and enjoy an annual pilgrimage with my own extended family.