The Hitchhiker - Part 2
My interview with the adventurous Madalyn continues, as she tells her story of sailing to Hawaii in a small sailboat and finding love unexpectedly when she was picked up by a dashing young man while hitchhiking.
Where do you call home?
At the moment, I call Hawaii home. I’ve actually been here longer than I’ve stayed anywhere since I left the Philadelphia area, which is where I grew up, about six and a half years ago. I’ve been in Hawaii a year, so that makes about five and a half years of wandering.
How often do you travel?
Before I moved to Hawaii, I would travel/change locations every few months, or less if I was exploring a new country. I stayed in the San Francisco Bay area for a little bit longer, but after four months of being there I got itchy feet and found another job on a boat. When you’re traveling around the coast on a boat it doesn’t feel like you’re staying in one place... ‘Cause you’re not.
What did you do on the boat?
I worked on a bunch of different boats. I started out as the deckhand, and then got my license and worked a little bit as a mate. Mostly on traditional sailing ships doing education for about 3 years or so, off and on, in between travels. The boat in San Francisco was my favorite, called Seaward.
What was it like, to live on a sailing vessel?
The boats felt like home, while I was onboard. It's great to have a movable home that contains you and your family and everything you need to survive; “family” being the crew. It’s also great because it’s contract work, so after 6 or 4 months my contract is up and I’m free: I haven’t been paying rent anywhere, I’ve saved most of my salary, I haven’t been paying for food either, I don’t have any obligations... I’m just free again with my backpack, off the boat, and I can just buy a plane ticket somewhere.
Is that how your hitchhiking trip in Europe started?
Yes, that was after working on the Virginia. I was traveling very cheaply, out of habit. And, actually, out of need.
I remember when I bought a plane ticket back from Europe and went to my next boat job, I had 200 dollars to my name. And I went, “Oh, probably a good time to start working again.”
How did you end up living here, in Hawaii?
I sailed here to Hawaii with some friends on my friend’s boat. It was called the Runaway, very appropriately. The plan was to keep sailing, but it was a really small boat with five people, and we’d just had three weeks of blue ocean... and I love blue ocean, but months and months more of blue ocean with the same people and the same kinds of food, even though there’d be cool places in between, was so cramped that I decided I didn’t want to continue on with them.
Did you plan on staying in Hawaii?
No. I figured I’d stay in Hawaii for a little while. I was Couchsurfing and hitchhiking around a little bit with a friend, Claire, who’d also gotten off the boat.
What made you decide to stay?
I met my boyfriend while hitchhiking. One day Claire and I wanted to go up to Rainbow Falls from downtown Hilo. It's not very far, but we’d never been there, so we put our thumbs out. A minute went by.
There was a pickup truck parked by the post office, and a guy in it, Pono, who looked over at us and said he could give us a ride. We squeezed into the cab, with Claire in the passenger seat and I was behind it in this cramped space that wasn’t really a seat. Pono drove us up to Rainbow Falls, and he went into tour-guide mode and kept telling us all about the falls. Then he said, “We can all go up to Boiling Pots!” and he took us up there.
Before we left, we climbed the banyan trees at Rainbow Falls, and that’s when I started to think Pono was pretty cool, because he climbed trees really well. I mentioned a book I really like about a tree climber, and he’d read it, which I took to be a good sign because it’s not a very well-known book. It’s called The Baron in the Trees. I thought he must read a lot... and it turns out, he doesn’t. (laughs) But it opened my eyes to him a little bit.
We went up to Boiling Pots, and swam in some ponds up there, in our underwear. Claire, who is this gorgeous girl with these large, beautiful breasts and a perfect Amazonian hourglass body, she happened to not be wearing a bra that day. So she was swimming topless. And I had worn a bra, so me swimming in my underwear was more like a bikini.
So we were with this guy who’d just met us, and even though there was this gorgeous topless girl there, he kept staring at me the whole time. I think Claire was a little bit like, “What’s going on?” She’s very friendly and has a huge effect on men. Everywhere else that we had hitchhiked together, it was all eyes on Claire, even when she was wearing a shirt. So for this one guy to be looking at me instead of Claire was very unusual. I’ve talked to him about it, and he admits he was definitely making an effort.
Pono told Claire and I about how girls here, traditionally, if they wear a flower over their left ear it means they’re taken and a flower over their right ear means they’re single. And then he gave us flowers to see if we were single or taken. (laughs) Very smooth.
Could you tell what he was trying to do?
Oh yeah. So I put the flower over my right ear and then he wanted to hang out again. We went out for our first planned date to Uncle Robert’s in Kalapana, and afterwards we went back to his place and said we were gonna take it slow... and then immediately jumped into bed together. So... that’s that. A year later, still living together.
Was that the last time you hitchhiked?
No. Before I got my car, I’d have my bike, but one time I left my bike in Hilo locked up somewhere. I was at home and needed to get my bike so I hitchhiked down to get it. Maybe a couple other times when I felt like hitchhiking instead of biking.
Do you have any future travel plans that you’re excited about?
I’d like to hitchhike again. It’d be nice to return to that place of “What’s going to happen? Who am I going to meet?” It’s just magical to put yourself out there and not know where you’re going to end up or when.
Read more of Madalyn's hitchhiking stories in Part 1 of her interview.