Living in the Moment 

Living in the Moment 

By Nick Makris

Hawaii Service 2021

Hi! I’m Nick Makris, and I am from Chicago, IL. I am currently entering my freshman year of college at UC Davis as a biology major, with hopes of pursuing veterinary medicine. I have been traveling with Rustic Pathways since 2019, and some of my favorite experiences with Rustic have been visiting Australia and Hawai’i. Besides that, some of my interests include wildlife, natural history, cooking, and exploring new places.

As the rain started to clear, we began to make the final stretch through a clearing of trees and tall grass making it to the overview of Waipio Valley. It is a sacred place where ancient kings were once buried, and a place that is believed to bring safety to those who visit.

When we arrived at the top, the sky was still covered by a thick fog, but we could still look out over the valley. As I looked to my left, I saw a waterfall that appeared to be coming from deep within the clouds. To the right, I saw steep slopes and a flat clearing that led towards the ocean. As I stood there, I just listened to the sounds of nature, astonished at what I was seeing.

When I began to look at Rustic’s 2021 programs, I was in the middle of preparing for my freshman year of college. I sat at my desk from dawn to dusk piecing together class schedules, meticulously filled in digital health forms, and dealing with housing registration. Suffice to say, I was under a lot of stress. That being said, although it sounds incredibly cliche, that changed when I arrived in Hawai’i.

One of my favorite moments of the trip was when we visited Volcano National Park. As the group hiked down into Helemauau crater (believed to be home to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and the creator of the islands) it felt as if we were in another world. The crater was surrounded by greenery but was practically barren in the center. All there really was were a few plants that could thrive within volcanic rock and soil.

Afterward, we walked through lava tubes, saw hot springs, drove past lava flows, and spotted constellations in the pristine night sky outside the hostel. Everything in the park felt so different, and yet, connected. It felt as if everything was important and was alive. Even something as simple as a goose, specifically the NeNe (the state bird of Hawai’i and one of the rarest geese in the world) felt like it was something more than it was.

I also loved our service project on this trip. We largely worked on removing invasive species, but we also planted some native ones. Whenever we did service work, I honestly found it to be a lot of fun. Doing service gave us time to make a difference, and when we got into the groove of it, it didn’t really even feel like we were working. Usually, we would still be talking and making jokes just like we would on any other day.

I do also want to note that the group I had was incredible. It honestly felt that we got along from the start, and it really did set the tone for the rest of the trip. We would always have conversations going, and even if we had smaller groups of friends, everyone got along. It really did help make the trip so much fun.

In the end, whether it was because of the friends and memories I made, or the culture I learned about, I was able to understand the importance of living in the moment. If we don’t, we are unable to appreciate the small moments and make connections with other people. But it also helps us relax and mentally recharge, and that is something I want to take with me as I enter a new chapter of my life this fall.

All images were provided by Nick.

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