Twice I have driven to Hana, an undeveloped tropical paradise on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Truthfully, my first trip was very disappointing. The second trip, however, turned out to be a memorable and worthwhile adventure.
So what was different?
First, there were many similarities. On both trips, I was with my wife driving a rental car along the same, winding road. The scenery and the small town remained unchanged during the two years between visits. Even the weather was identical on both occasions.
So why was the second trip special?
Well, the first time we were driving hard to reach a destination. The narrow highway prohibited us from traveling as fast as I would have preferred. Even the wide spots in the road annoyed me because other drivers would pull over and walk around to enjoy the scenery. Those sightseers had no clue that they were in our way, delaying us from reaching our destination.
For those unfamiliar with the Highway to Hana, it extends more than 50 miles across the north side of Maui. The narrow, winding route contains 620 curves and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide.
After nearly three hours of stressful driving, we finally arrived in Hana. What a disappointment! There wasn’t much there. Finding little to see or to do, we turned around and drove back to our condo on the other side of the island so we could enjoy the shopping, dining and swimming on the beach.
Two years elapsed and we found ourselves back on Maui. For whatever reason, I decided to return to Hana. This time, however, I deliberately approached the adventure with a completely different mindset.
Instead of pushing to reach a destination, I consciously decided that I would focus on the journey itself.
Carol and I packed a picnic lunch and away we went! I drove a little slower and was amazed at the breathtaking scenery I had somehow overlooked on the previous excursion.
Before long, I pulled over to get a better look at a gorgeous waterfall set against the stunningly beautiful mountains covered with a lush, tropical rainforest.
Driving on, I found another overlook where we watched azure ocean waves crash against the black sand beaches below. A roadside picnic table provided an ideal setting for the two of us to enjoy a leisurely lunch together.
When we finally arrived in Hana, there still was not much to see or do, although we did walk around a little.
After a few minutes, we drove beyond Hana on a rugged, deserted road. We stopped to watch a few children splashing in the Seven Sacred Pools. Then we continued our journey.
Prior to the trip, I had found some cryptic directions to the gravesite of the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. His final resting place is about eight miles south of Hana in one of the most remote spots on the island. The exact location is somewhat difficult to find, yet with some luck, I turned at the right fence post and wound my way down the side of a mountain to the Palapala Ho’omau Church. The small church was built in 1857 of limestone coral by some of the first Christian missionaries to the island.
In a tiny cemetery next to the church, we found the tombstone of the heroic pioneer. Being the only people in sight, we lingered for some time in that tranquil setting which overlooked the peaceful Pacific Ocean below. After a while, feeling relaxed and refreshed, we got in the car and leisurely found our way back to the other side of the island.
Yes, I’ve made two trips to Hana and each was a very different experience.
The first time I focused on reaching a destination. That resulted in a stressful, unrewarding and forgettable waste of time.
On the second trip I drove along the same highway, but I focused on the journey rather than the destination. Consequently, I had fun and, along the way, I created memories to last a lifetime.
With every passing year, I understand more fully that success is a journey, not a destination.
As I look ahead to the coming year, I’ll admit that I am still driven to succeed. I have made plans and have committed to reaching specific destinations. Written goals—both personal and professional—will serve as my road map.
I believe, however, that the new year will be memorable only if I deliberately decide to enjoy the journey as I pursue those distant destinations. To borrow a worn cliché, I will carve out time to “stop and smell the roses.”