Hawaii is a place of contradiction and micro-environments. On one hand they are gorgeous isles with wonderful people, amazing sights, beautiful water, and a wealth of activities. On the other hand, it's really tough forget the fact it's US state when a Petco big-box store is thrust upon you 5 minutes after leaving the airport, mind you, the airport on Kauai, the garden isle. If you get a chance, the Na'Pali coast is a sight to behold, with breathtaking cliffs and lush, untouched valleys - Highly recommend. Oahu was amazing with the unbelievable North Coast, awesome zip-lining, and tremendous fun cavorting around Waikiki. Lesson of the trip: Sunscreen is a major contributing factor to the destruction of coral reeds. Use only Zinc-based sunscreens if you're going to be swimming. I also learned that an island only about 25% larger than New York City can have traffic to a degree that it can take 3 hours to get halfway across the island.
South Africa was not what I expected. While I'm confident that many aspects of the country escaped my view, South Africa was not as uncomfortable, unsafe, or unfriendly as expected. The people, the land, and the experience was nothing short of wonderful. Not to suggest that the racial and economic tensions are not palpable, or that the historic controversies are not respectfully highlighted whenever possible, but I felt a sense of opportunity and a desire to develop the country and achieve for the future. Beyond a few days in Johannesburg and Cape Town, we spent three days at a game reserve. It was immensely thrilling to experience the wildlife, not knowing what might, literally, be around the corner. Lesson of the trip: I can apparently drive a manual on the other side of the road without any problems.
Any chance I can get to be on a sailboat in the Caribbean is a wonderful thing, although it was the 5th time I had been sailing in the BVI within the last few years. Two notable aspects, one, it was an opportunity to sail under different circumstances than a guy's trip or for educational purposes, and two, it was also the first time I'd be helming the boat with no one else having any sailing experience. We had a wonderful time island hopping, and after visiting the BVI several times, it was a great opportunity to further develop my knowledge and familiarity with the area and the boat. One lesson, make sure you leave nothing behind when visiting an island, as an entire day can be quickly lost when having to motor 15 nautical miles or so back to where you just came from. On a brighter note, I want to make a sailing trip like this an annual event.