As I sit in the sunshine back in the city, waiting for a bus to return to the place that robbed me, I finally feel ready to write this story.
It happened 3 days ago. It was my own fault, but that did not make the sting any lesser.
My host who had so kindly rescued me from sleeping on the street drove me from Kaneohe to Kailua on his way to work. After a nice pancake breakfast, I walked with my big, heavy backpack (containing my tent, tarp, sleeping bag, clothes, toiletries… everything) to the beach. I could handle walking with it at this point, that is, for a bit. I reached Kailua beach park and happily sat upon the sand.
After a while of watching the waves sweep up to the sand, and gazing upon the beautiful islands in the distance, I decided it was time to go for a hike. My bag was far too heavy for me to hike with… Hiking is not the easiest for me to begin with, but the rewarding views make me push myself to beautiful heights.
What to do with my backpack? Well, I was going to find a place to camp in the bushes later. Why not stash the giant bag in the bushes for a few hours, rather than sit babysitting it and seeing nothing?
This is precisely where I went wrong.
Like I said, I place full blame on myself. But the bag was huge and heavy, and I’d stashed it where even I couldn’t see it from outside of the bushes. My faith in humanity had been restored several times over. Surely my bag would be safe.
I climbed the pill box hike. It was exactly the level of hike I needed – I was out of breath and pushing myself more than I have in years, but to that exact right amount that still isn’t unhealthy. I saw a little mountain and thought surely it was the one I was to head up. There was a larger one behind it. “I could never hike that one in this shape! This little mountain is perfect!”
Well, I was wrong. I was hiking the larger one. About three quarters up I was breathing sharply and needed a break. I stopped and sat upon a rock as I looked out upon the gorgeous turquoise waters from high above the beach. I was so happy and pleased with myself, and I took a few pictures before continuing on.
I reached the (almost) top, and sat once more, out of breath but incredibly proud of myself. I took my camera out – note that my waterproof camera had broken while I surfed (…water damaged…) and I had bought a second hand camera a few days earlier – and the camera wouldn’t work. Just 5 minutes earlier it had been taking pictures of these amazing sights. I hadn’t fallen or bumped it or anything. Alas, electronics, especially cameras, are not my friend. I was a bit shocked, but then I just started laughing. And laughing. I laughed so hard it hurt. I’m sure other hikers that passed me thought I was nuts, but the hilarity of how bad I am with cameras just made me laugh.
Eventually I decided to go back down the mountain (by the way, you may have success hiking up a mountain in flip flops, but you may think you are going to die on the way back down! I even crab crawled one part! But my cheer remained!)
Eventually I got back to the bushes in which my backpack was stashed. It sat there happily chilling out, untouched. Good, I thought. Now I will go get a bite to eat.
So a bite to eat I had. Ah, what delicious Mexican food I splurged on! I had checked my email while in wifi and a lovely couchsurfer had invited me to come over and play games and stay the night. Hurray! Camping is great but I will always take the opportunity for a couch and new friends! She was to pick me up back at Kailua beach park. I told her I’d be obvious to recognize what with my huge blue and black backpack.
Contented, I returned once more to those bushes by the beach.
As I approached them, however, what I saw did not look good. Nah, I’m just not close enough to see my backpack.
There lay my cardboard setup filled with my feather earrings. Atop it sat my runners. Next to it were my sunglasses case, and the bus schedules that had rested in the pocket of my jacket, which had been attached to the outside of my backpack (as were my cardboard setup, shoes, and sleeping bag). A ripped plastic bag lay a couple feet away, containing only my (quite nice) soap. One bra lay on the ground a few feet further in the bushes – the direction they had clearly run off to, my bra falling out of the top of my bag.
I stood in shock. All I felt was disbelief and shock. Sure, I thought right away, “this is not the end of the world. It will be ok.” That knowledge alone, however, was not enough for that moment.
I scoured the bushes for anything more. But the above mentioned items were all that they had left me. I wore a bathing suit, tube top, loose pants, flip flops, and my fanny pack, which, thankfully, contained my wallet and iPod. I’d had a strange instinct when I left my backpack. “I have had my camera stolen before. My picture backups are on my little computer and on my flash drive – I should keep my flash drive on me so that they aren’t all in one place.” My passport never crossed my mind. I had even considered pitching my tent when I left my backpack. That way I could put a lock on it. Sure, people could cut my tent open, but that would be a hassle. I decided against setting it up, as these bushes were perfect to camp in. I thought I better wait until the park closed at 10pm to set up, so that I wouldn’t be noticed by security or police and would be able to happily stay the night.
One bad decision after another had been made.
So, after the initial shock that immobilized me, I grabbed the ripped open plastic bag and put my few belongings in it.
Anger then struck. I came out of the bushes, and oh boy did I ever scream.
“If anyone saw the god damn bastards who stole my entire backpack tell me! Did anyone see some f*****s with a big blue backpack!” People stared, but no one approached. No one had seen anything.
I walked hopelessly along the beach looking for any sight of a big blue bag. I was looking at every person I saw as if they could be the ones who had robbed me blind. Every kind soul was suspected of being a horrible bastard.
I had no way to contact my couchsurfing host. I felt bad and wanted to contact her but was nowhere near wifi, and we wouldn’t know each other without my backpack to locate me. I wandered up the beach and back to the bushes again. The robbers, and everything I had, were long gone.
I walked down the street swearing to myself and muttering, “but at least I have my god damn nice soap! Gotta have your soap!” With nothing but a piece of cardboard and a plastic bag, I surely looked like a cracked up hobo. I did not care. At that moment, the world was a nasty, horrible place. My faith in the Universe was shattered. I was fuming.
Finally I reached a bar. It was way too fancy for my mood. I talked to a couple people and the kind bartender told me my drink was on her. I needed a dive bar, I needed to get drunk, and then I needed to contact my family to tell them what a fool I had been.
I walked along and said to myself, still cursing and upset, “and I don’t even have a sweater!” Quite literally 2 steps further a white, slightly dirty, sweater in my size hung to a street light – clearly left there by someone who had found it. Well, at least I had a sweater now.
I found my dive bar and the folk there lifted my spirits greatly. My faith in humans began to come back, but it would still be a day until I really believed again that the world is not bad, it just has some bad eggs.
I decided to return to the city so that I could contact the embassy. When I arrived, I sat outside a hostel smoking and chatting with some randoms. Tasha came along and hugged me, which was our brief first meeting. We would become the best of friends within the next 24 hours.
The hostel was expensive, at $32 a night. What else should I expect in tourist central, Waikiki? It’s not like there are other hostels on the island. I sucked it up and bought two nights before going to get some food and beer.
As I ate my pizza and chugged my beer, quite discontented, I searched to find out where the Canadian embassy was so that I could go the following day.
Except there is no Canadian embassy in Hawai’i. Seriously. I was not happy.
The next morning I called the embassy in San Francisco. Anger had subsided, and I had moved on to just… Shaking disbelief. My voice shook as my body trembled. The embassy informed me that, since I still had my driver’s license as ID and was to fly to the mainland of the States, and not directly to Canada, that I need only obtain my birth certificate to cross back in to Canada. Well, at least that. I asked my best friend to locate it and send it to Seattle.
Now I’m sitting in the hostel at this point. My clothes were sweaty and dirty. My teeth so badly needed brushing. My armpits craved deodorant. My skin couldn’t handle the bright Hawaiian sun without sunscreen. I had nothing. I’ve learned not to travel with anything I’d be upset about losing, but they had gotten everything down to my underwear. Finances were already scarily low. What now? My family had already helped me so much throughout the years that all they could offer was a loan. Since I already owe my mom over a grand, I couldn’t do it. It would be nearly the same as using my visa.
Desperate, and remembering the TED talk (click here to view it) I had seen just a few days earlier, I posted a plea on Facebook. I asked if anyone could send just a few dollars. Every little bit would help. And if people could not offer financial help, I asked them to just write me kind words to lift my spirits.
I was not prepared for the insane amount of beauty that came my way. Within a couple of hours, friends and family had sent me $250. It was the most amazing act of kindness I have experienced. Many words of support were sent, and I was left in awe at the beauty that shone brightly down on me. I thank you all again so very much.
I headed to Walmart to attempt to replace my essentials. Getting back all I’d lost was out of the question, but I managed to get the essentials. You don’t realise how much the little things are worth until you lose them, though. Despite the intense kindness, I still landed myself in two or three hundred of debt. Ya, that’s buying the cheapest of everything at Walmart, that’s without a tent, big backpack, sleeping bag, hammock, tarp, etc.
Happy with the kindness, exhausted from over five hours of shopping, and distraught at my financial state, I returned to the hostel. I wound up running in to a group of people leaving the hostel. They said hello to me and I heard mention of $1 beer. I continued walking, but then I changed my mind. I turned around and ran after the group. “Can I join you guys?” Of course they were happy for the extra company. We adventured, but I wound up deciding to hang out with Tasha who couldn’t get into the bar. A friendship began. We spent all night hanging out, chatting, and enjoying. We were bros before bedtime hit.
Yesterday I adventured with her a bit before going to meet David, a kind couchsurfer that had seen my post asking if anyone had any spare backpacking equipment. He had offered up his couch to me.
We met him and he was just my type of friend from the first moment. Tasha and I hopped in his glorious convertible and headed back to his place. I now looked like a kid going to elementary school with my tiny and colorful backpack, but at least I could carry it anywhere (even on a damn hike!)
I became disheartened again as the night went on, as I was panicked over my finances. A strange turn of events and a decision of changing my trip plans brought me back again, though.
So here I am. I’ve been writing to you all as I waited half an hour at the bus stop and boarded the bus to the shopping centre, where I currently await my bus back to Kailua.
I will go for a few hours before returning to the city and hanging out with Tasha and David. I will rent a kayak for an hour and enjoy my life. Clear headed, I will make one last attempt. The police officer who I filed my report with, along with the woman I spoke to at the embassy and a few locals had all told me the same thing: the robbers would likely look through my bag and then toss everything that was not valuable – that’d be everything but my cheap notebook computer, and maybe the backpack, tent, and sleeping bag. There is a very high chance that all my underwear, clothes, etc, are lying in a dumpster in Kailua. It is very unlikely that I will locate them, but there’s no harm in looking.
Why do I care at this point, you may inquire. I’ve gotten a few new clothes and all my essentials, so what is there to find considering they would have kept my tent and such?
There is only one object I hope to find. I had never brought it with me traveling before. I couldn’t bare to lose it. But this trip was unlike my previous ones. This time, I had no idea if I’d ever return home.
I had been working on it for nearly three years. It lifted my spirits when I was down. I shared its knowledge with friends. It was my single most prized possession in the entire world. It was the only thing that no amount of money could buy back. I had written in the front cover, “if found, read, enjoy, and then please return to [my grandma’s address in Edmonton], this is my most prized possession.” Robbers probably wouldn’t even open it, let alone return it.
All I wish to find is my quote book. All I want back from them is this book filled to the brim with quotes from friends, movies, books, walls… This book that, when I read it, I could feel different phases of my life.
All I seek to retrieve, the only thing I hope to be returned… Is my quote book. My hopes are low, but I must look.
And as I walk off the bus into familiar Kailua, I feel a sense of pride. A few bad eggs ain’t gonna make me sour on a beautiful town.
Update of awesomeness: so I arrived and headed to the beach. I was on my way to rent a kayak when I saw Mike biking past me – Mike is an older guy I met at the bar here right after my robbery. We chatted a ton that night and he was just great. So when I saw him I said hello and he asked how I was and what I was up to. When I mentioned I was off to rent a kayak he said, “oh well my kayak is right there on the beach! My wife Nancy is beside it, you can go ahead and use it if you’d like!” I was so happy and hopped in his kayak, and went out to the flat island to walk around! When I returned I chatted with Mike, Nancy, and their two friends for hours! They were just the most wonderful of human beings! We talked about everything as we stood on the sand watching the waves, and it was just… Beyond words. They were such kind and fascinating souls
I never searched for the quote book. But you know what? My info is inscribed on the front cover. I hold only the hope that a kind soul finds it and sends my baby home. And if I never see it again? Then that is what is meant to be. I will begin again, and I will build her from scratch. Those quotes… The papers they were written on… They were not the important thing. Those quotes remain in my head, and more importantly, in my soul.
Let’s all send our love to my book, and if she is meant to return to my hands, she will. Until then, I’ll be enjoying the Hawaiian beaches… just with less stuff.
PS Does anyone know me well enough to recognize that most blog titles are song lyrics? If you know this one, you know me a little too well. Thanks for walking through the fire with me, my loves.