Yes Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux are honeymooning on the island but before they discovered it I’d been there 3 times. Here’s what the real people who don’t stay in over water bungalows need to know about it.
There are 2 economic systems of payment. The islanders get the low prices for everything and us tourists pay through the nose.
At the grocery store it got ugly one day.
We were looking at a poorly made plastic Chinese toy truck on the shelf to perhaps buy for our 2 year old son who was enamored with it.
It was dusty and old, as in, it hadn’t been touched for years. Add the humid sea spray air and you have the makings of disintegration.
The truck fell apart in our hands and the woman who owned the store went berserk, “You pay for truck now, 80 dollah!”
We didn’t and she screamed at us all the way outside.
I live in Hawaii now and its routine to pay $50 for a bag of groceries. It would be $100 on Bora Bora.
The barge arrives bearing food and essentials and the cost is higher but its twice as high for tourists than it is for locals.
Over water bungalows cost $600 to $1500 per night. You don’t have to stay in one. There are other bungalows to stay in not over water. Matira Beach has a hotel with bungalows, and kitchens.
Don’t eat out every night you’ll save by cooking. We were there 3 weeks so it made sense to make most of our meals in the bungalow.
The Bora Bora lagoon is breathtaking. There is an otherworldly feel to it. A shangri-la in the South Seas.
We stayed with the Bora Bora Yacht Club. It had floating houseboats to live in. About $120 a night but that was 26 years ago.
Open up your wallet and keep it open.
The highlights were:
Feeling my baby move inside me for the first time when I was pregnant as I leaned against a palm tree on an outer island we were exploring that day in our tiny boat.
The drop dead gorgeous sunsets with no development.
Discovering the outer islands inside the reef with no one on them but us.
The sunset cruise in the lagoon on a catamaran and non-stop cocktails.
Feeding fish after breakfast at the Bora Bora Hotel and walking back to our beach.
Living on Gauguin’s beach where he painted for 10 days. Matira Beach on Bora Bora. Check it out.
I remember a woman saying to me about my son, “It’s too bad your child won’t remember this when he grows up.”
I said, “Yes he will remember it, its unforgettable” and now 26 years after the above photo was taken he has been to 50 countries and lives in Nepal empowering girls with his social venture Beyond the Four Walls.
Memories are experiences that etch into your heart and no one can take that away from you. It goes into the next life with your spirit.
Yes travel to exotic places costs piles of cash but you can’t take your stuff or stocks with you in the coffin.
Swimming on Gauguin’s beach and seeing the sun rise on it every morning is the stuff made of enchanted dreams.
Without the overwater bungalow.
With your family or wild pigs running by, with a ham and cheese sandwich and a full heart.
Don’t let yourself be held back by fear and worry.
Here are exotic places to go where you will feel safe and happy being solo.
There are so many benefits to being on your own:
1. You control the time you have. If you want to volunteer or go to the largest religious monument in the world to take photos and soak up the serenity there’s no one to disagree with you. I went to Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Yangon Myanmar 5 times and each visit was a spectacular gift. I didn’t feel the need to rush as I knew I would return again, just like a local.
2. You meet more people when you are solo. You aren’t solo for long unless you want to be. A solo woman is a magnet. You just have to decide who is coming into your private bubble and who is not. Not everyone gets the gift of your attention. Trust your gut.
3. You can decide to travel forever or for a month, there is no discussion. You just do it.
4. Gearing up for a big life-changing trip? Get advice, research plane tickets, and look at travel books but then trust your intuition and go for it.
5. An amazing way to do it is to volunteer your services in a place you would like to be. But don’t pay a lot of money to volunteer. What I do is show up in a town and start talking to people about my skills for volunteering. It always works. You just have to take a chance and leave without plans.
6. If you want some advice, I consult with travelers on their plans.
I fell in love with Kauai the second my toes touched this island.
Last year I lived on Oahu and the Big Island but a spark in my heart told me to go and discover Kauai.
Now it is home. After a year of living on Kauai I’m still head over heels in love with it.
Here are my top things to do here.
Don’t miss seeing the sunset from the West side of the island in Waimea where the above photo was taken. You can see it set from Kalapaki Joe’s and your eyes will be seared with the sensual, silky slide of the sun behind gigantic rustling palm trees.
This is authentic Hawaii, a stunning place to stroll around and see the ocean from the endless emerald green lawn, slinky palms, and massive banyan trees. You can stay at Waimea Cottages if you never want to leave.
Poipu on the south side is another great place to see the sunset and go swimming, don’t miss it. Get there early or arrive in the late afternoon for a swim in the turquoise water and a spectacular light show afterwards.
The beaches on Kauai are the most remarkable shores I’ve seen in 32 countries of world travel. And depending on your mood you just pick the one you feel like getting into your bikini for. It’s guaranteed to thrill you.
The longest beach in Hawaii is on Kauai. I have never seen a more breathtaking beach than Polihale. Only thing is you have to drive on a gravel road for 10 miles round trip to see it. I don’t mind. This keeps it from exploding with humanity.
Be careful of the whopping waves here if you are not a strong swimmer. I stuck close to the shore. Pristine Polihale is north of Waimea.
Polihale State Park, www.bartnikowski.com
Bring a picnic and a blanket as there is nowhere to buy any food or water. And that’s the same reason this billion dollar beach is a spectacular spot to enjoy for an entire day. No development except for the showers and bathrooms. If you want to camp, you need a permit but I’ve heard the star shine on Polihale is hypnotic and off the charts divine.
Fresh Mangoes, www.bartnikowski.com
One of the reasons I live in Hawaii is this: fresh mangoes. You don’t have to pay grocery store prices either. In mango season May through August, you can buy $1 mangoes on the side of the road here on Kauai from private gardens. They have trees and produce to sell, bananas, avocados, and local eggs. Look for hand made signs on the road in Wailua and Kapaa. The produce will be in little screened wooden enclosures that look like rabbit hutches.
Kapaa on the East side of Kauai is a great little walking town right on the water. If you want to be able to dip in the ocean, then walk to Safeway or Foodland for fresh sushi, and be near the shops and coffee bars stay on this side. It’s easily accessible to all the fun activities the East side has to offer. Hiking in Wailua on Sleeping Giant, going to jazz at Wahoo Restaurant on Thursday night, walking and swimming every day, and driving up to the North shore. You won’t run out of things to do and see here.
Spectacular view across the street from Foodland Market on the way to the North shore. Don’t miss it at sunset.
Hanalei Bay, www.bartnikowski.com
Hanalei Bay is one of the crown jewels of Kauai. Stop at this overlook after you pass Princeville, it will knock your eyes out. It still thrills me to the core every time I see it.
Kee Beach www.bartnikowski.com
This is what Kee Beach looks like in the summer. It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s the most incredible place on the planet. I feel I’ve died and gone to heaven when I get here no matter how many times I arrive.
Diamond clear waters and stunning snorkeling. Drive north to the end of the road in Haena Beach Park. You have arrived in a holy place. Magnificent Bali Hai cliffs leap above your head and enhance the mystical spirit of this treasure.
The sunset here is surreal. It never ceases to be awe inspiring.
Kee Beach, North Shore, Kauai
These are my top picks of things to do from an insider. You could take a few days or a week to explore but give it as much time as you can. We go slow here. And you’ll want to go back to your own secret spots that you fall in love with and that’s part of the fun.
I was sitting around one day; my work was done, my bed was made, and I noticed there was no one to make dinner for. My son was riding camels in Morocco on his own dime, when suddenly light entered my brain.
I need adventure and the unknown! If he can do it at age 17, I can sure as hell do it – it should be easier for me I’m older than him.
So I went on my first three-week vacation in fifteen years to Italy and Spain. The Italians said I was plumb loco for waiting so long. They checked my head for fever and suggested there may be cellular damage.
But I had an epiphany in Florence walking in the rain under an umbrella. I was ready to leap into life and not look back. I felt utterly at peace and so happy that I didn’t want to leave.
I felt each hour in a blissful state of not knowing what will happen next.
So I took my hands off the steering wheel and let the journey take me.
I was happy being hit on by handsome men in Italy. Probably would have married one of them if I’d stayed another week. One man’s dimples were divine. I swam in them with my eyes.
That was just the beginning.
My son then informed me that he was going to Asia for nine months – no problem I said as I cried into my pillow.
But I wiped away my tears and decided to take the world by storm and live a life I was excited about.
I always wanted to be a vagabond but didn’t know how to do it.
I raised my son to be adventurous and to express his heart’s desires. To reach out to the world and love it. He flew over oceans, continents, and the Himalayas spreading his wings so wide it felt like an umbrella for me and the wind caught me and I floated like Mary Poppins.
It carried me to Nepal to teach photography to the staff of the Nepal Youth Foundation.
Kathmandu felt like third rock from the sun. Everything was different; the light, the food, the faces, the language, the clothes. The way people worshipped the divine.
It changed my life and made me see my purpose.
I was off and running. Drunk on my own freedom.
I continued to take 6 to 10 month solo trips every year and after going around the world twice, buying one-way tickets as I went, teaching and traveling in 27 countries, I knew this was not just a trip; it was my life.
So I sold all my furniture, my car, and even my vintage motorcycle jacket.
I gave the rest away.
No more stress, insurance, car maintenance or rat race. Poof – all gone.
It was liberating.
Now I’m a professional vagabond. I teach photography worldwide, shoot for businesses, non-profits, and ex-pats. I teach kundalini yoga and meditation, photography, play with people, and love elephants.
My title? I’m an artist and CEO of fun. Projects find me, travelers want to learn photography and yoga, and invitations arrive for me to volunteer my skills. It’s a big wide world full of people who need help and inspiration.
I used to spend over $500 a day on vacations. I drove a new car, bought cashmere and silk clothing, lived in a swank apartment in the center of Silicon Valley, and regularly went out to eat and drink at posh places. I worked incessantly so I could afford this style of living.
Now I live a happier, richer, and simpler life.
I don’t need a car; third world countries are notorious for providing low cost and good transportation. Yes, it can be colorful to sit next to a huge box of baby chickens with a fresh caught flounder at my feet in Ecuador.
I do sometimes travel in air-conditioned buses; in Thailand where I live like a queen.
Solo travel makes me stronger. It’s a learning eye-opening incredible journey. I would never be growing like this if I stayed at home stuck in the safe and swank suburbs. I’m meeting dynamic people from all over the world and having my eyes pried open and wits sharpened. I’ve learned how to trust my gut with unflappable certainty.
And now I can sleep on a plank with my camera as a pillow or under a table at the airport after a cancelled flight with my backpack bolted to my thigh and just to be certain a table leg as well.
Squalling babies and rock-hard mattresses don’t annoy me; air turbulence lulls me to dreamland.
Traveling into the unknown has transformed me on a cellular and spiritual level. I no longer see life as black and white – there are a lot more gray areas and I’m not just talking about my hair. I’m talking about being opened up and deeply changed by new people, foreign money, fresh ideas, and new spirits.
I’m not in a rush anymore. Now I just wait. The answer will come.
Sometimes I want to be alone with my own soul to see what is in there. I never know what I will find so I am just letting it be. Letting the world come to me as I quietly get on a plane and fly to a new country then hit the ground running and travel overland to feel the energy of the place bubble up from the soles of my feet into my heart and explode out the top of my head.How will I change from it? I never know. That is why I travel not just to take photographs and capture a place on film. It is to know myself through the eyes of a different world; the rarified air of a new culture with new customs, new souls, and new faces.
And food I can’t identify but it sure tastes good.
The best places aren’t in the guidebooks. They just pop up in a friendly face, an accidental discovery, or a change of plans. Nothing is set in granite and that is also why I travel to see that everything is impermanent. Life could be over in an instant. We could die suddenly, get sick, or be annihilated.
If the world is going to hell in a hand basket why not see it before the basket breaks?
I live outside the USA to stop thinking about myself all the time. It’s exhausting. And reaching a hand out to someone who needs it is fulfilling.
There are worlds to discover in our own souls. I’m digging with a shovel to get to those new layers inside me. To change and to keep on changing.
I’m rich with experience, seeing how the world lives out side my former bubble of a life devoted to the almighty buck, cashmere, and comfort.
I’ve been stupid, smart, lucky, well off, broke, mocked, and loved. And I’ve learned something from every damn second of it.
I’ve had an astounding education in life: being a professional photographer, a published author, a hitchhiking hippie, teaching Buddhist nuns kundalini yoga, leading programs at major corporations in the USA, photographing the Dalai Lama, riding elephants bareback in Nepal, learning how to surf, ride a motorcycle, and scuba dive, living in a home for abandoned people in Argentina, exploring the Himalayas and the Andes, teaching and shooting photography in humanitarian foundations, a swank boarding school and ashrams in India, nunneries in Thailand and Nepal and in my own private sessions worldwide.
I’m on an open-ended world adventure. I’m grateful for the blessings and every moment of the ride.
I didn’t set out to have a vagabond life. This life found me.
But when it did I was ready to take the leap.
Kitten Heels in Kathmandu is not linear – you can pick it up anywhere and just read it.
Even in the bathtub.
May you enjoy the fun, frivolity, and at times daunting adventures of a female vagabond. Write and tell me your thoughts.
The beach above is a secret, close to racing cars that you can’t hear from this protected golden sand sanctuary.
You have to be a local to figure it out or know a local.
Locals will tell you where to go, the places everyone knows about. But they will not tell you their secrets, unless you stay here a while.
I smile to myself when people on other islands or on the mainland say, “Kauai is so small,” like that’s not a good thing.
It looks small but it is vast. I have now been here for 6 months and this island gets deeper and m ore profound the longer I stay here. Many places I explore here even locals don’t go to. They know about it but have not been yet.
It depends on how you feel. If you feel like being on a wonderful beach that tourists know about you go there when it’s empty. Seeing the sun rise or set is a stellar show. Or you go with other people and all of you are sprinkled with the sparkle of enchantment.
It’s the best show on the island. The above photo is Poipu on the Beach House restaurant’s emerald green lawn.
Don’t tell anyone I told you but you can bring a glass of wine here and discreetly drink it – no problem. It’s a picnic spot that not many people know about.
When you become a local here, you get a kama’aina discount. And if you are not a local the vendor will ask for your ID so you really have to be one to get a percentage off on what you are buying or renting.
Priyanka, an author who empowers readers, writes about her first solo trip to India, check it out, now.
Everyone in their life has a daring moment. What’s a daring moment, you ask? It’s that moment when you say yes to your desire and it changes your life forever.
That moment came to me in February 2009. I said yes to a film and media internship program in Mumbai, India. When I was in college, I had always wanted to study abroad, but never came around to doing it. I had found out about this program a year before I actually did it. I even remember sending an email to the program coordinator. She kindly gave me all the required information, but I still took a year to decide.
The terrorist attacks at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India had occurred in November 2008. In December 2008, my desire kept getting stronger in my heart. I couldn’t understand the reason at the time, but now I understand the feeling better. I said yes to that desire. I told my parents and my mother especially freaked out.She was justified in her concerns. Now that I look back, it was crazy to insist on going to Mumbai considering the terrorist attacks had happened only a few months earlier.
I landed in Mumbai one early February morning. It was scorching hot and dusty. Taxis and people were everywhere. My first instinct setting foot was: What had I gotten myself into?!
Not a very positive first reaction, but the decision to come to Mumbai had happened so fast that when I finally arrived, I realized what I had gotten myself into.
Here are 8 Lessons I Learned from My Trip!
Did Deep Thinking In Between Taxi and Car Rides
I traveled in taxis a lot when I attended film shoots, met with film and media professionals, and visited post-production studios. The Mumbai traffic was crazy! A simple twenty minute ride turned into two to three hour long rides. At first, I used to get frustrated. But eventually, I learned to use that time to do some deep thinking. I had time on my hands I didn’t when I was in the States busy working in an office.
I reflected on my life and thought about my family, desires, and dreams. Sometimes, I just looked outside and observed the woman or man sitting in the taxi next to me. Other times, I looked at the sun and enjoyed the wind in my face. I found pleasure in the simple things.
Learned to Expect the Unexpected
I met some wonderful people on this trip. People I still keep in touch with even today. I met directors, producers, actors, editors, spot boys, and many others. Every day, my program coordinator informed me of the day’s schedule and yet the days turned out to be big surprises.
The days I thought that would turn out perfectly were the exact opposite. Other times, I had no expectations at all and they turned out to be the most magnificent days. Like I would have a beautiful conversation with someone and carry it back with me.
Every Day I Was Living in the Unknown
Because I learned to expect the unexpected, I had no idea what was going to happen. It was scary to live that way. I knew things like where I would stay and what my overall routine was, but I didn’t know how the day would actually unfold. And living in a completely new country amplified this sentiment.
Anything could happen anytime, both in a good and in a not so good way. It was scary and exciting at the same time.
For a control freak like me, I started to live in the present. Because it was the only thing in front of me and so I fully embraced the present moment. If I wanted to eat ice cream, I went and had ice cream. If I wanted to see a movie, I did just that. I paid attention to the tiniest of my needs and found myself bursting with happiness.
I Found Courage That I Never Knew Existed
When I moved into the housing, two other girls from a different country joined me. I was thrilled I would be having company. But it turned out after two days; they were not happy staying in India and wanted to return home. In those two days, they were rude to me and made snide remarks to my face. I don’t want to get into detail, but I was 22 years old at the time and have always been good at avoiding confrontation. I’ve always been shy. But when a certain insult hit too below the belt, I couldn’t take it and I said something.
Right after I said it, I was so petrified that I went upstairs to my bedroom and shifted all the heavy furniture against the door. Irrational? It was! But either way, I finally stood up for myself. I learned that when traveling alone, there was no one around to take care of me. So I had to take care of myself.
I Realized There Was Greatness in Me
When I met with highly professional and successful individuals from the film industry, I was initially nervous and scared. I doubted myself. I was afraid I would embarrass myself in front of distinguished people. But to my surprise, I held great conversations with them and connected on a deep level. It is when I realized there is greatness in me. If I gave myself a chance to see my own greatness, then the world would see it. And after that, I gave myself the permission to want the best for myself and be me.
My Dream Was Given a Shape and Form
Since I was seven years old, I have had a strong desire to do something creative with my life. I’ve always wanted to be involved in writing, films, and other creative forms. By taking the first step towards my dream by traveling overseas for a film internship, I gave it a shape and form. And this experience led to other daring moments in my life. Like when I wrote my first novel. And finally signed with a literary agent ☺
Going With the Flow
If you’re not a patient person already, traveling sure will make you one! You have no choice, but to go with the flow when things aren’t going right. You let go and embrace the chaos.
Don’t Wait Until You’re Ready
The last lesson and probably single most important one I learned is to stop waiting for the perfect moment! That time will never come. Take a leap even when you’re not ready. As the process unfolds, you will be guided by something greater than yourself. And it all lies within you. So go after your dreams and desires! You never how fulfilled and happy you will feel ☺
What was your daring moment that changed the course of your life? What is your biggest takeaway from this post? Please share with me in the comments!