Moving to Hawaii


Oahu, Mary Bartnikowski

Oahu, Mary Bartnikowski

I moved to Hawaii 17 months ago, by way of Thailand.

Before that, I sold my belongings in Palo Alto, California, in 2009, where I had lived for 20 years, shooting up a storm in my photography business, being a Mom, and seeing Silicon Valley explode with innovation and technology miracles.

My heart told me to fly free.

32 countries later…

and traveling solo around the world twice buying one-way tickets along the way like a modern Mary Poppins, which had been my greatest wish, I had a quiet epiphany.

Would have been easier with an umbrella but planes, trains, boats, rickshaws and buses taught me how to go into the unknown without a phrase book but plenty of pantomime.

After this last gigantic 18-month journey in Cambodia, Burma, Nepal, India, Thailand and a near fatal motorbike accident in Chiang Mai, my heart pounded with one word.


Kauai, bartnikowski

Kauai, bartnikowski

So I bought a one-way ticket to Honolulu, Hawaii and said goodbye to Thailand.

Cool trade winds, warm turquoise water, and fresh pristine air.

It was calling me. And the wind cried Mary.

Yes I felt fear but knew in my heart I had to do it.

When I was lying on the pavement, my motorbike still running on top of me, I noticed I was still alive.

It was the busiest intersection in Chiang Mai. I could have been run over while I was down there but angels helped me. And my Dad and Mom who passed over a few years before. I felt them with me. Thank you for saving me!

And in that epiphany of locating my arms, legs, and accounting for the fact that my brain wasn’t bashed in, I felt relief and joy.

I was alive.

So I reached into my heart and pulled out a dream I had buried in there.

My mind told me, “You’re crazy, it’s too expensive to live in Hawaii. You don’t know anyone there.”

I don’t know anyone in most countries I visit. But I visit any way. This was no different and I would get to speak English. And communicate humor and swim in the ocean every day.

That did it.

I arrived in Honolulu with two checked bags, one carry-on with all my media equipment, and no bathing suit.

It was deliciously freeing and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.



As soon as you step off the plane and smell the pristine air you swoon. It’s fragrant and full of freshness. It’s not sweltering hot like the monsoon season in Asia. I’ve been thru 3 monsoon seasons in Thailand, India, and Nepal. It’s ultra wet. Go when it’s dry.

And the bananas. So many different kinds here: ice cream bananas, apple bananas, they’re all good. Mangoes and papayas grow on trees here. Without GMO.

The lettuce is the best I’ve ever eaten in my life. There are many different types to choose from. Farmers markets are every day not just on weekends. Every day!

You become a local fast.

Locals recognize each other by the way we smile at one another for no good reason. Just that we’re alive in paradise, that’s all.

If someone doesn’t smile its likely they’re a tourist.

You are happiest where you want to live. It might not be Hawaii but your dream destination is calling you.

I don’t feel the frustrations and anxiety I felt in other countries. People say you take your self with you wherever you go, but this version of me here on Kauai is calmer than I’ve ever been in my life.

I’ve noticed other people are too, Hawaii gets under your skin and stays there. It burrows its way into your spirit and becomes part of your soul. Or maybe your soul is here and I re-discovered mine.

The expense? 

If you shop at farmers markets and refrain from buying stuff that has to be shipped in all the time you’ll spend less money. But hey we have Costco on every island here. I might even become a member.

star fruit, Kauai

star fruit, Kauai

Yes rents are high but not as high as San Francisco, and we have the warm ocean here, there is nothing more entertaining than that.

It’s the only medicine you’ll ever need.

We have aloha spirit — the smiles and the motioning people into the flow of traffic to go ahead of you. It happens every day here. In the 20 years I lived in the Bay Area I don’t recall anyone telling me to go ahead of them when I was driving.

So the benefits in a nutshell are:

the freshest water you’ll ever swim in, aloha spirit, sparkling clean air, and being healthy.

It’s really that simple.

Grateful to be here on the most remote and isolated land mass from any other chunk of land in the world. Yes!

Free Gift for You

Secrets of Stunning Photos:


Going to Hawaii Island? Don’t leave home without my new book, all the secrets from a local that you can’t miss. Discover the Best of Big Island, Hawaii here.

Discover the Best of Big Island, Hawaii

You’re going to Hawaii Island? Don’t leave home without this book. 

If you have limited time on this magical amazing rock of lava check out how to navigate it, Kick Ass Kona, the best beaches, how to do Volcano National Park, what to eat and much more.

I wrote this book so my friends would not waste time on non-stellar stuff when the fun and stunning things to do that I learned from living on the Big Island are right here at your fingertips for you. Prepare for a drop dead wonderful vacation.

You may never want to leave.

Kua Bay on Big Island

And this book is not too wordy. It’s filled with my best photos and secrets – but here’s some advice right now.

1. You must drive around the island. I took 2 weeks to do it but you can do it in less time.

2. Stop and talk to locals. They are very friendly, nothing to be scared of.

3. Eat poke, ahi tuna fresh from the sea, raw and mixed with sesame oil and spices. WOW.

4. Swim with wild dolphins, not at the Hyatt where you pay $400 for 20 minutes of petting these jailed mammals. Heinous. Go to Two Step at 7am and you might see the dolphins there. I did. Photos are in the book.

5. Become a coffee addict. Why not? You’ll be in the middle of the best coffee farms in the world. Kona coffee on tap people; bring your mug!

Kona Coffee on the Big Island

Kona Coffee on the Big Island

needs booze with coffee this amazingly outrageous?

Here’s the link, check it out.

Electronic and print versions available.


Change Your Life on Kauai

Yes Dear Hearts,

I landed in paradise on Sunday and cried tears of gratitude. I was going to kiss the ground like the pope did when he arrived in Poland for the first time in a quarter century but had to pick up my rental car and was not even standing on soil yet.

But as soon as I got out in the pristine trade winds I felt blessed.

You can kiss the sky, sea, and sultry blossoms of orchids and frangipani perfuming the air here.

You’ll relax and recharge on the oldest island in Hawaii.

Learn More on Scheduling a Personal Retreat on Kauai

Renew your soul in secret sacred places,

guaranteed to blast open your heart


Swim with wild dolphins on the Big Island of Hawaii with me…

No this is not in a tank, the dolphins are FREE and after countless times of swimming with

me we are bonafide friends.

Check out the Kauai Details here

Questions or comments write me here, [email protected]

I’ll be waiting for you!

Secrets of Kauai

Secrets of Kauai

Learn Yoga and Photography with Any Camera

Dates vary: Apply for your private training October to September

3-Day or 5-Day Intensive

Call me 808-542-4566,

or email, [email protected]

Escape the city, relax and refresh your soul on Kauai, the pristine, sacred, and undeveloped island of Hawaii where no building is taller than a coconut tree.

Learn how to get the best photos you’ve ever taken, shooting from the heart.

Anini Beach,

Don’t read the dry camera manual, join me and have a spectacular time discovering and shooting power spots on Kauai even if you’ve never picked up a camera before.

Each day will be different starting with Yoga and Meditation under swaying palm trees on a bright green lawn next to your oceanside luxury accommodation.

Or you can sleep in if you like, this is your private retreat for you solo or with a friend/partner.

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach

We will explore, discover, eat delicious food, and be astounded at the lush landscapes and stunning shores of Kauai.

What Shirley Wu said after her 4 Days of Yoga and Photography Guidance:

Optional Morning Yoga, it’s guaranteed you will recharge and transform doing kundalini yoga and meditation every morning. Even if you’ve never done a pose before. 

This session is not for advanced yogis, it’s for beginners. But if you’ve been doing yoga for a while, I am a certified instructor and can inspire you more deeply with your practice.

Yoga blooms open your heart. You’ll enjoy the day more fully and get that little kid ecstasy feeling.

Yes, you get the benefit of teachings I’ve learned and practiced from saints and meditation masters in Thailand, Nepal, and India.

Private Retreat Waimea

Private Retreat Waimea

This is not only about learning photography and yoga, it’s a kick in the pants for your spirit that will open your world to a new you and change your life.

This is what Kauai did for me and this is why I live here now.

You’ll discover the power places of enchanted Kauai, the most gorgeous island in the world. Yes it will all be revealed to you from a local who loves living here.

Contact me for more information and to schedule your 3 or 5 day retreat at a time that is good for you in the next 6 months:

Phone: 808-542-4566 in Hawaii HST

Email: [email protected]

Who Am I?

I’m an author of 4 books, award-winning photographer for 27 years, and educator in Silicon Valley and worldwide.

I’ve led programs at Stanford University, Apple Computer, Intel, and globally.

You’ll get the benefits of the photography business I founded in Palo Alto, California in 1985 shooting for $500 per hour, down the street from Steve Jobs. I worked with clients from Apple, Intel, Yahoo, Google, and the lawyers, angel investors, doctors, CEO’s and realtors who lead and inspire Silicon Valley.

All my secrets are revealed in my private sessions.

It’s guaranteed you’ll see improved results in your own photos, learning my tips from photographing people and nature in 32 countries. And it’s fun!

What People Are Saying About my Photo Safaris and I am Loving It.

Where will you sleep?

Direct Oceanview Deluxe Studio

Your deluxe room is included in your private retreat. You don’t have to hassle with searching for the perfect spot to stay, this is it!

Here is the view from your private lanai, above.

In the afternoon/morning we’ll be visiting potent power places on Kauai.

Hanalei Bay,

Secret Beach in Kilauea,

Ke’e Beach on the spectacular North Shore,

Poipu, on the south side…

Does this appeal to your sense of adventure? Join me!

You’ll get the benefits of living life here as a local. But with deluxe accommodations by the ocean in a stunning setting.

After your heart-expanding yoga session, we’ll discover remarkable, secluded places and learn how to mindfully capture the incredible nature here with any camera you have. Angle, Light, Composition and Timing are the focus, not Photoshop or fancy digital trickery. Nope!

You can shoot with a digital or film camera, point and shoot, or DSLR with all the bells and whistles.

It’s guaranteed you will return home with amazing photographs.

You’ll be visiting Ke’e beach, a sacred Hawaiian (Hay-ow) where we’ll swim, snorkel, and enjoy the Bali Hai cliffs around us. And Polihale State Park, the longest pristine beach in Hawaii.
Allerton Garden,

Allerton Garden,


We are all flowers on this earth and we need open space around us.

You’ll get that here. And smiles are plentiful on this island.

Come with me to catch the seductive effervescence of ocean, sky, and emerald green cliffs. Serene places, stunning nature, waterfalls, and art walks in picture perfect tiny towns, Hanapepe Art Walk, and dinner at Hanapepe Cafe which is only open Friday night.

Yoga and meditation every morning under swaying palm trees on an emerald green lawn.

Or you can sleep in.

Easy photo walks every day and I do mean easy of Kauai’s incredible and stunning power places.

April to October private retreats are available

3-Day or 5 Day personal retreat

Your private retreat on Kauai includes

Oceanside deluxe lodging. 3 nights.

All yoga/meditation, photography, and guidance

Bon Voyage drinks and pupus for a divine sunset at the St. Regis on Kauai photo below 


5 Day Retreat


Testimony from the last private retreat I led here on Kauai:

“It was the best vacation we’ve ever had and I never would have gotten the amazing photos I got without you.”

– Obie V.

“It transformed my life.”

– Shirley Wu

Write me at [email protected] for details.

Or best to call me in Hawaii, 808-542-4566, you’ll get a real live human on the phone, me.

More Praise from private photography sessions with me:

“It made me see in a new way.”
– Satya, Spain
You are a great teacher!”
Kristin Adolf, Germany
“I learned so much today, I’m inspired.”
V. Geronton, France
By clicking the button below you will be brought to the payment gate where you can use your credit card. Or paypal. Happy to see you in paradise! We can also do credit cards over the phone or a check if you prefer. See you next month.Call me 808-542-4566, or email, [email protected]

And you’ll get plenty of time for rest and relaxation too.

North Shore Kauai

North Shore Kauai

Aloha and Blessings,


PS. Ready to discover your true north? Come to Kauai!














Wild Dolphins Changed My Life

Vagabond Mag in the itunes store

Learn my tips for the best things to do on the Big Island

You can’t make appointments with wild dolphins. They show up when they want to.

That is the mystery. When they do show up they want to play. But you have to time it right.

I had been waiting and watching for 2 weeks every day going down to Kealakekua Bay and City of Refuge to see if they were frolicking in the Bay at 6:30AM.

They weren’t. I was missing them and their sonar sounds, their playful intoxicating presence that makes your spirit soar.

Cherri came out from Canada for my dolphin retreat and on morning 3 at 6:30AM I vigilantly found myself at the edge of a holy Heaiu – that’s Hawaiian for yes this is a sacred spot – and scanning the water for a flipper or spinner dolphin – any part would do.

Nothing. I looked far out at the horizon. Didn’t see them.

So i turned the car on and started to back away slowly.

Wait. Was there movement out there? 6 to 700 feet away is a little far to tell but I saw something move. Sometimes its just a wave or a snorkeler.

This time it was a tail or a head coming up for air!


I bolted to get Cherri down the street.

Driving to her door I could barely contain my excitement. The cars in front of me were crawling.

Don’t you know wild dolphins are in the bay?!

“They’re here!” I shouted to Cherri at her front door.

Her smile lit up the room. We dashed back to the Bay – it was walking distance but driving was faster.

Now we had to fight the waves to get in the Bay. But the waves weren’t so big. I got in first after a biggish wave knocked one of us down. But we were still going – the dolphins were out there.

The trick is to get in the ocean quickly and start swimming before another wave crashes on the rocks under your feet.

We’re in. It’s a long way to swim. I’ve never seen the dolphins that far out. So far out I could barely see them. Were we going to have to swim for a mile?

We kept swimming. After about 200 feet I started getting tired but knew they were out there – we had to keep going. I lifted my head above the water to try and see where they were.

Didn’t see anything.

Suddenly a group of fins were steadily swimming towards us. There was purpose in those fins charging through the turquoise water.

I tried to yell to Cherri but couldn’t be heard since her head was underwater festooned with snorkel gear so I kept on — all of a sudden a group of 12 dolphins surrounded us swimming all around on either side of us, under us, next to us, careening crazy close.

I almost cried i was so happy.

They came to see us!

I felt their aloha all over us – saying hello for 2 minutes – gleefully swimming around us and then…

Suddenly they all were leaving they had somewhere to go.

It was the finest 2 minutes of my recent life.

This is what Cherri said here:

Join us in 2015.

Learn more and apply to come with us here:















Led by Mary, the CEO of Fun

And really, isn’t life about having fun and living your dreams? YES!

Learn How to Take Amazing Photographs with Any Camera

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Are you frustrated by your new camera and annoyed that you miss great shots because you don’t know how to use it?

Can you understand the manual that comes with your camera?

Join the club of people who can’t!

Your manual is written by engineers who don’t speak your language.

Want to learn in one hour my secrets from shooting professionally for 27 years in Silicon Valley down the street from Steve Jobs?

Click here to check out the course


How to be a Coffee Addict

You can’t be on the Big Island of Hawaii and not drink the 100% amazing and outrageously delicious Kona coffee.

Naturally I became addicted.

It’s up to us locals to enthusiastically support the coffee farmers here. They work hard to make sure our coffee drinking experience is at its zenith.

We can’t pretend we don’t notice. We have to support them.

It’s like fine wine in the Napa-Sonoma Valley in Northern California. Each winery produces distinctly different bouquets of wine and its the same with coffee farms here.

Each coffee farm has a signature taste and so the fun thing to do is try out different farms until you hit gold and stick with your favorite beans.

Don’t leave home without your cup of java, it always puts me in a good mood. And unlike any other drug, caffeine fits in to anyone’s schedule and isn’t illegal.

We always have time for coffee.

In India and Nepal there’s always time for chai.

But in the USA the drug of choice is coffee, and I am doing my part to keep those farmers in business.

The Big Island of Hawaii has the best coffee, check it out.

Kona Coffee on the Big Island

Kona Coffee on the Big Island

Best Things to Do on the Big Island, Hawaii


Volcano Pink Glow, Hawaii

Don’t leave the Big Island without seeing our volcano. 

Here’s the hot pink glow from firey lava oozing under the earth.

Yep this is no Disney moment or photo-shopped illusion, this is the real deal.

No it has not exploded. It’s been 4500 years (maybe 6000 years) so don’t worry.

We live here and forget all the time that it could blast open again.

But lets just enjoy the lava tubes, Mauna Kea, and sublime snorkeling for now.

And the sunsets, don’t miss any. Each one is spectacular.

I’ve been here for 4 months and have barely scratched the surface but here’s my list:

Snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay or City of Refuge at Two-Step with the wild dolphins.

Sipping Kona coffee, it’s grown here.

Beach frolicking.

Mauna Kea adventure to be above the clouds and see the summit.

Eating fresh mangos grown on the island.

Visiting lava tubes.

We live on rock hard lava! And that is why the farms are amazing here. Who knew that lava was fertile and fabulously rich in veggie and fruit nurturing?

Want to discover more about how to be a local here?

My latest issue of Vagabond Travel Photography Magazine, an app in the itunes store is now live…check it out here

Vagabond Mag in the itunes store


How to Live in the Jungle


This is what happens when you live in the jungle.

Geckos hang out on your coffee cup in full view of human beings.

Mr. Gecko wants a sip of water and does not care that you don’t want to share.

Yuck. And they leave droppings around the house too.

And now for the chicken mite incident.

One night I was minding my own business sleeping in bed. Suddenly I noticed I had company.

Creatures were biting my feet. Then my knees. Continuing the journey upwards to my thighs.

No, it was not seductive. So I went and slept in my car.

Chicken mites had invaded the farm!

Damn dumb chickens. I pay rent, they don’t.

I moved out.

It took poison, several days of spraying, and finally I came back to my cabin in the woods.

I live here now.

But the thing is, here is what is right down the street.

and this…

So deep down past the chicken mite bites beats the heart of a happy girl.

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