Last summer, before the NIAUSI fellowship glimmered in my brain, I turned 35.

Yesterday, as I raised a wine glass during my birthday dinner, I noted how far my physical and mental space have developed in these past 12 months. Last year, I escaped Seattle with my friend Brad on a maiden exploration of Hawai’i. I was running toward—and away—from all sorts of things, including the path that my unconventional choices were beginning to form.

At 35, most everyone I knew was married or planning weddings, and several were about to start families. I couldn’t helpbut  feel envious of a few friends who planned to quit work in favor of being focused parents. What did it mean that I was 35 and single—no boyfriend, no husband, no baby—and beginning to observe a growing desire not to give up my freedom in order to have those things, even though they seem to be important life experiences?

I wrestled with this question to the close of my last relationship; I didn’t have an answer, but I wasn’t able to make a choice one way or the other. As a long-range planner, I hate to close the door on choices, because one never knows when she might need to play a certain card at an unexpected date; when it came to babies, I couldn’t say no…but I couldn’t say yes, either.

So, I did what I do when I temporarily run out of answers: I travel.

As always, I journaled every day that I was in Kona, however something inspired me to record my experiences in a different way on the day that we arrived. Hoping to craft a mildly poetic portrait of my first impressions, I sat in bed that night brainstorming words and phrases to describe my experience in a simple, visceral way.

Looking back on what I did during this year’s travel to Austin and New Orleans, I see that I’ve developed this style, and it’s one that I certainly plan to employ in Civita. With that, an ode to Hawaii and a nod to good ideas that take us to surprising places.

Kailua-Kona. Wind-swept beaches, sand finer than fine. Drumming humidity. Peeking, pouty sun. Mounds of newly-formed earth adorned with cairns. “Hi Sandy, I LUV U!” spelled in white coral. Friendly people, slower than molasses. Big teeth spread in a welcoming grin. Mouth-watering fish fresh from the sea. Glasses of water, 1-2-3.

Bikinis. Butt cheeks. Resort pools. Cabanas and boys. Ceiling fans. Outdoor living rooms. Open air malls. Hats. Tradewinds. Tsunami evacuation point. Waikaloa Beach Resort. Hilton. Marriott. Public beaches freckled with ebony rocks. Freshwater ponds. Sticky salt peppering my toes.

Hot pink flip-flops. Sunglasses, iTunes and slathered sunscreen. Sweat beads roll into belly buttons and knee pits. Sun Chips. Papaya with lime. The lanai. Master bedroom with shower. Sushi at Sansei. Leis at the grocery store. Starbucks Espresso Double Shot. Ice-cold air conditioning.

Spaghetti strap Prahna dress. No bra. Board shorts. Bradley in heat distress. Convertible Mustang—silver. 11-7213. Two fashion magazines, pages curled up with humidity. The pointlessness of hairspray. Text messages with the mainland. Palm trees. Bouganvilla. Heavy, wet night. Breezes that blow leaves as big as your head. Shady hammock. Slurpy kiss. Humidity. Pink and orange and yellow and green. Swimsuit on for a quick midnight dip. Exotic. Wood. Tiki. Hawai’i.