From left: Celia, Margo, and Emma in Lahaina, Maui.

I’ve never really been a bucket list guy and the pandemic has neutered any adventurous travel urges I might have. A couple of Kristen’s sisters were planning a trip to Hawaii with their families which seemed plain crazy to me, but COVID confinement had them in the mood to breakout. So be it, I thought. 2021 being what it is, I’ll trade a measure of jealousy for a barrel of security, mahalo very much.

One Friday Happy Hour at my mother-in-law’s suite downstairs (The Pattyshack), the scheduled trip to Hawaii came up in the mixed company of the adventurers and the pragmatic wet blankets like me. Drinks were poured and some sort of motivational pep talk/ambush went down. Platitudes like once in a lifetime opportunity and stepping outside your comfort zone were bandied about.

Elliott in Kihei, Maui

I’d love to run the tape back and see how it all transpired because by the end of the evening we were all going. Did they know it takes 10 hours of flying to get to Maui? Did they know how expensive this would be? Doesn’t anyone remember the Hawaii episode of “The Brady Bunch” where everything went wrong? Aloha?

We Sullivans don’t just casually hop on planes to Hawaii. As a kid along for the grocery shopping at Pathmark, I’d marvel at my mother – managing two carts teeming over with supplies and an equally maxed out envelope of coupons. Kristen pulled off the travel equivalent. Using Skymiles and Delta vouchers and AMEX points and yes, more actual money than we were necessarily comfortable with, she had us set to visit the 50th state. I don’t offer relationship advice often, but people really ought to make sure at least one partner has these skills before getting too deep.

After landing at Kuhului Airport in Maui and heading down Puunene Avenue and Kuihelani Highway our niece Erin gave us some sage advice “pronounce all the vowels.” This is easier said than spoken. It was like kindergarten where the teacher instructs kids to spell things how they sound, and everyone just rolled with it.

I was struck by how varied the topography was. There were drier, desert-like areas and mountains off in the distance. Where we stayed in Wailea was lush as could be. Maui is like Jamaica and Colorado had a baby and it set the tone for a week that was way more than a lazy daiquiri on a beach.

The kids learned to surf in Kihei. We had lunch and shaved ice in Paia, a tiny town so cool that Willie Nelson calls it home. I played two rounds of golf where an errant shot was simply an opportunity to enjoy a different angle at a breathtaking view. We ventured out to Lahaina for dinner at Fleetwood’s. Some of our group tackled the road to Hana and hiked to majestic waterfalls. We spent a day snorkeling at the Molokini Crater where the water was the color of Fierce Blue Gatorade, and the sea turtles were roughly the size of a Volkswagen.

Our venture to the 10,000 foot summit of Mt. Haleakala required a 2 a.m. wake up call. The kids battled motion sickness through the twists and turns of the long drive up. But we saw the most incredible star canopy turn into a surreal sunrise. It was freezing cold, and the wind was relentless, but no one complained. It seems all we had to do to ensure everyone had a perfect vacation was spend scads of money and travel 4,400 miles to one of the most beautiful places on earth. Who knew?

We returned to Atlanta looking like a pack of tanned zombies but I’m so thankful I was pushed outside my comfort zone that night in The Pattyshack. We should start a bucket list consultation business down there to help pay off these credit card bills…and to start saving for the next adventure.

Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at

Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan is an award-winning columnist who writes about family life and thinks everything is at least a little funny.