My heart was high from splashing around in the turquoise water of Hanakapi’ai Beach, two miles in on Kauai’s famed Na Pali Coast trail. I couldn’t wait to capture it all on Instagram.
The waves crashed on the beach’s beautiful rocks where fresh water spilled into the ocean. I leaned down to get a better vantage point for the picture I wanted to take with my cell phone.
Suddenly, the sand caved in beneath me and I tripped. Splash. My phone dove into the water. Feverishly, I reached in to save it, groping around for a minute under water before finally pulling it out.
Narrow pinstripes ran across the darkened display. I quickly turned it off, but the damage had been done. My phone died, taking all my trip photos with it into electronics heaven.
Losing the photos made me sad, but considering the trail’s numerous dangers — more than 80 people have lost their lives in the beach’s dangerous riptides — I was happy it was just my phone that died.
I took it as a sign from the Universe that I should focus more on living in the moment, absorbing the memories into my heart and forgetting about taking pictures to share on Instagram.
Because in the age of Instagram, if you go on vacation and don’t upload any pictures, did it really happen?
I started the trip with good intentions, even posting that I would be offline all week to reset my spirit and reconnect with myself, my husband and the beautiful land around me. I wasn’t even planning to take many yoga pictures. Just a few.
On a personal level, the first part of this year has been about closing a chapter in my life. Ten years ago, I left my East Coast home and moved to Maui for a few months, where I healed from early life traumas. This year, I returned home for the first time in a decade and also returned to the islands in synchronistic timing that I believe heralds the end of one chapter and the start of a new one.
Even more symbolically, my stay on Kauai coincided with the new moon on Aug. 14. New moons are always times of new beginnings. And the address where we stayed was 4411, which are very potent symbolic numbers. I intended to stay in a meditative space for the trip, just allowing myself to drift on the changing tides of life, feeling the flow.
Good intentions erode in the face of Internet addiction
Soon, the beautiful beaches inspired me to make beautiful art — and post it on Instagram. Looking back, the desire was fueled more by ego than any heartfelt inspiration.
Instead of feeling the trade winds brush against my face and listening to the waves splash against the shore, my attention soon turned to figuring out the best way to frame a picture and contemplating the best poses to complement the postcard-worthy backdrops. I mean, I’m not in Hawaii every day. I wanted pretty yoga pictures!
Taking pictures on vacation is one thing, but trying to create my own version of the awe-inspiring images I’ve seen from other people soon caused more trouble than pleasure.
I started comparing my vacation to pictures of other vacations I’ve seen on Instagram, thinking mine wasn’t good enough because my pictures weren’t as cool. The hurtful thoughts smacked of comparison, mindlessness and ingratitude, but they only reflected my inner feelings.
While I was blissfully happy to return to the islands, Hawaii’s powerful energy was healing me from the inside out.
Healing isn’t always pretty
Returning home to the East Coast earlier this year had stirred up many, many emotions and I felt off for months after. Intuitively, I felt that Hawaii would help me heal, as it had many years before.
But healing isn’t a pretty process. It involves the release of deep-seated pain. As pain in the emotional body releases, our thoughts can take a turn for the worse because everything is related. I sat on our beautiful front porch, meditating and sometimes releasing through tears, feeling pain that I definitely did not want to feel, especially on vacation.
My rational mind wondered why so much pain was coming up and even sometimes turned to cruelty — “What is wrong with you?” —but my higher self knew that my body was releasing and healing.
In pain, I grasped for comparison and validation from the outside world that my vacation was freaking amazing and I had yoga pictures on Instagram to prove it.
Then I lost my phone.
The blessing of forced digital detox
Losing the grip on technology was such a blessing. I surrendered completely and the loss gave me permission to stop caring about what was going on in the real world.
In the age of Instagram, it’s easy to stop doing things for pure enjoyment and instead focus more on shooting the perfect picture.
I tuned in totally and enjoyed every moment for the gifts it offered. I stopped worrying about my buddha belly and what my makeup-free face and crazy hair looked like and enjoyed splashing in the ocean. Enjoyed being.
Enjoyed remembering that the best times and truest connections come from the inside. On the island, I even debated not buying another phone. Forgetting about social media, forgetting about this idea of writing about spirituality, turning back to old dreams of writing freelance articles and traveling. Living a low-key life.
But ultimately, I will buy another phone. I will keep posting on Instagram. I’ll keep writing. Because back here on the mainland, it matters to me and brings joy.
But I’ll also work to stay conscious of social media usage, spending way less time with eyes glued to the screen and instead lifting them to see the real world, the trees and sun and sky.
Because especially in the age of Instagram and pictures designed to invoke desire, sometimes the moments that last the longest are those that only your heart sees.
Do you post on social media while on vacation? Share your ideas in the comments below.
Image by Jeff Kubina via Flickr