Finding Myself on a Horse in Hana

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I was struck with a thud of loneliness. When I walked into my room at Travaasa Hana I realized there was no television or WiFi to keep me company. My iPhone had broken the day before my trip to Maui and I would not be able to get it repaired until I returned to the mainland. From my cottage, I looked out at the ocean. It was framed by an expanse of green grass and flanked by a private hot tub on my lanai. It was, dare I say it, breathtaking. What is the point of experiencing all of this beauty alone? My lonesomeness in Maui was short-lived, however, all because I decided to go on a trail ride. Horseback riding in Hana was an adventure for my senses as well as my spirit. You might just find yourself on a horse in Hana too.

Finding Myself on a Horse in Hana

What happened to that adventurous girl of my youth?

I thought back to my travels the summer after my junior year of college in France. I had backpacked for seven and a half weeks, more than half of that time as a solo traveler. This was before Skype and the Internet and cell phones.

I went three full days without conversing with another human being or hearing radio or television during my stay in a remote town in Finland. Instead I peddled around on a too-tall bicycle and ate solitary picnics of apples, cheese and peanuts. I found a group of English-speaking passengers aboard the ferry back to Stockholm and threw myself at them with a torrent of English words.

As a student in France I did not have a telephone or TV or access to a refrigerator or even toilet seats for the whole year. And here I was fretting over a couple of nights in paradise in Hana by myself.

View from my cottage at Travaasa Hana Resort

View from my cottage at Travaasa Hana Resort

Solo travel to Hana

Hana felt impossible to photograph; it’s simply too beautiful for photos to capture. I wanted my husband and children to feel the welcome I felt. I wanted them to see the ocean view that stretched on and on. How did such a small space embrace such a large piece of the ocean and claim it as its own? I wanted my family to experience the sound of waves growing more intimidating during a brief nighttime storm, starting with the plinking sound of raindrops, and then the rush of adrenaline as they turned to a thunderous barrage of watery noise on the roof of my cottage.

Solo travel makes me more aware of all of my senses. If my family had been with me, there would have been conversation and needs to be met and compromises to be made. Instead it was just me. I wanted my husband and two children to see what Hana was like…alone.

It is hard to get to know myself when every thought, every moment is taken up with noise. Conversations around me, traffic, television, children asking and asking and asking. And then, in Hana, and particularly at Travaasa, there is quiet. There are only the sounds of waves and wind and birds, and I am left to think, and not think, and to be.

Riding through a pasture of mellow bulls

Riding through a pasture of mellow bulls

Horseback riding in Hana

The next morning a Travaasa employee delivered me via golf cart to Travaasa’s stable for my horseback riding adventure. She laughed when I told her, “It’s hard to find a cranky Hawaiian.”

As a teen I rode horses competitively English-style (on a local level). Horses are a mirror of you. If you are full of fear, so will they be. I don’t fear horses. I fear people. I want to impress people and make them like me. It’s always my struggle…should I be who I am (perhaps unlovable) or be who they want me to be (more lovable)?

With horses I don’t have to worry about any of that. I show up. I love myself. I love the horse. I have confidence, which puts the horse at ease. Maybe if I could emit that same tone of confidence and self-love to humans, they would love me too.

But when I arrived at the stable, Jolyn the trail guide, didn’t seem thrilled to see me. She mumbled some words of introduction and instruction. Oh no, maybe I’d  found my cranky Hawaiian.

Then we climbed onto our horses, she on chestnut mare named Chloe and I on a dappled white and grey gelding named Cody. The four of us meandered down the trail. Jolyn turned in her saddle to talk to me. The real Jolyn came out. The horse lover. The people lover. The Hawaii lover. The Hana lover. I felt blessed to be in her presence.

Jolyn has lived in Hana her whole life, never having visited the mainland. She is a third generation Hana resident. She said, “It’s hard to leave Hana once it’s in your blood.” We talked about her children…two of whom to which she gave birth and one she adopted when he was a young teen because Jolyn could see he needed the love her family, her ohana, could provide.

Cody and me by the sea

Cody and me by the sea

Finding peace

I kept saying, “I can’t believe this view. This is the most gorgeous trail ride I’ve ever been on in my life.” But it was more than that. It’s something I seek often but rarely find. I felt a wave of contentment and peace within me and my trail guide and our horses.

Cody and Chloe hoof-by-hoofed their way back up the trail. Jolyn ever so softly lassoed another horse for the next ride. Her sister met us near the top of the trail with Jolyn’s young niece and hoisted the little girl upon the new horse’s bare back. The child, not older than 5, grabbed a hold of the horse’s mane, grinning and baring her teeth, some missing from youth or blackened, apparently from too much sugar.

What a different life it is here, I thought.

Travaasa Hana Trail Guide Jolyn and her niece

Travaasa Hana Trail Guide Jolyn and her adorable niece

Have you ever visited Hana? What destination have you visited that brought you peace? Let us know in the comments below!

Read more about my journey in Midlife Crisis in Maui.

A Note from The Travel Mama: This trip to Hana was hosted by Visit Maui and Travaasa Hana. All opinions are my own, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Ellen Lanin says

    I remember well your early morning 5:30 AM riding lessons. Who knew where they would lead. Fun to look back and think about those days.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      I must have REALLY loved horseback riding…nothing but love of a horse (or a baby) could get me up that early!

  2. Cathi McBryde says

    I too rode horse in Hana – a gift to myself for my birthday (55). I went to Maui to reconnect with some old friends – it didn’t work out too well – and ended staying for 6 months and making all new friends. I LOVE Hawaii but the weather got really boring, and I returned to my family in Minnesota!!!!!!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Cathi – What a wonderful birthday gift to give yourself! I could really go for six months in Hana…sounds heavenly! I have spent eight years of my life in Minnesota (four as a child, and four in my 20s) and the weather there sure isn’t boring! I can’t say I miss it, though. I prefer my weather boring and sunny. 🙂

  3. This looks perfect! I’m adding it to my list of things I want to do.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Katja – I hope you can make it to Hana, and to ride horses through Travaasa’s stables. It truly was an incredible experience!

  4. I loved this Colleen!!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Thank you, Sara. I know how much you love horses too. I hope you can experience Hana by horseback someday!

  5. I really think that there’s something special about going out- riding a horse, and finding peace and quiet by yourself. Just you and the horse. I used to ride- and it wasn’t until I went to that ranch in Wyoming that I fell in love with it all over again. I prize my alone time- we all need to work on being better company to ourselves 🙂

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Farrah – Your dude ranch experience sounds so incredible. I hope I can do that someday! I agree that there is something special about horses…and about alone-time!

  6. Beautifully written and so honest. Even before reading it, I’d resolved to change up our Maui itinerary to include Hana and I can’t wait. Thinking we need to add horseback riding to the list.

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