Why we’re canceling our trip to Kauai: an exponential essay

Why we’re canceling our trip to Kauai: an exponential essay

  1. Today
  2. I cancelled
  3. My trip to Hawaii. 
  4. I was leaving next week. My wife, too.  
  5. She was joining me the first week of a three-week research trip for my next book.
  6. We never really had a honeymoon. Unless you count another book-trip stopping at a garment factory in Perry, New York, and then going to Niagara Falls, Canada, for a day. She doesn’t. 
  7. I first visited Kauai nearly 20 years ago. Since I hiked her trails, paddled her waters, ate her wild fruit while swimming in waterfalls, and wondered at her lushly vegetated Emerald City of cliffs, I wanted nothing more than to experience it all with Annie, my patient highschool sweetheart, who didn’t wait for my wanderlust to pass but accepted it as part of me. 
  8. Kauai was our dream. Unattainable because of two kids, a great recession, an inconsistent income that made unnecessary purchases seem irresponsible. We bought three knee surgeries for our dog and not a couch for our living room. There’s no room in such deliberations for Pacific islands. I’ve been everywhere. Not really. But close. I’ve stared at glaciers melting into the sea, mountains of coral teeming with rainbows of fish, Himalayan peaks, impossible clear lakes deeper than the sky, and always I’m visited by the same thought: I wish Annie were here. Places and experiences never quite felt full because she was missing, present to the day-to-day of our lives in Indiana, nurturing our most important stories. But then the stars aligned. I cashed in my miles for her.
  9. I was pretty sure that from the cliff of our Airbnb overlooking an ocean reaching toward Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, we could celebrate all those years when this was just a dream, while at the same time imagining the rest of our lives. Middle-aged in the Middle of the Pacific. Remembering and imagining. Sure, I had work to do, but Annie would have the beach, sun, books, and the quiet. We’ve been lucky that my life is my work and Annie my co-author. We live and I write about it. The questions I ask and the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been have changed us. And the living of this book to be published by Patagonia books in 2022, which is about our relationship with nature and the hope of regenerative agriculture was bringing us from the flatfields of unplanted corn in Indiana to Kauai . . . where there is also corn. The place occupying paradise in the ever-open Wikipedia of my mind has fields of corn sprayed with experimental chemicals to be sold and applied to lands in Indiana, polluting the soil and stream that run to the pond where Annie fishes with our daughter in our backyard. Protestors in Hawaii are fighting to keep their rivers, soil, ocean, and kids from exposure to poison. Whether they know it or not, their sacrifice and fight in the middle of the Pacific is a fight for us all. So Annie and I were going to Kauai to experience their paradise and learn how we might protect others.    
  10. And now I have 512 words to tell you, despite how long we’ve wanted to go and how important we feel this trip is, why we’re not going. Each of the paragraphs I’ve written represents three days, and each word represents a person in the United States infected with COVID-19. Despite all the measures we’ve taken as a society so far, the number of people infected doubles every three days. If I continued to follow the formula of this piece: Paragraph 17 would be 65,536 words long–about the length of my first book; Paragraph 19 would be 262,144 words long–about the same amount of words in my three, 300-page books combined; and Paragraph 20 would represent two months and 524,288 people infected, 20% of whom would be hospitalized. As the best article I’ve seen about this states, “this is math, not prophecy.” And the only way to flatten the curve and stop the exponential spreading of COVID-19 is to self-isolate. Flying from Indianapolis to Chicago to San Francisco to Kauai and back exposes us to so many more people than living our lives in rural Indiana. I take risks all the time to do work I believe in. I’d be willing to put my individual health at risk to go to Kauai with Annie to realize our dream and to not delay the work of what feels like my most important book to date. We’re relatively young and healthy and the chances of COVID-19 killing us are low. But our choice to cancel the trip isn’t about us. It’s about the whole of society. It’s about my parents and in-laws who are much more at risk from COVID-19. If we contracted the virus we could pass it on to them or to someone you love or to someone someone else loves and depends on, someone who wants to recount the joys of their own lives and imagine and plan a future with someone they love. And they could pass it on to someone else in the United States or beyond. Kenya, where I have friends, just reported their 4th case of COVID-19 yesterday. The U.S. health system is expected to be overrun with patients. Now imagine what will happen in Kenya and in other developing countries around the world. If we went to Kauai we would not be honoring the sacrifices so many people are making by choice or circumstance: people are volunteering in a vaccination study in which they are infected on purpose, people are losing their jobs, people are losing their businesses, healthcare professionals are risking their lives, people are separating themselves from their loved ones, and people are dying. Even if the math and the scientists who’ve dedicated their lives to this are wrong, I don’t want to be sitting on a beach in paradise while others around the world are losing and sacrificing so much. Besides, it’s not everyday that we have such an opportunity to sacrifice something for the greater good of society. Today we do, and we are canceling our trip to Kauai.



A friend on Oahu let me know that along with other restrictions, as of yesterday the Island of Kauii is allowing only essential travel. They have no cases of coronaviris on the Island of Kauai and want to maintain that,

Thank you for a thoughtful article about why not to travel to Kauai. I don’t know when your trip was to be, but the governor of Hawaii has asked that tourists not visit for at least the next 30 days. There are monumental logistical as well as health related reasons for his request, and it should be honored.

We are also cancelling our trip to Kauai. My husband and I were supposed to go the last week of June with both our sons, their wives, and our four young grandchildren. We were just about to book plane tickets when Covid 19 breathed its deadly germs all over the world.

I’ve lived in Hawaii twice, on Oahu: the year I turned four; later when I was 11 and 12. We moved back to the Mainland, California, on my 13th birthday, and I’ve never returned. So this trip was to be a once-in-a-lifetime family adventure, and I was paying ALL the expenses.

I cannot risk the health of my sons and their families, nor the risk of spreading the disease. By all accounts, June will still have us battling Covid 19. Unfortunately, we booked a private home in Princeville, big enough for the 10 of us, through one of those home-sharing organizations. I’ve already paid in full, and because the owners made clear they give no refunds, I purchased trip insurance.

Now I’ve been informed that the trip insurance will not cover my request for a refund. Still, my family’s health and that of the rest of the world is more valuable than the thousands I’m likely to lose.

We don’t know if we will attempt to reschedule Kauai for 2021. The world may look a whole lot different from today, and with all the parents now homeschooling the kids, all the businesses that may collapse, the probable economic downturn, the likely surge of social distrust, the general insecurity we all feel, planning for 2021 is as realistic as planning to live on Mars.

I wish you and your family good health and future plans that are fulfilled with joy.

Kelsey says:

We were supposed to leave today! We got a 100% refund for our AirBnb and are able to reschedule our flight for sometime in the next year for no extra charge or penalty. So sorry to hear about your trip and about your insurance. Most travel companies are being very understanding. You may have done this already, but check in with the airline or accommodation to see if they’ll work with you.

What a great way to show the impact. The right choice for sure to cancel. We have a trip from Saskatoon to the Yukon booked in June and feel uncertain then. Fortunately, unlike the lady above, we hadn’t booked anything else and the Canadian airline will give us a travel voucher if we don’t go.
#stayhome #weareallinthistogether

Kelsey says:

For the most part the travel industry is working with travelers. Has to be a rough time for them.

Stay alive says:

You made a logical decision. Stay safe!

saskia borst says:

We are still safe,the King has said do what the healthcenr us said to do, and we must listen to them.

Tobias says:

Well, I pray that soon the virus will be under control. Many are being affected by it and it’s sad so many have died. I can’t say whos to blame because I’m not the judge nor do I even know, but it is in the hands of God now!! Bless you!! I hope you get to go on your trip one day!!

Raisa says:

IT’s so much more than losing a vacation. It is more than the money. It is losing out on a promise to ourselves of something wonderful. Yet, when you go on your vacation one day, it will be that much better. Thanks for sharing. Stay safe. A

Kelsey says:

Thanks for the kind words. We hope to reschedule later this year, if things settle down.

Jens Magnus FREDRIK Karlsson says:

Want to see a 5D-model of a virus!?

Jens Magnus FREDRIK Karlsson says:

I just folded One on a blank piece of paper….

Raymond Akpederi says:

Well be it unto you according to your faith, but I have said everyone has come inconact with the virus but not everyone suffers ill effect. If the virus is transferred the way it is said it does then no one can escape that, The words of the scripture is being fulfilled and the world is to blind to see it. Now the world has been given a problem greater than racial profiling, segregation, unnecessary opposition where does the solution lie ?? God will release the wisdom for a solution through a vessel and by design this too shall pass the victims we can only pray for them but for the rest of is left standing anchor your faith to the one God , swallow your pride, God will always resist the proud and give more grace to the humble and it is written when I see the blood I shall passover.

saskia borst says:

We have canceling ouwer trip or vakation to. The Covid – 19 hold us inside, ouwer vakation is canceld.I think by evrybody who his vakation has booked and it is pakkingday by, by pakkingday and vakation.

love Love LOVE this. What a cool idea. The exponential part, I mean. (Yes, I’m a numbers nerd.) Sorry about your trip. But maybe you’ll write a book about this experience, which will pay for a rescheduled trip!

(Also, you might already know about this, but a lot of places are issuing refunds. Hopefully your Airbnb and airline will participate.)

Kelsey says:

Thanks! We got a 100% refund from AirBnb and are able to reschedule the flight sometime in the next year. It’ll work out. I have to go for research.

Ardi says:

We are seeing first hand the impacts the coronavirus has on the travel industry. Totally cancelled flights and borders wide shut. The US still hasn’t seen what Europe is

Kelsey says:

Makes me realize how much of a privilege traveling is. I’ve never NOT had the freedom to go wherever I wanted for the most part.

Jasmine Schaeffer says:

Aloha! We now have 4 confirmed cases here on Kaua’i, and there is a 14 day quarantine in place if anyone enters. I think, with our current sheltering policies and the mandated 9pm curfew, that we will be able to minimize COVID19 on this island. Thank you for loving this place. We’ll be waiting for you,

You did good,also to let your voice be heard in this. If everyone everywhere were this aware of the other, this would be an entirely different planet
I do hope you get your trip soon though.

Miriam says:

I’m supposed to travelling to Mexico in May to see my best friend. We haven’t seen each other for 10 years and I was so looking forward to my trip, but I just know it will end up being cancelled because of COVID-19.

Thomas A Vogel says:

Good thing you didn’t plan to go to Pearl Harbor. Not even the USNA can find it, despite decades of searching….

Very smart writing! And the idea behind this article is just amazing!

Ankur says:

I was supposed to travel for my brother’s wedding. As it stands, both the wedding and my travel plans are cancelled, rather postponed. It’s more important to stay home and stay safe under these circumstances.

Aloha. I want o impart to you that so many have come here, talked to all of us friendly and aloha people, used what we said for their books, published them and made a lot of money. We are a lot more savvy now, here. So, although you seem to be having a noble cause it would be better for you to give Kauai people an opportunity to publish their stories, thoughts opinions and ideas and actually be paid for them. Sorry, but that is how we feel here now. Virtually hundreds of books on our islands have been published by writers jaunty showing up and gleaning my aunties and uncles fertile minds for knowledge and then stealing it and writing their books, and making money off of it.

In the meantime, we are all poor and living in a single walled house while the wonderful words and thoughts and wisdom of our people are keeping these authors in a nice mansion. However it is not true that we have no cases. Currently today we have 17. I am a Kauai local. We want visitors to know to stay away, and to not disrespect our tiny hospital system by overflowing it, nor our stores, food, and facilities. We cannot accommodate you at this time. our mayor, thank goodness is the most strict of all of the Mayors. you cannot sit on our beach even to suntan. neither can we. We are abiding by all rules. If you don’t you will be arrested. There is mandatory curfew.

If I sound bitter and un aloha it is because after 45 years in tourism, tourists came here knowing there was this virus and came anyway not caring if they infected one of the most remote islands in the world. We are totally and completely vulnerable worlds mercy to leave us alone and let us live.

We now have 400 cases on Oahu, 24 on Maui they have their first death. There have been five deaths in the state so far. Virtually all of our cases are tourists or travel related that have now spread into our community. A healthy 37 year old Hawaiian hard worker is now on a ventilator. His crime? Serving tourists, and working hard. That is his thanks for that. Yet still you keep coming, uncaring about us, but expect us to roll out the aloha carpet for all of you. I feel like never letting that carpet out again. (Not meaning the author, of course, who made the right moral decision.)

Locals have had it. The tourists are coming and taking our water, our food our supplies, our housing, everything and giving nothing back but empty dollars. What does that matter when you infect our beloved elders?

The person who wrote this did the right thing. But still, the motive to come, to take, to use, and to profit off us is there. That in itself should make all of you look in the mirror and ask yourself what greed really is. We are no longer for sale. many of us have vowed after this pandemic to never go back to tourism. Tourism doesn’t care about us, we are completely expendable. Make your beds, dance hula for you,serve you food smile, bow, scrape, beg. You take too much and leave us too little.

I hope you leave this comment up, because it is raw, real, and from the heart. We want you to understand how we really feel. This is a freebie for all of you. The next bit of ideas from our island, you can write me a check for 10 trillion dollars.

That just might pay for one of our peoples tears.

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Catherine says:

I enjoyed reading this, as sad as I am for you that you wont get to take this trip, it is nice to read people are so caring and thoughtful to others. I have my own travel agency and on the whole people are understanding allbeit disappointed, but I have had a few people furious that they cannot travel, when they themselves feel healthy and not at risk.
Well that is great but what about the islanders with limited access to healthcare, or the airline staff who have no choice! I hope you get to book your trip again for the future. Much love.

Let your voice be heard!