SO HERE IT IS, almost Spring Break time, and if you’re reading this somewhere other than a big, white beach in Hawaii, you’re a failure at the game of life.
More on this half-truth in a second.
First: Lately it has come to our attention, via watching ghastly amounts of TV, that no given subject, especially human physical/psychological ailments, can be discussed in what passes for modern short-attention-span culture unless it is represented by an approved two- to four-letter acronym.
(You’re simply going to have to accept this: It’s the way people communicate now, basically reverting back toward grunts and clicks — which is why, during all those drug commercials, you are bombarded with the made-up word “tiredness” in place of the Olde English “fatigue,” which apparently causes too much cranial tiredness.)
Tri-letter codes are mostly intended for one’s general practitioner (GP). Sample statement to doctor: “I’ve been told I should ask you about whether Zymphagagamanamem, AKA by its trade name, Fartiva, is right for my IBS.”
Sample GP response: “WTH?”
Sample response to GP response: “Yeah, I know: FML!” And so on.
Given this, it seems appropriate to acronym-ize the affliction striking Northwesterners, during the dark, dank, depressing, stuporific, oh-God-we-shall-never-see-the-sun-again days of winter: That would be “GTH,” or “Gone to Hawaii” — henceforth the code word for having thrown up one’s hands and doing the only thing, really, left to be done.
Namely, jetting off to Maui, or thereabouts.
So, yeah: GTH it is. As in: “Editor’s Note: Ron Judd will not be filing his quarterly humor piece as scheduled this week. He is GTH.” Simple. To the point. Relatable.
The beautiful thing about the phrase is that it can serve in past, present or predictive tenses: “12 days now and she hasn’t texted him back, so he finally has Gone to Hawaii.” Or, “Who does she think she is, Going To Hawaii?” Or the preferred local passive/aggressive usage: “I think it’s only fair that you GTH with your girlfriends; don’t worry about me! Plenty of canned soup on hand, and I’ve got a half-gig of broadband left before we cap out.”
For Northwesterners of means (definition: people other than you, who long ago pulled more effectively upward on their own Sorel bootstraps), “GTH” has been a calendar notation for decades. It’s a local rite of passage, right up there with refilling that little black dish thing in the tool shed with fresh Dri-Z-Air crystals (note: DO NOT EAT).
And, shoot, having done this ourselves recently, it’s easy to see the attraction. All lucky wintertime Hawaii travelers trade in trunk rot and Primaloft for pineapples and flip-flops. For better or (probably) worse, you go from wearing nine layers of clothing, which leaves you scarcely distinguishable from a concrete street bollard, to attire consisting of a single, deftly applied, threadbare shoe lace.
GTH is remarkable, and glorious, and memorable, and — OK — often stupid expensive, but there’s TFW you realize YOLO and so … you go.
GTH, for repeat customers — those people who own their own snorkel fins — is like second timeshare nature, requiring little thought or planning. (In fact, so many Seattleites fall into this group that they form their own island subculture; if you’re in, say, lovely Kihei on Maui, and someone at the shave ice place asks where you’re from, don’t bother to say “Seattle.” Just go straight to “Wedgwood,” and they’ll get it.)
But for the rest of us, it is a radical departure, literally, from our normal State of Dank. Because roughly a third of people GTH every year are doing so for the first time, a bit of prepping to do the full GTH without embarrassing incidents, lawsuits or legal challenges seems wise.
Cowabunga! Carry on.
FOR STARTERS, let us define the problem/opportunity that is GTH, using the compendium of statistics contained in the 2018* annual report of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, supplemented by your correspondent’s keen investigative reporting skills/broadly active imagination. (*We believe this to be the most recent report available from statisticians who are not hung over from the flavorful mai tais served at the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s most recent New Year’s festivities.)
• Hawaii, home to about 1.4 million permanent residents, is inundated by/blessed with nearly 10 million annual visitors. More than 3 million of those in 2018 were first-timer newbs, such as many of you reading this right now, clinging to the GTH dream. All those people left behind $17.82 billion (yes, with a “b”).
This is far more than a buttload of fish tacos and, in fact, is roughly the annual operating budget of NATO, which sort of makes one think, although not all that hard. Hawaii visitors spent on average $201 per person per day, most of this on shave ice, aloe vera and Kauai rum, not necessarily in that order.
(Interesting and possibly inciteful side note: Cheapskate visitors from Canada spent only about $176 a day, possibly because they spent inordinate amounts of time in island paradise attempting to fill quart jars and Ziploc bags full of gasoline and/or milk to take home with them.)
• The largest number of tourists arriving in Hawaii airports emanated from, duh, the U.S. West Coast — some 4.2 million* of them. In 2018 alone, those people dropped $6.6 billion! This is double the number of people arriving from any other region, namely the insufferably smug East Coast. (*Note: This represents sheer numbers of tourist visits; keep in mind that approximately 3 million of these visits might well have been repeat trips made by A) your boss; B) your boss’ boss; or, more likely, C) Russell Wilson.)
• In recent years, more than 37% of all the vacation spending in Hawaii came from the credit-card accounts of tourists spewed out of Western U.S. airports. And you are way ahead of us here: Of this group, approximately 98.6 percent deployed their selfie sticks within 12 seconds of arrival.
• Tragically, the largest single source of visitors was California, responsible for about half of the West’s GTH crowd. But nearly 600,000 Washingtonians showed up in 2018, along with 265,000 Oregonians — 264,000 of those arriving wearing ball caps bearing an embarrassing, large, yellow zero.
• Of the above group, 43% went at some point to Oahu, 35% to Maui, 17% to Hawaii (“the Big Island”), 17% to Kauai. (Yes: we know that adds up to more than 100%; habitual GTH types don’t settle for just one majestic island paradise!) Interestingly, another 0.3% reportedly spent time at a lesser-known Hawaiian destination, The Isle of Misfit Isles.
• Each month of the year, at least 300,000 U.S. West Coasties GTH, but peak travel times, by a fairly large margin, are the hottest months — June, July and August. This suggests that many GTHers, for reasons not fully understood by sociologists, prefer to go with their children.
• Half of that crowd stays in hotels, 20% in condos, 12% in rental homes. The rest skip the sheets altogether because they never get out of their rental cars while searching in vain for a free parking spot in %!@*#$ Lahaina.
For the big leap over the Pacific, the average GTH person is, unavoidably, a slave to the horror that is coach-seating U.S. commercial air travel. About 98% of Hawaii visitors arrive hunched into a stooped-pretzel shape, having flown coach on domestic airlines on seats sized for a fun-size Snicker’s bar. Another 125,000 or so folks set out from the mainland in cruise ships, and literally are never heard from again.
For many, pricey airfare is a barrier, but there are workarounds for the persistent: Instead of forking over $700 to $1,000 for a round trip from Seattle, one can save airline miles for about 18 years, at a cost of approximately $63,000, then trade those in — plus about 1,000 bucks in airport taxes and other fees — for free round-trip tickets for two!** This gift from corporate American bankers is a small miracle for the little person (you), and should make you happy simply to be alive. (**Sane/desirable travel times excluded.) Note: The typical twin-engine jet flown to Hawaii these days has a flight range of about 3,000 nautical miles — pretty close to the 2,700-mile span between Seattle and Honolulu. Don’t worry about this at all — unless the wind blows, or you have exceeded your 50-pound baggage limit by a granola bar or two.
Upon arrival in the green-obsessed, incredibly fragile ecosystem that is Hawaii, every person over the age of 12 will be issued a rental car. This is not negotiable. Just put those two massive starting fobs, connected by what appears to be a length of Weyerhaeuser-vintage choker cable, in your pocket, and feed the address of your condo into Google Maps. Off you go.
WHAT TO BRING
Sunscreen, for the love of all that is holy. And by this, we mean a Northwest-rated, industrial-strength, I-haven’t-seen-sun-since-straws-were-still-socially-acceptable version. Suggested amount: 4 liters. Suggested SPF rating: 975. You should prep by dabbing some on exposed skin several months ahead; advance to full-on slathering; and, by the time you touch down, actually begin spraying sunscreen as a flavor enhancer on most things you eat. (Legal disclaimer: DON’T DO THIS.)
Seriously, though: The average NW person should apply sunscreen to the point that it basically becomes a protective exoskeleton; once hardened, this should be removed only by a qualified professional with an industrial chisel and ball-peen hammer.
Also, take some shorts. Not too many, and not cotton ones. Just a few pairs of those synthetic go-anywhere shorts, which, while GTH, one is expected to wear everywhere from the snorkel beach to the board room — assuming the board is drinking rum, which is highly likely.
Take several dozen pairs of sunglasses, a handful of swimsuits, some flip-flops or similar sockless footwear. You’ll also need a really, really bigass sun hat. Not one that shades just your noggin and shoulders. One that, when tipped on its side near the equator, will create a temporary full eclipse of the sun across the coast of California. Wear it with pride, Mr. and Mrs. Moss.
Bring your phone, to annoy everyone you know every 30 minutes for the next 10 days, to annoy all non-GTH social media “friends” — and, frankly, to revel in pure glee as you recline on the beach and peruse tweets about sideways rain and interminable traffic delays at the Renton S-curves.
Oh: and one of those newfangled, full-face snorkel masks that actually works, but makes even the most attractive GTHer look exactly like the moon-faced Dr. Zaius in the “Planet of the Apes” movies.
That’s pretty much it.
WHAT NOT TO BRING
In-laws. Co-workers. Long pants. Medium-long pants. Short-long pants. Coppertone Deep-Rich Melanoma Tanning Butter™. Your ORCA pass. Anything that’s made of wool, looks like wool, smells like wool or might have passed within 16 nautical miles of wool. Gravy mix. Irish coffee fixin’s. Your favorite puff jacket, even for security-blanket reasons.
THINGS TO DO
Look: The main reason to GTH is to enjoy the sun. But let’s be honest: Most of us shades-of-gray aficionados, upon arriving in the tropics, are like moles dug from the deep ground and plopped into the middle of blinding sun at the White Sands National Monument.
For the average Northwesterner, “enjoying the sun” should be accomplished much in the same way one would enjoy a solar eclipse: in a controlled, sealed, air-conditioned setting, while taking in the annoyingly omnipresent orb through an apparatus equipped with several layers of darkened welding glass.
Unfortunately, some of your friends — most likely, those owning shares in skin-cancer surgical clinics — will nag you incessantly about “getting out into the sun,” and you might feel some social obligation to do so. This can be accomplished, in small doses, through deft application of muumuus and other voluminous clothing. In a pinch, you can dash outside and dip your toe in the water (warm, like bathwater; what is the actual point?) while wrapped, like a burrito, in a tablecloth from the third drawer in your beachfront condominium.
THINGS TO EAT
Fish, of course. Hawaii is a veritable piscatory buffet, with ample fresh fish available at local markets and, yes, even the neighborhood Costco, if you’re staying on the larger islands.
And of course, fruit — especially pineapples. OMG sweet, sweet pineapples. People who bite into a Hawaiian pineapple of local vintage, such as a Maui Gold, will spend weeks in therapy coping with the anger that washes over them upon realizing their entire prior pineapple life has been a big, fat lie.
Sorry to gush here, but a well-chosen Maui Gold pineapple is a life-altering explosion of sweet, tangy, liquid taste-bud sunshine. It will ruin you for any other pineapple, ever again, and cause you to sneak on to the company website from work a week after your return to investigate the cost of shipping some more this direction. (Spoiler alert: about 50 bucks for two, or $79.95, shipping included, for a box of seven. If you want to bring some home with you, as we wish we had done, check with your airline about airport inspections and rules.)
Oh: Also while GTH, you are obligated to attend a breakfast containing papayas, a comparatively bland, papaya-colored (!) fruit that, when sliced in half, reveals a pulpy central mass that looks like the fruit gods have thrown up a little.
THINGS TO DRINK
Rum. Juice. Ice. Rum. Juice. Ice. Do we need to repeat this again?
THINGS TO AVOID
Serious advice here: No matter where you stay, try to take in the nature and culture of the place and leave the human trappings — the hotel-circuit, Vegas-scale luaus come to mind. Many of the beaches in Hawaii are mind-blowing, and if you never leave them, you’ll go home with a richer soul. And the surrounding volcanic mountains and flora are unique on the planet. This is your aim. Do not stray! Well, maybe a little.
You can go all Kelly Slater and take a serious surf lesson on any Hawaiian island. You can also have more fun by picking up a boogie board at Safeway for 30 bucks and learn by watching local kids. Same sand up your shorts, either way.
That’s pretty much it, as far as your GTH initial primer. Lots of people spend lifetimes moving on from that. Most of us are lucky to make it a few times, so make the best of it.
To paraphrase our old friend, the late, great Warren Miller: If you don’t GTH this winter, you’ll only be older when you do.