By Courtney Turner
Wisdom is not a common quality. We expect wisdom from spiritual leaders like the Pope or the Dalai Lama, or from a doctor, a professor, or a yoga teacher, but we don’t usually expect wisdom from an “ordinary” person making a living.
Walter’s wise. If you ask him, he’ll probably deny it. But that’s the mark of a really wise person. They don’t force wisdom down your throat. They gently release it, the way flowers release their fragrance. They are the lilies who are not toiling in the field but being themselves, and their self-acceptance allows you to feel very comfortable in their presence. Walter is a bus driver for Valley Isle Excursions and drives to Hana several times a week. He leaves Maui rarely, if at all. You wouldn’t expect to get life lessons on a tourist trip to Hana, but that’s what Walter gives, in between sightseeing, if you’re paying attention.
Disclaimer: Valley Isle Excursions provided transportation and our wonderful tour guide, Walter, in the expectation of positive publicity.
#1 Always Keep One Eye on the Road
Life offers plenty of distractions, all the time. There are always new things to see and do. On Maui, there are rainbows and waves and surfers and cute bikinis and festivals. While we were passing the enticing waves at Ho’okipa, someone asked Walter how he managed to drive. His answer: Always keep one eye on the road. Whatever distractions life offers, you gotta keep one eye on the road.
While Hana offers ample opportunities for rugged rainforest adventures, it’s often best to let a knowledgeable expert local guide lead the way. You can take one of many Road to Hana tours and get the real feel of our island’s East side.. See the untouched beauty of one of of Hana Highway’s first waterfalls, while learning more about the area’s beautiful flora and fauna, and more. Hot tip: When taking the road to Hana, it is good to wear long sleeves and long pants at most of the stops. In doing so, you’ll avoid the need for bug spray.
#2 Family First
Sure, you can hustle to make a living, climb the career ladder, but what’s the quality of your life and of your relationships? Walter raised 6 children on a flower farm in Hana, the sleepy town where everyone knows your name. For Walter, what was important was to be with his children while they were growing up. What is still important for him is family and relationships. Even during our trip to Hana, our bus driver disappeared just after he dropped us off at Travaasa Hana. Originally, the resort planned to include him in our fancy luncheon, but we found out later, he spent time with his aunt who lives in Hana.
#3 Can We Share More?
A funny moment in our trip happened when we stopped at a waterfall, and everyone wanted Walter to take the exact same picture of the group with a different smart phone. After taking the same picture with different phones, Walter asked, can’t we just take one picture and retweet it? We all laughed. This is a bigger question than how we take photos. Does everyone have to have their own (fill in the blank)? Can we find a way to share more?
— Jill (@JillzBeanz) May 12, 2013
#4 Enjoy the Detours
Allow for lingering. Plans change, schedules go awry. We had planned to stop by the Tedeschi Winery but had lingered too long at other stops. We could be upset about missing another guidebook “must do,” but we had such a great time at the places we did visit. Walter’s says, “When you’re on the backside, time won’t matter.” The backside refers to the area south of Hana, on the way back from Hana to Ulapalakua. These are places where time doesn’t matter. You’re in the moment. There is no rush, no hurry. You’ve heard of “Just do it.” The alternative is “Just be.” You’re not in control.
#5 Make Time to “Talk Story”
The bus Walter was driving was called “Pa’a Mo’olelo” which means the sharing of meaningful story, a story that stays with you. Walter answered all sorts of questions about his life and how he grew up. He admits that he doesn’t like to eat noni, the Hawaiian medicinal superfruit that is so healthy it tastes like it’s supposed to be good for you. He talked about his dad who worked in the film industry. We teased Walter a lot, asking him if he was the worst bus driver for Valley Isle Excursions, and had to drive us for a whole day as punishment, or if he was the best bus driver so we would get a fantastic tour. Wisely, he smiled and said nothing.
Walter talked about living in Hana, a small community, where the news gets home before you do. And that was before social media.
The way Walter sees it, you can go out into the world or the world can come to you. There is more than one way to see the world. Most people think to see the world means to travel but Walter isn’t compelled to travel. He thinks he can see the world by meeting its people, the people who come to Maui.
“Living in a small community, the news gets home before you do. And that was before Facebook.” Walter, our tour bus driver #HanaTrip
— Malia Bohlin (@MauiMamala) May 8, 2013
Meeting someone like Walter is different from meeting a high powered attorney or land developer or marketing expert. Walter isn’t striving to make changes in the world, achieve new heights of success or money, or see the latest new thing. He’s being himself, accepting himself, and he gives that level of acceptance to the people he meets. It makes one question – what is success? Is success being at peace with oneself or is success trying to be something/someone else?
What we remember about people in our lives isn’t so much their achievements and the goals they’ve met, but how they make us feel. Spending a day with Walter makes one ask, “Am I the kind of person I’d want to spend time with?” “Do people feel good around me?” If you can answer those questions with a yes, you might be as wise as Walter the bus driver. And you’d be far from ordinary.