Now, my bad experience had nothing to do with the island itself. Maui is a beautiful place, with lots of fun things to do. However, the last time I went there, at age 15, various independent circumstances made me long desperately for my home and my friends.
We went to Maui in the middle of December. I was looking forward to stretching out on the beach and maybe flirting with a couple boys in swim trunks on the sand. Unfortunately, there were very few people my age at our resort. It was mostly old people and a small spattering of college-aged students. However, this alone would not have been enough to dampen my spirits. I love the ocean, and I was happy to just enjoy the surf on my own.
I was there with my family, including parents, grandparents, an aunt and two uncles, my siblings, and my cousins. I was the oldest of the kids, the closest to my age being my brother at 12 years old. As a result, I got stuck babysitting almost the entire trip. My parents and older relatives would go off to enjoy pina coladas, while I tried to keep my sister from ripping out my cousin’s hair. It wasn’t so bad during the day, when everyone was around the pool or on the beach enjoying themselves. But at night I got to sit in a hotel room with the kids, waiting for a bunch of drunken adults to stagger back from wherever they went. Not exactly the best time. So, for those of you who bring your children along with you on vacation, remember that they deserve to have fun just as much as you do. If you’re going to participate in activities they can’t join in on, at least make sure that they have something more than the television to entertain themselves.
However, babysitting wasn’t even the worst of my time in Maui. I was barely 15 (by a month), and had only started developing the summer before. I had experienced a dramatic change in a matter of months, going from a scrawny 8th grader marked as a nerd, to a developed 9th grader that confused the boys at school. Thoroughly unfamiliar with my body, I was unprepared for the reaction I got from men around the resort. I was up to my ears in sexual harassment, without the confidence or know-how for dealing with it. Resort workers stopped what they were doing when I walked by to wolf-whistle and catcall. One guy bothered me the whole time I was there. He whispered to me “where are you going tonight?” when I passed him near the pool. Later he found me on the beach and, pausing to look me up and down, asked me how old I was. I stammered an answer, and luckily my young age seemed to deter him.
Convincing myself I was being paranoid, I started to play again with my cousin. Immersed in the complicated movements of the clap game, I didn’t even notice that the man had sat by me again until he, most certainly, put his hand beneath my butt. I gasped and stood up, at which point he jammed his foot between my legs.
“We’re getting out, NOW!” I screamed, and luckily my charge obeyed. When my family came back later, I told them what happened. My mom immediately turned into mama-bear, and looked ready to rip that guy apart. Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be seen, and I never saw him again.
Nowadays, after dealing with this sort of thing for years, I would know exactly how to deal with it. I am no longer timid or afraid, but at the time I had no idea how to respond to such treatment. If you travel with teenage girls, especially in a place where they’ll be wearing bathing suits a lot, be sure to keep an eye on them. A grown woman doesn’t need chaperoning, but young teenagers may not know how to handle the situation. Like me, they might even be too embarrassed to admit it was happening until it had gone too far.
I guess the point of this post is mostly as a warning for people who travel with others. Always be mindful of the experience of your travel partners, whether it’s your friend, your husband or wife, or your children. Don’t assume that just because they aren’t complaining audibly, that they’re actually having a good time. Find ways that everyone can enjoy the beautiful destinations you’re visiting. I hope to return to Maui someday, so I can replace my sad memories with happy ones, and enjoy the splendor of Hawaii with my own agenda and confidence.
Have you ever had a vacation that turned out more of a pain than a pleasure? How do you handle harassment like I experienced? How do you balance adult enjoyment with enjoyment for children? Let me know about your experiences in the comments!