Life Lessons Learned from Kayaking

View at the Kaneohe Sandbar
Kayak view at the Kaneohe Sandbar

Since I moved to Hawaii, I have really pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried to be more adventurous. It’s so crucial to make the most of my time here and enjoy all the amazing activities the island has to offer. I’ve become a fan of snorkeling and hiking, and have also tried stand up paddle-boarding, swimming with dolphins, riding a submarine, and even got into a shark cage. Last August, time finally came to try kayaking, which is something I had been excited for since it’s a huge local favorite. A friend of mine from work had some extra kayaks and luckily they’re the kind you pedal with your legs rather than paddle with your arms, making them much easier to operate. I knew the day would be lots of fun. Little did I know that, that Saturday we kayaked out to the Kaneohe Bay sandbars would teach me some major life lessons I needed to learn.

My initial reaction to the kayak was that it was a little awkward learning to balance on it and not topple over, but me and my friend did well for our first time and were really enjoying it. We pedaled out to the first sandbar, which took over an hour since we were going against the current and the winds. It was a lot farther than we ever imagined when seeing it from land. When we finally got there, we were so delighted. The views were absolutely gorgeous! I had a waterproof box I bought just for this occasion, and in it were my phone and a small wallet. While waiting for my friend to dock my kayak, I took out my phone to take pics of the beautiful scenery and of course some selfies. As I reached over to put the phone back in the box, I leaned just a bit too much while a wave hit me. My kayak capsized, flipping upside down and knocking me, my phone, and my wallet into the ocean at about 20-30 feet deep.

At first, I kind of panicked because I was trapped under the kayak for a few moments, but thankfully I was able to escape and get back to the surface. I was hoping and praying I had closed the box just in time to save my stuff, but the kayak was too heavy to flip back over to check. Finally, some guy in a small sailboat came over to help me flip it back around and of course everything was gone, including my snorkel gear set which was bungeed down to the kayak, which surprised me and just added insult to injury. I remember frantically swimming around trying to see if I could find anything floating on the surface, but the current was so strong and it was wearing me out. My friend who was still upright in her kayak was moving around and looking, but couldn’t find anything either. I remember just trying not to imagine the sharks I knew frequented in this area. Finally, my other friend came to rescue me and pull me and the kayak onto the sandbar.

I was devastated – not because I flipped over, because thank God I was okay and all that happened to me is I got wet and exhausted. But I was devastated because I just lost my entire life – my phone and my wallet with my state ID, Maryland driver’s license, and military ID, as well as my bank card, credit cards, and all my gift cards. I felt so defeated. To make matters worse, I scraped the hell out of my foot on some sharp coral around the sandbar and then since I was underwater and my sunscreen washed off, I ended up getting the worst sunburn I’ve ever had on my face. But like everyone kept reminding me, it could have been a lot worse. my friend said she was just happy I didn’t pass out, which could have led to drowning. Freak accidents where people die from stuff like this happen all the time here and are constantly reported on the news. So I felt really thankful.

I will admit this had me pretty depressed at first. I spent the next few days getting new IDs, cancelling cards, phoneless while I waited for my replacement phone to be delivered, and getting my life back in order. However, when I met with my friend and life coach yesterday, she reminded me that everything happens for a reason, and asked me to list the lessons I learned from this unfortunate incident. It made me realize a lot and put things into perspective. So I’d like to share the four main things I actually gained from what originally appeared to be such a great loss.


1)     I have some amazing friends. It’s easy to feel kind of isolated and lonely at times when you’re so far away from home. But on this day, the 5 people I was with were so good to me and had my back. One friend bought me dinner afterwards, and the other loaned me cash and ordered me a new phone. Plus they were all very concerned and comforting. I can’t imagine how much worse this would have went if I was not surrounded by great people who genuinely cared and were willing to help, and for that I am truly grateful.

2)     Material things can be replaced. Yes, it cost me $175 to replace my phone, $50 to order a new snorkel set, plus the cost of all the gift cards I’ll never be able to replace. But that monetary value plus the effort it took to get everything replaced could never compare even slightly to the value of my life and my safety. I beat myself up over this since I have never, ever lost my wallet or phone before. But life mover on and everything was soon back in order for me. What seemed initially like my world had ended actually wasn’t even that big of a deal in retrospect. I got to see what really matters.

3)     Life without my phone for three days was actually quite liberating. It made me realize just how glued to my phone and addicted I really am, and that living in the moment is so much more important. I was so much more productive, slept better, and spent time cleaning, watching movies, reading, and resting. Being connected to the world via smartphones is SO distracting and I never truly understood how much until that situation when I had no choice but to disconnect.

4)     Living in the moment is always better. I should have never had those items with me to begin with. While I thought I was being smart by not leaving my valuables in the car, it was actually a mistake in hindsight. Yes, the pictures probably would have been gorgeous and made great memories, but do I really need to always capture every moment? Aside from posting pics on social media, taking photos has always been important to me because I am a very sentimental person and I love to look back on old pics and reminisce on old memories later on. But honestly, being present and enjoying the experience is what really matters. Had I not been taking pictures, none of that would have happened. It really proved how living in the moment makes life more simple and enjoyable, and can possibly prevent accidents like these since you’re more present and aware.


So all in all, what initially seemed like a disaster turned out to be a life-changing and eye-opening experience for me. As I continue to study certain spiritual concepts like mindfulness and living with intention, lessons like this reinforce the need to be grateful for the lessons life brings me. I do not normally share when I have drama or go through a tough situation, but I wanted to post this because it is proof that you really can see the positive in any situation. Something that seems like it couldn’t be worse can always serves a purpose in teaching you many lessons. This is an awesome example that I will never forget. And guess what? I would (and will) do it again! Besides this unfortunate circumstance, kayaking was a great time and a lot of fun. Next time will be a totally different and a better experience with these positive lessons learned.


  1. Wow be careful and glad you turn the negative
    into positive! Hear you are going to Korea!
    Can’t wait to hear about your trip!

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