I arrive at Honolulu airport and, on my way to the luggage carousel, I spot a gentleman in a chauffeur’s suit holding a sign with my name on it.
He greets me in traditional island aloha style and places a lei of fragrant tuberose and orchids over my head. He tells me he’s there to take me to my hotel, and leads me out through the VIP route to a big black limo, where he holds the door open for me.
“You don’t need to wait for your luggage,” he says. “We’ll drive up front and I’ll pick it up for you.” As we drive through the milling crowds in front of the airport entrance, I see people glancing at us curiously to see if they can recognize the VIP in the car. I feel like I’m in a dream.
That was just the beginning of this five-day, all-expenses-paid trip, and as I’m dropped off at my five-star-plus luxury hotel located directly on Waikiki Beach, I realize that this VIP treatment is going to continue.
The itinerary includes a whirlwind of being wined and dined at some of Honolulu’s top restaurants, including a tasting menu with some of the best sashimi and sake I’ve ever tasted (and the chocolate peanut bombe dessert was to die for), at an award winning restaurant run by an Iron Chef.
This has definitely been on my bucket list, and, I discover yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch as a travel writer.
But wait, there’s more. There were the gifts that were lavished on me—things like Kona coffee, Hawaiian honey, and different finishing salts, which I learn are big in Hawaiian cooking—so many gifts I had to buy a new bag to carry them back home.
And there was no shortage of activities—a yoga festival, surf lessons, stand-up paddle boarding, ziplining, spa treatments—you get the picture. Activities that most people on vacation might do one or two of, but I got to enjoy them all free of charge.
The free trips haven’t stopped there though. I was recently invited to join a nine-day hike in Japan on the Kumano Kodo UNESCO World Heritage pilgrimage trail. As I trekked along the winding misty mountain trails, surrounded by moss covered trees and meandering streams, I was able to experience the culture unique to this area in an up close and personal way. I slept in traditional minshukus (guest houses) on futons on tatami mat floors and bathed in natural hot springs at every stop along the way.
One night the accommodation was a Buddhist monastery. How cool is that? And I didn’t pay a dime for this once in a lifetime adventure either.
What’s next, you might be wondering? Well, I’m thinking an Icelandic cruise to see the Northern Lights, or maybe a trip to Israel to visit Jerusalem and swim in the Dead Sea. I’ve discovered that with travel writing the possibilities are endless.
Image: ©iStock.com/Kenneth Wiedemann
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