Ahhhhh… The sweet smell of Maui air. The door to the 767-300 had only been open a few moments, and my nostrils knew I was home.

I had spent the past week in Los Angeles, mostly on business, but also taking time to visit with family and friends. There were continual reminders of why I had moved to the Aloha State (massive traffic congestion, questionable air quality, dry air and a skyline of buildings), and reminders of what I miss (fully-stocked camera stores, In-n-Out Burger, and well maintained roads).

When you live in the most remote land mass in the world, you tend to appreciate and miss the little things, like selection of product and good Mexican food.

I spent the good part of a day “trolling” through Samy’s Camera, one of the largest camera stores in the Los Angeles area. I walked the aisles, trying not to drool on myself as I looked at lenses, mounds of camera bags, accessories for every need and photo toys of every type.

Then I decided to torture myself with a visit to Fry’s Electronics. There were hard drives for half the cost compared to Maui prices; monitors in every size and resolution; tons of lap tops and a plethora of tablets. I could smell my MasterCard melting in my wallet.

I don’t journey to the mainland as much as I used to. The majority of my travel is inter-island, shooting gigs upon gigs of images. But once in a while, getting “off-island” is a good thing. I get to relive what it’s like to dwell and interact in a big city. I can easily get “stuff” – the George Carlin term for all the useless junk we accumulate in our lives – I might need (or might not if that’s the case), grab a taco from El Cholo, or see Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bentlys roam the streets of Hollywood like it’s an ordinary thing (which it is).

But it also makes me appreciate the land I call home: There are no billboards, minimal air pollution (only vog from Kilauea when the Kona winds pick up, or when HC&S burns a cane field), no real traffic jams and we’re surrounded by beautiful scenery. Plus I don’t have to wear shoes and socks – slippahs are the official footwear of the Islands!

I already have a few trips to Big America planned for next year: I’ll be packing my bags in April, when I’ll be in Palm Springs for their 2012 Photo Festival, and we’re looking into doing a workshop in the spring. August might find me at the Monterey Historics with a side trip to Lake Tahoe for the annual Wooden Boat show.

Wherever I go, there’ll be a camera slung on my shoulder and a camera pack on my back. Images of Hawaii may be my business, but I love capturing beauty around me, no matter where I am. I remember a workshop I took with Dewitt Jones many years ago. He challenged us to capture the extraordinary in the ordinary, to open our minds and let creativity flow. It’s a challenge I respond to every day, wherever I am. And if I can get a good chile relleno too, that’s certainly a bonus!