Nobody drives convertibles in Ukraine. I mean, somebody does, but you don’t see them on the street every day.
It wasn’t until me and Dasha moved to California that I started seeing cars with their top down all the time. I used to only see convertibles in Hollywood movies, and now suddenly it feels like every second car you see is a convertible.
Of course, Southern California has the perfect weather for this type of car. It’s always warm and sunny, and you put the top down, and drive along the coast, and you blast music, and let the wind play with your hair, and anytime you look up you see the clear blue sky and the tall skinny palm trees – this is the real California dreamin’!
We moved to Los Angeles in April of 2017. I absolutely love traveling, I’ve been to more than 20 countries, but I never had a chance to explore the US until then. There were so many places in this country that had been sitting on my bucket list, but they were too far away, and all the hassle with getting visas, and flights with 3 layovers…
But now I can easily get there!
Hawaii was definitely at the top of my list. And so once we settled, I quickly booked a 7-day trip to Maui for me and Dasha – it was gonna happen a few months later, in October.
I didn’t want to simply stay at the hotel – I wanted to see the whole island.
I put probably a hundred pins on Google Maps with all the places I wanted to visit, so of course we needed a car.
Once I started looking at the rental cars in Maui, I quickly realized that the cheapest and easiest car to rent on the island was a Ford Mustang convertible.
“Awesome! I’ll have a chance to drive a convertible – how cool is that!”
The car is booked, and so are the three different AirBnBs – we are ready to go.
October cannot come soon enough, but finally, it’s time for us to get on a plane.
We land in Maui, get our luggage, and head to the car rental place. Shortly after, we walk outside to the parking lot, and I am proudly holding the keys to my first ever convertible in my hand.
Here she is – waiting for us – a beautiful bright orange Mustang.
I put the luggage in the trunk, install the booster seat for Dasha. I get in the driver’s seat, turn on the engine, and of course, I immediately put the top down.
“Wow, mom, this is so cool!” – Dasha shares my excitement
“Yeah I know!”
I can’t stop smiling – it’s going to be an amazing trip. I set the navigation to our first stop – an AirBnB in the mountainous part of the island.
And then we drove away from the parking lot…
Now, here is something important you need to know.
I never had a car in Ukraine. I simply didn’t need it –I would use public transport to get everywhere. I did go to the driver’s school and got my driver’s license back in 2010, but honestly I had no idea what I was doing, and to this day it amazes me that I actually passed my exam – I was driving stick and I got so stressed and so afraid of the examiner that I stalled my car.
So, basically although I had my driver’s license, I didn’t think I would ever use it.
Until I moved to the US.
I knew I would need a car in California – there was just no way around it. And so about a month before we moved, I took an express 3-week driving course – thank god this time it was an automatic transmission, so it was much easier.
And so before our Hawaii trip, I had about 6 months of driving experience, with probably the last 3 months without people honking at me all the time.
Alright, so when me and Dasha are leaving the parking lot on Maui, I am still pretty new to driving.
As soon as we exit the parking lot, something starts beeping, and some red icon begins to blink on the dashboard.
“Hummm, what can it be?” – I ask myself.
To continue the story, listen…
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My only guess is that it’s the parking brake.
But I am driving? And I was taught that the parking brake is used to STOP the car. So the car won’t move if the parking brake is on, right??
So, what can it be?
I continue to drive for another 5 minutes or so, and it keeps beeping and keeps blinking… And then it gets worse – I begin to smell something – like something is burning.
“Oh this is NOT good. What do I do?” – my thoughts start rushing.
I have no idea what is happening. We already drove far from the rental place, and I don’t know if I can make it all the way back. And something is definitely burning in the car!
I need help, and I need it NOW.
We stop at the red light, and it is the moment of truth – I have to get out of the car and ask someone for help.
Oh my god this is so embarrassing. But I have no choice.
While the light is still red, I get out of the car and run to the car behind us praying that it’s going to be some normal adequate person and that they’ll be willing to help me.
The driver of the car behind me is a guy in his 30’s, he looks nice and not scary, and so I take a deep breath and say,
“I am so sorry, but I need your help. Something is wrong with my car, and I don’t know what it is – can you please help me?”
“Okay, sure, let’s see” – he says. He gets out of his car and runs to my car together with me. In the meantime, the light turns green, and I feel absolutely terrible because now I am completely blocking traffic.
As soon as my savior sees the dashboard, he says, “You have your parking brake on.”
He gets in the driver’s seat and turns it off, “Now you are good to go!”
“Thank you so much!”
I get back in my orange Mustang convertible that has its top down.
I feel SO embarrassed. I want to sink through the ground.
“This guy must be thinking that I am one of those stupid tourists that come to their island, rent those cars and don’t even know how to drive. Ugh I can’t believe how stupid I am!”
For the next 30 minutes, I continued to beat myself up as we drove to our first AirBnB.
I booked this cottage for us for the first three nights because it’s relatively close to the Haleakala summit – tomorrow we have a very early start to drive to the summit and watch the sunrise from there – that’s one of the highlights of our trip!
This cottage is also supposed to be simply gorgeous – at least according to the photos. It’s a part of a very pretty estate surrounded by tropical gardens, and the ocean views from there should be amazing.
But none of that makes me feel any better – I still feel like a complete idiot.
As we approach our destination, the scenery changes – we have climbed quite a bit in elevation, the road got windy, and it now weaves through the forest. After another turn, we stopped at the gate – we made it to the estate.
We get out of the car, I grab our suitcase from the trunk, and then I see two people approaching us – a couple, likely in their 40’s or 50’s.
I quickly figure that it’s the owners of this estate.
They come and greet us. They both seem like very lovely people, and they get very curious about our trip and about who we are.
“May I ask where you are from?”, the woman asks.
“Oh yeah, my accent. We are from Ukraine, me and my 5-year-old daughter, her name is Dasha, moved to California 6 months ago”
“And what brought you to Maui?”
“It’s our vacation, we are going to spend the whole week here exploring the island!”
“Oh wow, good for you! Your parents must be very proud of you.”
“Oh thank you, why do you say so?”
“Well look at you – you moved to another country, you did it alone with a kid, and you made it all the way here, to Hawaii! You look like a very successful woman! If my daughter had done something like this, I would be very proud of her!”
“Oh that is so nice of you to say, thank you!”
“Of course, you are welcome! Let us show you your room – we hope you’ll love it!”
Her husband helps us with our luggage, and they take us to our cottage. As we walk, I cannot stop looking around – these gardens are so beautiful! And the views of the ocean are breathtaking!
They show us everything in our room, and then say, “Please feel free to let us know if you need anything at all – we live right there in the main house.”
They leave, and I stand on the patio soaking in the views of the gardens and the ocean.
And I feel really, really good.
It’s so funny – I felt so embarrassed, so stupid just 30 minutes ago. And now all those feelings are gone. Now I feel strong and proud. Of who I am, and what I have accomplished in life.
And that, how do you call it, situation that we had earlier? Well, now I have a good new story to laugh about!