There’s a story behind this pineapple…

This is me.

This is me.

This is me.


I’m a bit shy, I listen to lectures for fun, and often have my nose buried in my laptop. I wouldn’t say I’m a nerd … but you can.


Then why over the past two years have I chosen this gregarious image to represent me on social media?


You'll find this girl on Twitter and the rest of them.

You’ll find this girl on Twitter and the rest of them.


Well, there’s a story behind this pineapple.


Turning back the clock


A few years ago, before Follow Ben and Jenna, there were merely two travel-obsessed people who were each a bit dubious of ever finding a partner who could keep up. But then a computer told Ben, who was over in Asia, that he should reach out to a girl in Miami Beach (me) because we just might hit it off.


After hitting it off for six months, we finally met in the neutral ground of Austin, Texas. After that, there was only one thing to do: test the extent of our respective travel bugs and compatibility by lining up trip after trip after trip.


And there we were…


On the night in question, Ben and I were in Hawaii. It was our first overseas, multi-week trip.


Hawaii is special to me. I lived there from age 8 to age 16 and there are many sweet aspects of island life that remain in your system no matter how far you roam. Things like enjoying the moment, and not worrying too much about tomorrow. Though perhaps we took it just a bit too far that night….


This is the idyllic place where I grew up, with a view of Waikiki. It is now a park.

This is the idyllic place where I grew up, with a view of Waikiki. It is now a park.


Over an afternoon mai tai or two we arrived at the kind of single-minded clarity that can only come from a potent mixture of various rums. It was obvious that somebody needed to conduct the daunting but vitally important task of determining which mai tai from the outdoor beach bars of the Waikiki strip was actually the very best.


And it might as well be us.


And there we were, the next day


If you’re curious about the winner of the mai tai contest, I’ve linked to them at the end of this post. For the record, we remember each and every mai tai … sort of.


However, this post is not a mai tai review, nor does it deal with inebriated mischief in Waikiki (the prize for that last one would go to my dad, who as a young sailor famously tried to cut down a banyan tree – a banyan tree with 15 feet of multiple trunks – with a pocket knife. But that’s a story for another time.)


English: Banyan tree in Bharat Vaina, Jessore,...

A banyan tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The crux of this story here is about the power of travel to bring the right people closer together.


It’s where we purposefully step outside of our comfort zone; where unexpected challenges show you the true character of the person you’re with; where strangers more easily strike up conversations and helpful people appear out of the woodwork. Travel has deepened our bond (or at least accelerated its natural progression) time and time again, contrary to our earlier fears that travel works against long-term relationships. Although it might be more difficult at the onset to find someone who shares your passion, the rewards are great.


As a good friend once told Ben, “Do you really want to know if you’re compatible with this person? Take a road trip with her.”


And this, our first overseas trip, was the start of that journey together.


A case in point


During our Hawaii trip, we traveled to the island of Kauai in order to hike and camp along the famous Na Pali Trail. As it turns out, Murphy’s Law took over from there.


Hiking the steep, slippery Na Pali trail

Hiking the steep, slippery Na Pali Trail


It rained. Hard.


The campsites on the trail closed due to flooding. The trail was muddy, slippery, and arduous. I glimpsed the perfect end-of-day photo opp and made Ben backtrack on the drive to a drier, neighboring campsite, and because of that it was pitch black by the time we found a spot and started to pitch the tent. I got the heebie jeebies when a young man rode his bicycle suspiciously close to our campsite, and a few minutes later a jeep stopped and shined its lights on us fully.


Nervously, I asked Ben if we could possibly get a hotel, instead.


To backtrack a bit, the camping trip had been my big idea. Ben purchased additional supplies and carried all the camping equipment over from the mainland and then on to Kauai. He was aware of the time and had been pushing me to hurry along because it was getting late.


And when I told him I felt uncomfortable at the campsite as he kneeled on the ground, three quarters of the tent already in the air, this is what he did:


He didn’t miss a beat. Piece by piece, he broke down the tent and expertly packed it back into its case. He gave me a hug, gathered our belongings and me back into our jeep, and drove away as I began searching online for a hotel, encouraging me to splurge on a nice one nearby. He was patience and good humor incarnate, and that, my friends, is when I knew that he was someone I would be lucky to build a life with.


And to this day, when as a long-married couple we can be perfectly candid with each other, he has never once complained about that Na Pali trip.


However, he has admitted one important, missing piece.


Besides his good nature, there was another critical reason that he was so amicable that night. As it turns out, he was missing the March Madness finals on TV, and secretly wanted to shout with joy when I asked him to break down the tent.


So knowing what I know now, perhaps it should be said that good nature and good timing make for the best relationships….


Happy Valentines Day to our first true love: travel.


Jenna & Ben


The beautiful Na Pali Coast: worth it despite every raindrop.

The beautiful Na Pali Coast: worth it despite every raindrop.


The sunset photo of Hanalei Bay that delayed our trip to the campsite. Unfortunately, by the time we made it back to the lookout, the sun had already set! I know you've all got great imaginations, so please insert your own sunset here.

The sunset photo of Hanalei Bay that delayed our trip to the campsite. Unfortunately, by the time we made it back to the lookout, the colors had faded! I promise, though; they really were there. Just insert your own reds and golds, and it should be pretty close.


*Congratulations to the Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel, winner of the Follow Ben and Jenna Waikiki Mai Tai Contest, where my avatar photo was taken. No, this is not a paid plug, and yes, they deserve a shout out; their mai tais really were that yummy.

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  1. Lol, this story made me giggle. 😀 To think that after all these years, I still didn’t know the story of the pineapple avi.

  2. Your story is priceless, especially coming from someone who never thought she’d have any stories to tell! I smiled the whole time. BTW, I always knew…he was the one.

  3. As the young sailor with the pocket knife mentioned in the blog, I must admit that I had been doing my own Mai tai research that long-ago evening, and don’t remember the ultimate winner. The banyan tree was not the victim of spite.
    A terrific story, a great match, and I’m so very proud of you both.

  4. The pineapple is a fitting symbol of your love of travel. As I recall (and as you probably already know!), when seafaring captains would come home from a long ocean voyage, they’d need a few days to, ahem, decompress. The way the sailors and their families would let people know that they were ready to receive visitors was to place a pineapple on the front porch.

    It was a symbol of welcome that goes back to the Carib indians. Many old colonial houses had pineapples carved into newel posts and pillars as symbols of welcome to the community.

    Just thought I’d throw my two cents in!


    p.s. it was the OTHER dad who tried to cut down the Banyan tree. Just wanted to go on record about that, lol.

  5. Clever writing, as always, and a cute story. If you want to take a look at what Kauai looked like in the 1950s, rent the movie musical “South Pacific.” You might recognize the beach where most of it was filmed (it now attracts thousand of tourists each year). By the way, love the eye glasses!

  6. Loved your post and that extra personal “get to know me” vibe in this post! So nice to read the details of that important trip that made you realize Ben was “the one” 🙂

  7. So there’s hope for me yet? 🙂 Great story Jenna.

  8. Barbara, most especially for you! As a matter of fact, there were a few people I had specifically in my heart when I wrote this.

  9. Thanks, Annika 🙂

  10. Wendy – Haha, thanks! I resisted glasses for so long. I have a feeling that beach was Poipu …? But I guess I’ll just have to rent it to find out!

  11. Dadbus – I LOVE knowing that additional level of meaning for the pineapple! In hindsight, I could have woven it into the story. Thank you!

  12. Crash – Aww, shucks. (Lol: poor tree.)

  13. Kristen – Whenever I write “that’s a story for another time” I remember how I used to complain about not having stories 🙂

  14. Hi Hilda, giggling is good! I’m so glad. Yes, I’ve thought of changing out the pineapple pic many times, but always come back to the story behind it and can’t.

  15. The beach used in South Pacific is located more toward Hanalei and is called Lumahai’i. You can’t see it from the road (but it was visable 60 years ago!). The only parking is on the side of the road with a trail going down to the beach.

  16. Wendy – Great tip! Now I can’t wait to get back there and see it for myself.

  17. “Do you really want to know if you’re compatible with this person? Take a road trip with her.”

    Love that quote. Nice V-day post and congrats to you both.

    Also, glad Hawaii could be your first travel honeymoon.

  18. What a sweet / heartwarming / funny story! I always wondered where that pineapple came from. You can never change your avatar now. Also, I love the nerdy picture you!

  19. Jessica – Can I get away with that image when I’m 40, 50, 60…? I guess that’s the beauty of the internet, right?

  20. Jenna,

    I love this story. My husband and I are both travel enthusiasts as well. 🙂 I’m jealous you lived in Hawaii for so long. That is my dream! If we ever get back to Oahu, I will check out the Westin for that Mai Tai you speak of. Three of my favorite things about hawaii are the mai tai’s, lava flows, and hula pie. 🙂 Of course those are only three favorites on the very long list of favorites…

  21. I didn’t even know about hula pie! But the sweetness of it now has me thinking about banana pancakes with coconut syrup … heaven. Anyway, I’ll have to fill in that important hole in my dessert repertoire next time I visit 🙂 Thanks

  22. Aw – what an awesome story. Loved it!

  23. Thanks, Dee!

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