Pools, Palm Trees, and the Call to Epic Adventure


I'm sitting at my new poolside table with a tub of art supplies, feeling like I'm on vacation at a resort, although it's just my house. It feels like I'm cheating to be able to do this on a Thursday afternoon.

I break out my new watercolor set by Golden and look at the view to decide what I will paint. I choose a nearby palm tree. It will be good practice for building layers from light to dark.

I start layering the glistening paint onto the wet paper, watching it bleed and create a beautiful background. As I stare at the palm tree against the backdrop of water and neighboring houses, I can hardly believe this is my life. I get to live every day in a place where people come for vacation. They dream all year of the two weeks they get to spend with the palm trees and warm weather, relaxing next to a pool. I feel so incredibly blessed.

Memories of Paradise

My background has dried a bit, and I can now start to ghost in light layers of the palm tree, starting with the middle section where the palm fronds sprout. As I paint the trunk and notice the shadowed stripes across it, I immediately remember seeing the men climb the palm trees with their bare feet.

I was a child in Hawaii with my parents at the Polynesian Cultural Center, watching a man climb a tree to get a coconut, then come down, cut it open, and show us the milk inside. He cut it into small pieces and offered the audience a taste of fresh coconut.

I was six years old, and that trip was the first time I ever flew on an airplane. As soon as I stepped into the open-air terminal, I felt the warm, humid air welcome me like a hug. I could smell the plumeria flowers and heard my mother say, "Oh! That scent! What is it? We must be in paradise where even the air smells like flowers!"

The Wonders of Waikiki

I was incredibly excited to be in Hawaii, staying in Waikiki at a big hotel with long elevator rides. Everything smelled like flowers, or coconuts, or suntan lotion. I got to wear a matching muumuu with my mother and, instead of muddy boots, flip-flops! Hawaii was so different from rainy Woodinville, Washington, and the sour, putrid smell of the paper mills.

I was somewhere exotic, a magical world of candy leis, beating drums, women shaking their hips in grass skirts, and people swimming with masks in a warm tropical ocean.

I got to snorkel and see colorful fish swarm around me, waiting for me to feed them frozen peas. Their giant lips gobbled the peas right from my hands. My dad bought my brother and me a boogie board, and we spent the entire day under the sun, catching waves and shaking sand from our suits. We ate giant hamburgers on the beach with grilled pineapples and teriyaki sauce and, of course, ice cream cones almost every day. My mother was right. This was truly paradise!

At night, I went to the little shops and bought a puka shell necklace that glowed bright white against my dark tan skin. Looking up at the friendly palm branches swaying in the gentle breeze, I felt like Brooke Shields from the movie Blue Lagoon on a wild adventure. All of my favorite movies, like The Black Stallion, and TV shows, like Gilligan's Island, took place on tropical islands.

Destiny's Call

Walking on white sand beaches, swimming in crystal blue water, watching the sun set into the ocean, and feeling the constant company of the palm trees became synonymous with the great call to adventure, and it has never left me.

All it takes is the deep, pounding rhythmic beat of a drum, and my heart is alert and ready. My head lifts, and I turn my eyes to the sky. Within me, I can hear the blast of trumpets. The revolution begins! Something just over the horizon calls me forth. It's partly greatness, partly the mystery of the unknown. It's raw and powerful, and I can't dismiss it.

It visits me unannounced through the scent of coconut, or a horse's sweat, or the kiss of a balmy breeze. Sometimes, I'm triggered by the sound of a passing moped like the ones I heard in the streets of Honolulu or Greece. Sometimes, when the evening light turns gold and casts long shadows, I feel my soul stir. I just know something bigger is happening. Something is tugging at me, calling me forth, urging me to rise.

Awakening to Adventure

This call to adventure arises from a deep-seated yearning within us for the sublime. This impulse is not just about seeking new land or the conquest of a new experience, but also about the promise of transformation—the opportunity to test our limits and refine our identities. When we encounter the exotic or unknown, even in small doses, it sparks a sense of wonder and possibility that is hardwired into our souls.

This momentary leap of the heart is a reminder of our inherent need to belong to something greater than ourselves and, ultimately, to feel alive. We ache for a disruption from the status quo and the monotony of a comfortable life. The world beyond our familiar surroundings calls to us, inviting us to engage with danger, risk, and mystery; urging us to embark on a journey that might just change who we are.

Or, even better, a journey where we find the One who calls us.

The Artistic Invitation to Greatness

As I dip my brush into the watercolor and add the final touches to my palm tree, I think about my art and what it speaks. I hope my art invites others into the adventure. I want every twinkling light to beckon you into the exciting journey of your destiny. I want it to resonate with your soul and remind you that you are a wild one and that there is profound greatness inside of you.

There is a reason you live, and it goes well beyond mere existence. You belong to the great Divine romance of the one who calls us to adventure.

Share your story in the comments below!


  • Shoshana Church

    I love seeing the pictures of you when you were little and reading your stories
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Thank you! So glad!

  • Kim Holowell

    Beautifully said Elli!! Especially the part about going beyond!! Enjoy your beautiful new home!! Peace be with you 🙏🏼
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Thank you. 😊🥰

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