I just had to share another photo collage and appropriate caption from my wise-beyond-her-years cousin, Briana. At her young age, she’s in no danger of leading a life not worth living on account of not adventuring beyond her boundaries. Briana embodies the “Wanderfull” spirit and utilizes it to explore all that her home of Hawaii has to offer….from the gorgeous scenery that surrounds her to trying new and unique foods as she continues her journey. She’s truly an inspiration!
I preface this post with a brief explanation of this post’s title for those who may not be familiar with the meaning of “Kama’aina,” which literally means “child of the land” and typically refers to residents of the Hawaiian Islands.
My cousin Briana and I have never lived closer than about 4200 miles apart, but the “wandering gene” we seem to share must have been passed along the generations to reach each of our respective branches of the family tree. Briana, however, has clearly learned some lessons at a much earlier age than her significantly older cousin. I’m continually impressed by how Briana has displayed such an intense appreciation of the beauty of her surroundings and has made a point to take advantage of the splendor that Hawaii has to offer. Yes, it’s true that Hawaii has more to offer in terms of glorious vistas and engaging activities than my home town of Milwaukee, or say, Cedar Rapids or Wichita (no disparagement intended toward any of these fine towns). But there are so many people who live amidst spectacular beauty, who neither appreciate, nor take the time to stop and smell, the proverbial roses.
It took me quite a while to realize that it is way too easy to take our surroundings for granted, whether it’s something as grandiose as Hawaii’s magnificent landscape, a peaceful little lake with crisp reflections of the surrounding forest in central Wisconsin, or a stately Royal Palm tree serenely waving in the ocean breeze along Fort Lauderdale Beach near where I live. I’ve driven past all of these sights and sites without giving any of them a second glance. Shame on me. Now to right this wrong, I try to make a concerted effort to look at the world around me with new eyes and also ensure that I don’t only encounter these little treasures by happenstance, although these accidental findings are special in their own right. Like my cousin, I strive to seek them out and enjoy these priceless, yet free, riches to their fullest.
Briana’s caption to the photo above – “Not all who wander are lost” – resonates profoundly with me as it so simply and eloquently summarizes my travel philosophy. My heartfelt belief is that with wandering, the possibility of discovering something of value is so much greater than the danger of finding yourself lost.
I’m thankful for my cousin’s generosity of sharing her photos with me, and I very much look forward to continuing to follow my cousin’s travels throughout her home, as she explores and experiences Hawaii as a Kama’aina Wanderer.
I love photography and wish I had more time to dedicate to learning how to become a better technical photographer. For the time being, I do the best I can with my mediocre skills, camera and lenses. But, I’ve learned that an eye for aesthetically pleasing composition, a fancy camera and high end lenses are most definitely not requisite for capturing special travel moments on film (or really, the digital equivalent).
Some of my favorite photos from my travels aren’t of beautiful scenery or spectacular buildings I’ve beheld, but rather many of my favorite trip pictures capture a feeling, random silliness, a facial expression or an unusual finding during my vacations shared with loved ones and friends. I do love beautiful photography of amazing sights and sites I visit, but anyone can take a pretty picture; I could buy a postcard with spectacular photography in hi-gloss hi-resolution far superior to any snapshot I could grab. However, I would look at that photo and, while appreciating the beauty, still be left cold.
Yet, when I look back at photos I’ve personally taken, whether they be of my son having fun hamming it up for the camera, of some peculiar sign we happened past or of some other fashion of a random moment that was too special not to capture for posterity, my heart is warmed with the fond memories of the travel time shared with my son, friends and family in a way that an aesthetically pleasing photo can’t possibly evoke. Remember – those moments are fleeting. Do what you can to freeze them in time and hold on to the special emotion those memories instill forever. I can’t remember the last time in recent history that I smiled as much as when I went digging through the droves of my photographs to dig up the pictures contained within this post. A picture really does convey MORE than a thousand words. They project so very much more than simple words could hope to express.
Looking back at my early travels, I never realized how important a decision it is to pick the “right” travel mates. As children, my brother and I were by default part of our parents’ little travel posse, which provided an amazing introduction to the world of travel and adventure. When I was engaged in my younger years, I traveled a bit with my now ex-fiance, which was a mixed bag, since parts of our travel experience were enjoyable; others, not so much, for a variety of reasons.
In more recent history, my main travel companion was my son Devan who accompanied me on a variety of domestic and international vacations. Devan spoiled me, as he was a travel buddy extraordinaire (which shouldn’t have been surprising, since he’s a son extraordinaire). After some recent travels with friends who (I learned) were not of the same travel mindset as me, I had to ask myself, “What made my son the perfect travel buddy for me?” What makes Devan such a wonderful travel companion is a conglomeration of factors. Firstly, Devan is incredibly intelligent, and, as such, his natural curiosity about the world, even from a very early age, made him interested in culture, new sights and discovering what else existed beyond the suburban microcosm of our every day lives. He loves learning, so participating as navigator and map reader was not a chore for him, since he relished the opportunity to utilize his deductive reasoning and critical thinking skills. As an example, he would often grab the transit map we were using to muddle our way through a city and make it his responsibility to determine which line, platform, etc. we needed to get to our next destination. But overall, he was always open to exploring and was never intimidated to forge ahead into the unknown on our way to our next destination or experience.
My son is also incredibly cool, calm and collected, so very little rattles him; such composure is an invaluable trait, since travel-by-fire frequently leads you to unexpected places. If things didn’t go the way we planned, he would roll with the punches and would patiently and pragmatically help me decide how to optimize whatever situation we found ourselves in. Devan, like me , is also adventurous (probably more so), so he was always game to find a new activity to try, whether it was zip lining in Ketchikan, going horseback riding down a precarious mountainside outside Las Vegas, snowmobiling along the Continental Divide, learning to ski in the Austrian Alps or sky diving to take in the view of Oahu from an altitude 12,000 feet. Devan is also multifaceted, so he not only enjoys action packed activities, he also could appreciate meandering through cities to take in the architecture, visiting the Louvre, the Prado or Accademia to experience the work of The Masters or just sitting in a public square to people watch and absorb the energy of a city, while sampling a snack from one of the local proprietors. My son is also not shy, so he was never hesitant to try out his limited German (or other language indigenous to our destination) to ask someone where the train station was or how much something cost. Devan was also ready to offer his input about what he would enjoy doing, but was also accommodating to allow me to enjoy shopping in a few more stores than he would have liked.
At risk of this post turning into an homage to my son, of which he is most certainly worthy both as son and travel buddy….. It bears stating that Devan exemplifies the epitome of what makes for in ideal travel companion, at least for me, but likely in any case. Not every travel buddy needs to be as “perfect” a fit, but there has to be a level of symbiosis to your travel styles and objectives. Thus, many considerations should be pondered in selecting travel companions, as the company you keep can profoundly affect your experience. Here are a few things that might be prudent to ponder and discuss prior to embarking with a new travel mate for the first time.
- Outline the objectives of the trip. Do you have the same goals? (e.g. seeing as many sights as possible, having plenty of time to linger and relax, trying new activities, sampling local cuisine)
- Discuss modes of transport. Do you each like to hoof it to stay active and to allow ability to roam and wander? Are you OK with various modes of public transport, such as bus, subway or train to save money and/or have the local experience, or do you prefer to take taxis for convenience?
- Define your schedules. Are you an early riser so you can maximize your exploration time? Or do you like to sleep in after a late night on the town? Do you have lots of energy to keep going from sun up until late night, or do you need to take a siesta and nap to gear up for late day sight seeing?
- Review in detail what your destination entails. Will there be tons of crowds? Is the location known for being rife with gypsies or locals who badger and bully tourists into paying for unsolicited goods or services? Does special caution need to be taken to avert the attention of pickpockets? Will you have to amble along cobblestone roads, ascend staircases or lug suitcases if transport can’t drop you at your hotel doorstep?
- Discuss interest sets. Does one of you like to visit as many churches and cathedrals as possible to see the ornate details? Is shopping and souvenir gathering top on your list? Do you love art and plan to spend as much time in museums of all varieties while you’re trekking the globe? Does it matter to you whether you take time for fine dining or do you prefer to grab a meal from a sidewalk cafe or bakery and eat on the run as you head to your next point on interest? Are sports venues a priority to work into your schedule, or are you more interested in seeing the wonders of nature?
- Set expectations. Does one of you have something specific in mind to do or as a way of doing things? Or, does one of the travel group have something specific in mind NOT to do or as a way of doing things?
Surely, there are many considerations to take into account prior to hitting the road with a friend whose travel preferences are a wild card. Sometimes, you won’t find out that your travel styles don’t mesh well until your’re a country or two into your journey. All you can do at that point is suck it up and hope your travel buddy has a willingness to compromise, or if that isn’t possible, sometimes it’s best to part ways and enjoy some wandering travels solo for a little while…..
When most people hear details about my vacation escapades, they typically tell me that they’re exhausted just hearing about all of the ground I covered during my “vacation” and that my vacation hardly sounds relaxing to them. Personally, in general, I don’t take vacations for the purpose of rest and relaxation; when I hit the road, my goal is to engage in a new adventure of some fashion and experience something new. If I wanted to lie around at the beach, I wouldn’t have to do much more than hop in my car, head about 20 minutes to the east, park my car at the beach and park myself on the sand. I’m certainly not disparaging the virtues of a mellow beach vacation, and I’ve on occasion been known to enjoy some time here and there while in a tropical location to sit under an umbrella sipping a Mai Tai or caipirinha, enjoying the view and the soothing ocean sounds.
However, there are so many things to do and see that sitting or lying around for too long makes me feel like I’m missing out on something. What’s great about an active vacation is also the fact that it helps compensate for lax eating habits while away from the daily routine. When traveling, I love sampling local fare…oftentimes, much more of it than I should. But, it’s difficult to pass up an amazing bakery in Paris, a renowned gelato shop in Florence, a neighborhood tapas and sangria stop in Madrid or the opportunity to sample all of the desserts on the menu du jour on a cruise ship, just because you can. Despite previous shave ice tours throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the like, I never gain weight on vacation (or at least to date, I have not packed on the pounds) on account of my calorie burning endeavors, and believe me, some serious calories need to be burned to compensate.
I’ve been ambitious at times and packed along workout clothes on trips, having good intentions to work out in a cruise ship or hotel gym or catch a short morning run. On occasion, I’ve even put said workout wardrobe to use when schedules have allowed. Other times, I’ve realized in advance that time and/or logistics would not allow for dedicated exercise time; and in some situations, suitcase space just hasn’t been available for superfluous wardrobe changes.
While I’ve not always had the delusion that I’d take the time to engage in a real workout, I have always managed to figure out ways to keep myself moving and the calories burning. The first rule of thumb is the simplest: walk as much as possible. Most cultures, other than that of the U.S., involve lots and lots of walking. In part, it’s because Americans can be lazy, but, in defense of my countrymen, the United States is just so sprawling that if you don’t work in a downtown area, walking in between modes of public transport is simply not a realistic option. Pounding the pavement while on vacation not only allows you to work off some of your vacation caloric intake, it also offers opportunity to mosey in and out of buildings you come across, down a side alley and just otherwise be exposed to sights, stores and such that you’d miss if in a train, bus, subway, car or other vehicle.
On cruise vacations, shipboard time is often spent in competitive eating activities; at least, it more often than not seems that way. Since food is omnipresent and far too accessible on board, to me, it’s even more imperative to ensure that something is done to counteract the effects of food-in-the-face syndrome. Much to the chagrin of my son and other travel mates, my self-imposed shipboard rule is never to take an elevator, unless absolutely necessary, which typically is defined as when I’m hauling a gargantuan suitcase which is impractical (or impossible) to lug up multiple staircases. I’ve always informed my travel mates of this tenet up front and let them know they are under no obligation to adhere to my personally imposed commandment; though, they frequently seem to feel under duress to climb stairwells with me. My cruise ship elevator rule not only serves to provide a form of exercise, but also keeps me from getting frustrated watching fellow cruisers utilize the elevators to go one floor up or one floor down, such that the elevator frequently stops on each and every floor from top to bottom. No wonder there are so many obese people in the world….well, that and the midnight chocolate buffet, amongst other things…. But, I digress….
And yes, there is always the option for the mundane to keep up the exercise routine. It’s simple to do a few calisthenics…sit ups, pushups, squats and the like while in your hotel room. But, how much more interesting and FUN is it to climb 768 steps to the steeple top of Ulm Minster, hike just under a mile to the peak of Diamond Head at Waikiki, ascend 1350 steps to catch the spectacular view from Sveti Ivan Fortress overlooking Kotor’s harbor or even the measly 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris?
Vacation destinations offer endless options for active things to do beyond the usual walking, climbing stairs and hiking. Why not rent a kayak, go horseback riding (even though the horse does the majority of the work), surf (just paddling out to catch a wave can be a workout in and of itself!), paddle board, ski, snorkel or take a traditional dance class with the locals (OK, I’ve not actually tried that one yet)? Trying one new activity can be an amazing supplement to hitting the pavement (or cobblestones) between points of interest. It’s so easy to rack up the mileage wandering the streets of vacation towns, and it affords endless opportunity to randomly encounter nuances of each destination that quick and expedient modes of transport would have caused you to otherwise miss. So…..wander, roam, explore and burn enough calories that you can justify that extra scoop of gelato!
“Hawaii Again!?!?!!?” was my brother’s and my exclamatory response to my parents when they informed us as small children that our upcoming trip would be to Hawaii. Their reasonable (somewhat lighthearted) reply was, “You ungrateful little brats!” or something to that effect. One might ask, who in their right minds would ever utter the words “Hawaii again!?!?” with such dismay and chagrin. Apparently, a couple of kids (right minds being debatable) who had been there quite a few times at a very young age and who had a hard time sitting next to each other for approximately 10 hours of air travel without World War 3 erupting.
Looking back, I find it extremely difficult to fathom ever having felt going to Hawaii to be a hardship of any fashion. Not only is Hawaii spectacularly beautiful, but my brother and I are fortunate to (seemingly) be related to the good majority of the inhabitants of Oahu. Our amazing Ohana (family) in Hawaii is reason enough to go there are often as time and finances allow. Being that my son has always been quite a bit more diplomatic (and probably appreciative) than my brother and I were regarding our youthful travels, he never complained about my having “dragged” him to Hawaii three times in a six year time span. We were able to attend our family reunion during Devan’s second and third visits, and despite our family’s numerous trips to Hawaii over the years, these visits were the only ones when I was able to attend our huge Ohana gatherings. Being surrounded by so many of our relatives in one place (between 300-500 of them according to some counts!) at the reunions made me realize how much I’ve missed growing up so far away from my mom’s home state.
Since I love visiting and experiencing new places and activities, getting back to Hawaii is not easy to manage, since it’s neither a close nor inexpensive place to visit. While our trips to Hawaii are more about family than tourism, I do try to factor in an element of playing tourist while there and also to incorporate some new things along with the typical “things to do in Hawaii.” For me, certain things and sites are “must do” during a stay in Hawaii. I can’t imagine not taking my son surfing on Waikiki, climbing Diamond Head or having a Mai Tai and Hula Pie at Duke’s while in Honolulu. Matsumoto’s, Baldwin’s, Uncle Clay’s, Kokonuts and Ice Garden are all on my long “must visit” list for shave ice when I’m in Hawaii; Shimazu’s is on my “must visit practically daily” list when on Oahu, since my day is not complete without a red velvet shave ice from this glorious little store.
But, since I do love expanding my scope of experience, I try to be sure that each visit to Hawaii (and elsewhere) always includes a new place to visit or activity I’ve not yet tried. I’ve managed to find some places to visit that my mom had never seen, despite the fact that she lived in Hawaii for the first 18 years of her life and the fact she’s visited numerous times over the years. While my mom hasn’t always physically participated in some of the more “outdoorsy” things my son and I have done, she’s been along to share the experience with us. My son even took my mom out for a paddle board ride on Waikiki during our last visit; even though “Nanny” was just a passenger on my son’s board, she enjoyed the ride – and would never have “paddle boarded” if not for Devan playing gondolier for her. She was all smiles during and after the ride, which proved my theory that new experiences some of the things that make life richer and more rewarding.
Flying in a helicopter over the Nā Pali coast, hiking to see Manoa Falls, seeing the “moonscape” view from atop Haleakalā National Park, wandering through the sugar cane trails to find the commotion at Kipu Falls, riding horses and taking a tour of movie sets at Kualoa Ranch are just a handful of inclusions during our wanderings throughout the Hawaiian Islands in addition to the more standard sites of Waikiki, The Road to Hana, Blow Hole, Hanauma Bay, Volcanoes National Park, North Shore, International Marketplace and too many other old favorites to mention.
While it may not be as easy to find new things to do during each subsequent trip, we always manage to add something to our visit’s repertoire to keep things interesting. During our most recent visit back to Oahu in 2013, my son and I saw fit to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, courtesy of Skydive Hawaii off of Farrington Highway. That jump literally gave us both an entirely new perspective of the island…one from an altitude of approximately 12,000 feet! I don’t know when we’ll be able to make the trek back “home” (while I never lived there, Hawaii does feel like home during each and every visit on account of our warm and welcoming Ohana making us feel as though we belong) again, but I can’t imagine, should opportunity arise, that the words “Hawaii again!?!?!” would ever again flicker between the neurons bouncing around my grey matter.
….in my humble opinion, should never be the question insofar as travel is concerned. Even if you don’t suffer from my personal malady of chronic OCD tendencies (yes, those who personally know me are undoubtedly shocked by this revelation), I can’t imagine a travel scenario in which lacking at the very least a general game plan would prove beneficial.
Careful planning, or the lack thereof, verily can make or break one’s travel experience. This fact became evident to me back in 2007 when sitting on the balcony of our cabin aboard NCL’s Pride of America with my mom. An experience survey was left in each cabin toward the end of the cruise, and we could hear the occupants of the balcony adjacent recite boisterously as to how they were completing their survey: “NCL’s Pride of America leaves America NOTHING to be proud of!” Setting aside that unhappy cruiser’s use of a dangling modifier, much to Winston Churchill’s chagrin, my mom and I wondered, despite their being in the cabin next door, if those people were truly on the same cruise we were. We pondered at the thought of how our experience cruising from island to island and enjoying the sounds (the ocean, birds, music at a luau in Lahaina), smells (fresh beach air, blooming gardenias, juicy pineapples) and sights (too many to name) of each port stop could have differed so vastly from that of our fellow cruisers next door.
We then could overhear in bits and pieces myriad complaints about the cruise line excursions they took on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. I’ve personally always shied away from cruise line excursions, both because of the inflated cost and because traveling in a herd of 50 on and off of a bus to see one or two points of interest on a time schedule determined to suit the masses never appealed to me. Our next door neighbors likely booked their cruise without putting any forethought into what they would do upon the port stops in Kahului, Nawiliwili and Kona and ended up booking NCL excursions out of sheer ignorance of what they could have done, had they done just a bit of preplanning prior to their arrival in Honolulu.
With a differing strategy from our miserable shipmates next door, I had booked rental vans in each of the ports to share with my son, mom and her husband, and my brother and his wife. With the rental, we made our way along the itinerary I had predetermined on each island, with the ability to stray from the original plan as we came across unexpected places that piqued our interest, such as Kipu Falls and Hanapepe in Kauai which were a bit off of the beaten path and were only known to us as my son and I befriended a young Marine en route back to Kauai from Camp Lejeune. We not only learned of these little gems from our new friend, my son also received an impromptu ukulele lesson as we all awaited our delayed flight from Atlanta.
The rental van allowed our group to split up as necessary when my brother and his wife tired and opted to retire to the ship early while the rest of us sought out a botanical garden to address my mother’s love of the local flora. We were able to amble at our own pace along the predestined route, making alterations to the plan as we saw fit.
It brought me immeasurable pleasure to have the opportunity to play tour guide to my own Hawaii native mother who spent her first 18 years of life solely on Oahu, yet never had the means or occasion to experience most of what the Islands had to offer. I’ll never forget my mom’s raving about the Blue Hawaiian helicopter tour which took us to Waialeale, notorious as the wettest place on earth, and along the Napali Coast to see the lava flow, and how that was a highlight of her visit back home (apart from seeing the Ohana, of course).
To this day, I’m saddened by our fellow cruisers’ poor experience during a cruise that possessed unlimited potential to satisfy and surpass their travel expectations had they planned properly to see Haleakala Crater, the Road to Hana, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Volcanoes National Park, Iao Valley, Waimea Canyon, the Napali Coast or any of the other numerous amazing sights we had opportunity to experience together as a family, solely by virtue of the fact that a wee bit of enjoyable planning had been a precursor to our ship setting sail from Honolulu.