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.
“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.