Before my recent trip to Hawaii, I wrote a brief post about the importance of the trip to me personally. The trip was one that I had wanted to make for a very long time and, over the course of my lifetime, I had constructed an image of Hawaii that I knew would be very hard for the islands to fulfill. More than just meet my expectations though, they far exceeded them.
My first experience with Hawaii was at a common starting place, Waikiki. I was a little disillusioned at first as we passed Kate Spade and Ferrari stores on the way to the hotel. Hardly the laid back island feel I had been anticipating. Even
though I was confined to a veritable Vegas of the Pacific for a week, I came to appreciate the tourist beach for what it was, a tropical playground. Amidst the concrete jungle of Honolulu though are many special moments, such as the sunrise over Diamond Head, surfers trekking around town and the quiet brilliance of watching the sunset on the beach.
Luckily, I was also able to visit the strange little island of Lanai, the smallest of the Hawaiian islands. If you are looking for a slower pace and a more realistic look at island life, Lanai is the place for you. With more deer than people, Lanai is very much a product of its pineapple plantation past and the fact that 98% of the entire island is owned by one man adds a certain sense of tropical Orwellianism that was totally unexpected.
I spent a lot of time looking at pretty vistas on my trip thinking about what makes Hawaii appealing to so many different kinds of people from around the world. It would be too easy to simply say that the natural beauty is the only reason; there are too many other gorgeous places around the world to make this completely true. Rather, Hawaii and other Pacific islands have captured the hearts and imaginations of people since they were first “discovered” by Western society. When Cook first stepped off the HMS Resolution and onto the fine sandy beaches of these islands, he inadvertently provided the answer to a question that plagues modern man: how to escape the quotidian. Hawaii offers the opportunity to abandon all that is normal and regular in one’s life and to adopt not only a different way of life, but mindset as well.
Life on the islands is more forgiving, things are slower and the perceived pressure is less than most of us encounter on a daily basis. Whether these statements are true or not does not matter. It is the concept of escaping to the pure exotic that has motivated people from around the world to discover these magical islands, the chance to be far away.
I also discovered an odd class of citizen in the islands - expats in their own country. These are individuals who left the traditional 9-5 lifestyle in order to find a new way of life. Usually we find these individuals peppered around the globe, from Cancun to Bangkok. In Hawaii, however, I found the same entrepreneurial spirit and sense of dissatisfaction with the traditional American rat race as I have observed in remote corners of the world. Rather than sneak off to Bali to live out their lives, they found the same sense of escapism in a U.S. state, something one does not see often. It is this feeling of being in a totally unique time and place that ultimately makes Hawaii so appealing.
Although it took me 34 years to first visit Hawaii, the spell has been cast and I know I will be returning as soon as possible. While these snapshots can in no way capture the true spirit of the islands, they at least can offer a glimpse. Enjoy and Mahalo!