Every day this week I will be highlighting a favorite travel experience from 2010 with something I call the Lopers Awards. Today I want to share with you my favorite person I met while traveling.
It will come as no great shock to anyone that I loved vacationing on the Hawaiian island of Lana’i. What may surprise some is that my pick for the 2010 Most Interesting Person I met while traveling was on this remote island.
We had finished a gorgeous three hour horseback ride through the Lana’i highlands and were back in the Koele stables, cleaning up and guzzling bottles of water. While we were decompressing, a young guy with a slight build and gigantic cowboy hat approached with guitar in hand and asked if we’d like to hear a song. This was Jesse Taylor, one of the two wranglers at Koele and as I would soon learn, a real life singing cowboy.
We all sat on the porch of the stable house and listened as Jesse serenaded the group with a song befitting of any major recording artist, except he had written it himself. I spoke with Jesse afterwards and quickly learned that there was much more to this modern day cowboy than first meets the eye.
Jesse is 23 years old and hails from Arlington, Washington, a small logging/dairy farm town in the western part of the state. His mother was named after a Johnny Cash song and his dad is a songwriter and team roper, so Jesse’s emergence as a singing cowboy may have been a foregone conclusion.
A couple of years ago, he was traveling around the country, playing music and living out of his truck when he had a chance encounter in Montana. He was playing music in a tiny town when a stable manager noticed him and asked Jesse is he wanted to ride horses and play music in Hawaii. He thought it was a joke at first, but two weeks later he found himself on a plane heading towards Hawaii.
If you ask Jesse if he considers himself to be a cowboy, he would quickly say that he is a rodeo cowboy and not a true paniolo. The western spirit is alive and well in many parts of the country, and Hawaii is no exception. There is a proud history of ranching and riding in Hawaii and while Jesse is a new-comer to the islands, he is immensely proud of their tradition and his role in helping to keep it alive going into the 21st century.
Lana’i draws a lot of people for a variety of reasons. Some want to get away from the world, others want to discover more about it. Jesse definitely isn’t running away from anything and for him Lana’i has been a great experience, but probably not a long term one. His heart is with his music and because of that he will undoubtedly find himself in Nashville, forming a band and selling his music.
He’s not a get-rich-quick kind of guy though, he deeply believes in the power of music and what that power can do for others. Jesse is a true musician that simply loves to play and hopes that his music will give comfort to people as they experience their own tough times.
I wasn’t expecting to meet someone like Jesse Taylor on Lana’i, but I’m glad I did. He showed me a different side of the island I didn’t realize existed and helped me understand that the reasons why tourists love to visit are the same that motivate people to call it their home.