“Tourist” vs “Traveler”: How to Travel and Grow

It is interesting being a traveler when I live in one of the most tourism-based places in the world.

Hawaii is famous all over the world and hailed as a place full of culture, sunshine, and good times. I have grown up being surrounded by tourism, working to serve tourists, and being a part of a place both reliant upon and also somewhat repulsed by its tourism status.

Living in such a tourist-centered place has given me a lot of experience in how to act as a visitor in my travels. The words “tourist” and “traveler” are often juxtaposed, and I abide by this somewhat unspoken rule of phrasing as well. To me, a tourist is someone who visits a place for the typical sites, who expects to be served, and who comes to see a place, not to interact with it or learn from it. A traveler is a seeker of inspiration and information, who visits a place to become a part of it or to grow from the experience. Due to my experience with tourists, I have always strived to be a traveler, and I have worked to amend my travel habits as much as I can to fit the role. Here are some of my personal goals as a traveler when visiting a place, so as not to come across as a (rude) tourist:

Be aware: This includes being aware of how your culture may not be the same as the one you are visiting and making an effort to be flexible and understanding of those around you, especially those who live in that place.

Be willing to learn: Do not come to a place expecting to know it all. Be open to learning the language, culture, and aspects of day-to-day living. (My number one suggestion, especially for those looking to come to Hawaii, is to at least attempt to learn how to pronounce some words in the local language. It goes a long way to show respect for the place and the people.)

Put your privilege away: No matter where you go, there are people there just living their lives, just like everywhere else. Their neighborhood or city is not your theme park, and people there do not exist to serve you. In most tourist-heavy places, many local people are essentially forced into the tourism industry due to a lack of other work. Respect that, and be aware that your travels may make up a week or two of your life, but these people need to live and work here every day.

Give back: This is something that I always work to improve on in my travels. I feel that you should always leave a place better than how you found it, even if it is in some small, unnoticed way. This can be done through anything, like volunteering, to giving a service worker an extra tip or a smile. Or my favorite, asking everyone that I can how their day is going, and genuinely listening to what they have to say. You can do so much for someone just by showing that you care.

Always try something new: This is more of a personal self-improvement goal, but I think that it plays a role in how you interact with the world around you as a traveler. Whether it’s a language, food, or cultural custom, making the effort to partake in the culture and place around you is a key to being a traveler, rather than just a tourist.

Exploring the world should be fun and accessible for everyone. It is not my intention to shame anyone who may have a different method of traveling than I do, but I do feel that it is important to provide information and ideas for tourists and travelers as someone who has been both a visitor as well as on the other end of the tourism industry. 


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The Interim: Hilo, Hawaii

This is my first time writing since I arrived “home” in Hilo, Hawaii.

This is the part of travel that many travel writers don’t discuss— the end, the interim between one dream chasing mission and another, the period of stasis interrupting adventures.

I personally do not deal with this period of time very well.
As a person who loves travel, trying new things, hearing many languages, meeting new people, and learning about architecture, art, history, and other cultures, living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is far, far less than ideal.

The place that I come from may appear to people passing through as a beautiful, small sea side town— but appearances come with a price. A fraction of the reality is this:

It has a terrible education system, a sky-high crime rate (for such a small place), is lacking in opportunities of any kind (good luck finding a good job or starting a career), has absolutely nothing to do, is “cheap” but still has a disproportionate cost of living, and is constantly hailed as a great place to live with literally no evidence of such a thing being true. So when you tell people that it is not the right place for you, they insist that maybe you are not trying hard enough to be happy or need to just “think more positively”.

That being said, I can honestly say that the threat of lava, hurricanes, and tsunamis is the least stressful thing about living here.

There is always a reality behind every place that you visit. There are always people living their every day lives there— working their jobs, tending to their families, and just trying to stay afloat. I think that many tourists tend to overlook this. There is no such thing as paradise.

One of the only things I appreciate about this place is that it taught me so much about how necessary it is to grow, how much I actually love my family (I never, ever would have come back if I didn’t), and how to conduct myself as a person in the world (mainly through examples of how NOT to be, as seen through locals and tourists here).

So here is to the travelers whose flight feathers have been temporarily plucked, those who need time to regrow their wings or refill their wallets.

I’m there with you.


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Maui, Hawaii: Returning “Home”

Home means a lot of different things to different people.
We all come from somewhere that in our heart of hearts is the source of our origin, whether that be where we were born, raised, or took that deep sigh and thought “this is it, this is where I belong”.

I find a little bit of home everywhere, in areas scattered across the globe.
I was born on the island of Maui, in Hawaii.
I was raised on the Big Island of Hawaii (otherwise known as Hawaii Island).
I found myself at home in the hillsides of Ireland, in a small beach town in Italy, and again in a little village in Germany.

And of course, I leave a little sliver of my heart in every place that I visit— a bit more in some places than others.

It seems fitting that after months of seeing new places and leaving bits of my heart behind, I would find myself returning to the place that I was born. To many people, the place that I come from is paradise— white sand beaches, palm trees, exotic flowers, and kind people, on a land secluded from the rest of the world. On some level, it is comprised of these things, and does hold a magic that you cannot find anywhere else in the world, but as is always the case, there is far more to a place than what you may see on post cards and television shows. There is a reality that escapes the attention of most people, even those who find themselves here.

Over the next few weeks I will give a deeper look into Hawaii as it really is. For now, I am sitting on a lanai overlooking the Pacific Ocean , watching palm trees sway in the breeze, hearing the waves crash, and smelling the sweet scent of a plumeria tree in the near distance. For the first time in a long time, I am feeling just a little of the magic that I haven’t felt in so long. I want to thank all of the people that I met on my travels that made me see the magic of their own lives, and made me realize that maybe I have some of that magic to share as well.


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Miami Beach: Sunshine and Changed Minds

I think that every traveler has a bucket list of must-visit places humming in the back of their mind at all times. With each trip, the goal becomes to visit as many of those places as they can, and to see as many of the sights as possible. Greece, Scotland, Portugal, and Morocco are still at the very top of my list of places to see, though sometimes— as was my case— decisions have to be made and some places have to be shelved for “next time”. That being said, you may also find yourself in completely unexpected places for infinite reasons— I’m referring mainly to Germany on this one. I have yet to set foot anywhere in the world— outside of my home state— that didn’t feel like a wonderful adventure, but I’ve also been rather selective in deciding where to visit.

Now I am in Florida, literally the last place on Earth that I ever expected to be. I actually made quite a point during one period of my life not to come to Florida, ironically enough. Coming from a tropical climate myself, I didn’t see the appeal of humid days, brightly dressed crowds, and skyscrapers blocking once pristine views of the sea. I built an image in my head of what Florida would be, and nearly missed out on a wonderful opportunity to visit a place brimming with culture, fantastic food, and a history much more vast than I previously imagined. Don’t get me wrong, Florida is full of skyscrapers, brightly dressed tourists, and its fair share of humidity, but the reality is so much more colorful and exciting than that. I am thankful to be spending my time here with family, and if it wasn’t for them, I likely never would have set foot in this state at all. I’m realizing now that would have been a shame.

Though I’m not making my way to Disney World or Key West (this time!), I have found myself in the Miami Beach area (thanks to my wonderful family for having me, of course) and I think that is more than enough for a first timer.

Some of the things that strike me most about Miami Beach:

The colors! Miami has not let the Art Deco era die. Some of the various flamingo pink buildings can come across as a bit much, but hey, at least it’s a city that knows itself and isn’t afraid to undeniably Miami.

The beach! I’m an ocean lover, and could never see myself living anywhere too far from the sea for very long. The long, white sand beaches may be a little less magical due to the fact that they are partially man made, but a sunset looks just as beautiful from any beach in the world to me.

The cultures! I was somehow not prepared for the international flare of Miami. It makes complete sense of course, as it serves as a sort of gateway between North America, South America, and parts of Europe. I can walk into a grocery store and see holiday posters with the Star of David, buy a magazine in Spanish, visit a bookstore and find a selection of books in foreign languages, or can say “Hello”, “Hallo”, “Ciao”, or “Hola” and be greeted with a smile.

The food! One of my favorite things about virtually every place I visit will inevitably be the food. The blend of Cuban, Caribbean, other Latin foods, as well as more “new wave” options— like vegan food— and everything else in between allows anyone to find something that they will enjoy. (I tried fried plantains for the first time and am upset that I have been missing out on this for all my life.)

Of course, like any place, Miami has its problems. Like many other tourist or luxury driven economies, Miami thrives on a particular subset of people and industries. This can make every day living difficult for people in “off season” times, or when there are other patterns of change that cause instability. Florida also suffers from the simple issue that it is part of a nation that is undergoing great— and sometimes terrifying— social, economic, and cultural changes as a whole, all of which have a trickle down effect to the every day people living in cities like these. (Florida is a “red” state in spite of the multicultural atmosphere of some of its cities, which is a whole other conversation.)

Of course as a visitor, Miami is not particularly affordable. It has an air of luxury, pride, and vanity that isn’t necessarily rooted in a bad place, but does set a certain image and draws in a particular group of people. If you’re like me— living life on a shoestring— it may not be a super welcoming city, at least to your wallet. That being said, if you have a need to live in America with a desire to travel internationally, and perhaps with an affinity for sunshine, a fast paced life, and spicy food, Miami isn’t a terrible place to look.

If I have learned anything from my time in Miami it is that you can find beauty and excitement anywhere. I have at times heard travelers say “I have no interest in ever going there” or “It’s not really my scene”— yes, by this I mainly mean me— but Miami has been the city to convince me that maybe there really is something amazing to find in every little corner of our big, beautiful world. So thank you Miami, for the family time, the sunshine, the fried plantains, and the epiphanies.

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Things To Know Before Going Abroad

When visiting a foreign country, you realize how many elements of everyday life we take for granted, how many social situations we navigate without thinking, and how easy it can be to become lost— in speech and in the streets.

I decided to dedicate this post to the things that I believe are most important to know (or attempt to learn) before entering a foreign country:

Visa information— I suppose this should be obvious to some degree, but there are more rules and conditions involved (depending on your country of origin) than I realized. As an American citizen, you can travel in what is referred to as the Schengen Zone, which is made up of 26 European countries, for three months on a tourist visa (for which you only need a valid U.S passport with more than six months left before the expiration date).

Basic Vocabulary— This is written by someone who only speaks one language— English— so hear me out. I think it is important to know some basic key words for the sake of politeness and saving yourself the hassle of navigating even the simplest of interactions. My go-to words to learn are:
— Yes
— No
— Please
— Thank You
— I’m sorry (or Pardon Me)
— I don’t speak _____ (insert language of country here)
— Do you speak _____ (insert your language here, in my case, “English” of course)

Communication Cues— You quickly realize when communicating with someone who doesn’t speak your language that body language goes a long way. Gestures are a large part of human communication, but can be misread depending on where you find yourself in the world. You don’t want to find yourself having accidentally offended someone by making a gesture, and you don’t want to take anything too seriously without knowing the context. The same actually applies to people who may know your language as a second language. Sometimes words do not hold the same meaning when coming from an individual who hasn’t grown into the social constructs around the language.

Restaurant Etiquette and Vocabulary— This is a very specific subset of knowledge that I wish I had put more time into learning before traveling. You really never realize how little you know about a language in a foreign country until you are hungry and sit down at a restaurant, only to realize that you cannot read a single thing on the menu. (So bonus points go out there to restaurants that have pictures of their food on their menus, you’ve provided me a lot of delicious meals and some peace of mind.) Also, tipping is not a matter to be overlooked. In countries like America, a 15% tip is expected, but while staying in Northern Italy, I was repeatedly told that a tip makes up no specific percentage of the bill, it is more like “whatever pocket change you have”. So it’s worth looking in to, to save yourself some money and not come off looking like a dumb, unthankful tourist.

A General Itinerary— I am a person who likes to know where I am going, about 90% of the time. The other 10% wants spontaneous adventures in unknown places. So I compromise by making a list of places I want to see, and also preparing myself not to see all of them. Also, an app for maps— like maps.me— will always be a life saver, especially for those of us who can’t afford a crazy expensive international data plan.

There are some of my top suggestions for things to know before going abroad. I am sure that there are many, many more that will come to me, which will probably make their way to this blog eventually, but for now, there it is!



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100 Days Abroad: An Ode to the Good Moments

The day after I post this will be my 100th day abroad.

That’s one hundred days of exploring, seeing new places, meeting new people, working, laughing, eating great food, and being free. I have stayed in six countries (not including my day trips to Switzerland and Austria, which are more than worth a mention!), three of which I had never seen before, and now I am on the last leg of my trip.

I am writing this from Barcelona, and in about a week I will be preparing to head back to America, and then more specifically back “home”. It feels like I am preparing to undergo a test of faith and personal strength.

It’s difficult not to begin to focus on the negatives. That is why I wanted to dedicate this post to some of my favorite moments that I’ve experienced abroad.

Meeting so many wonderful people in Ireland and being given a true Irish welcome (and breakfast!)

Staring over the Cliffs of Moher in awe

Castles, so many castles (and possibly meeting a ghost in one of them)

The many teas

Meeting a seal in the harbor at Skerries, Ireland

Spending time with a dear friend in Ipswich, England (and trying a chia bowl for the first time)

Sitting in the sunshine in the park with said friend and enjoying an ice cream punctuated by talk about the workings of the universe

Arriving in Italy in one piece after my first international plane ride solo

Attending a mushroom festival in the mountains of Liguria and having a sudden lightning storm turn out all the lights while people cheered and sang

Meeting so many kind people at the B&B named Bella Vita in Bracco

Cooking lunch and dinner with my Work Away host and having a good laugh at my knife cutting skills

Spending every other day on the warm Italian beaches (and shell hunting there)

Gelato, all the (café) gelato

Making the daily morning espresso (and nearly burning it way too many times)

Meeting my fellow Work Away volunteers and becoming such good friends

Making pizza together

Arriving in Germany after a terrible twelve hour bus ride and getting to fall asleep safe and warm

Spending time in Germany with some of my best friends and really feeling at home

Picking fresh apples off of the tree

Meeting a willow tree for the first time

Taking a cable car up the mountain in Austria

Walking along Lake Constance (in Germany and Austria)

Making apple bread (more specifically making it look like a dinosaur)

Going to a medieval festival

Carving pumpkins

Visiting the Rhine Falls in Switzerland

Meeting monkeys

Visiting the medieval town of Perouges

Visiting more beautiful castles

Seeing the view over Lyon

Arriving in Barcelona and being greeted by Sagrada Familia

All the spicy food in Spain (how I missed spicy food!)

The massive outdoor markets

The experience of helping teach others how to speak English

There were so many more moments, and there are sure to be more before I touch back down at “home”, but these have been some of the highlights of the last 100 days that have made me thankful again and again for deciding to take this trip.

Thank you to any of you who decided to follow me on this journey so far. More adventures are still to come, even if I don’t know what they are yet.



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I am known for having a fragile heart.
Traveling has only made it more obvious.

Travel gives you so many experiences that sometimes it feels like your heart may burst from all the things you’ve seen, and all the things that are left to see and do. The further you travel, the more you realize how much further there is to go.

I often wish that I could leave a piece of myself in every place that I’ve stayed and loved, so that I’d never have to truly leave. Sometimes it feels like every place I visit hollows out a little space in me that can never be filled in any other way than by returning.

As I’m preparing to leave Germany, even with a wonderful adventure ahead of me, I find a part of my heart melded in the most unexpected of places.

I suppose it is just a hazard of traveling with an open, fragile heart.


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Traveling is something that many people long to do, but the act of traveling alone is often stigmatized and looked upon with with either awe or concern.

The idea of traveling alone first came to me only a couple of years ago, when a dear friend of mine decided to travel solo and then study abroad. At this time I was completing my first trip abroad in the company of friends (which was a huge deal for me), and the idea that I could experience the world alone had somehow never occurred to me before. As the next couple of years passed and the wanderlust grew, I realized that none of the people in my life were in a position to undergo extensive travel, and it became all I could think about. Then another friend of mine embarked on a long term solo trip through Asia and worked by teaching English online. That’s when the doubt in me vanished and was replaced with determination.

I began the trip with my partner in Ireland, and when it was time to bid him a farewell back home while I began my solo adventures I broke down into enough tears to catch the pitying eyes of nearly everyone in a fifteen foot radius. All the worry and fear that I had pushed down until that moment came flooding out of me (it also didn’t help that we had to wake up at 4:00 am and I was running on less than five hours of sleep, if I’m being honest). He jumped on a plane bound for home and I jumped on a ferry and began to set out into the world alone.

As a naturally introverted person, I relished the thought of having no one but myself to rely on and entertain. So much of my life had been defined by the roles that I played around others, and now I was in a position where no one knew me and no one had any requirements of me except myself. Whether cuddled up in my hostel bed or walking down a busy street, I was free to exist just for myself. It was liberating.

Of course, this wasn’t the entirety of the solo travel experience. At a hostel in Bath I shared a bundle of grapes with a lovely woman from France as we talked about travel and teaching opportunities. In the crowds in the London Underground I noticed a child waving at me and returned the gesture. I was approached by a dog and struck up a conversation in very broken Italian and English on a beach in Sestri Levante. I greeted dozens of people from all over the world at a Bed and Breakfast in Bracco and formed potential lifelong friendships. I learned that this was really the experience of traveling solo.

Everyone’s experiences are different, but for me, travel is largely about creating connections with other people; people you would never meet otherwise, people you can learn from, people you can come to care for. The truth is, on my solo travels across Europe, I have never really been alone. I have shared cramped hostel spaces with others, worked with strangers who would become friends, and have been graciously invited to stay with multiple people. I have had moments of feeling alone, but these have been infrequent and short-lived.

For a while I was trepidatious about the connections I was building. I had felt a sort of comfort in my complete anonymity, but I soon realized that though my connections with people in the past had often brought me a sort of confinement, it now also opened so many doors and provided me with a sense of safety and happiness that I didn’t even know I needed or wanted.

So my input to those thinking about traveling solo is this: There may be times when you are alone, but those will become wonderful learning moments in which you get to know yourself and the world more intimately. The rest of the time, you really won’t be alone at all— even if it’s just a smile from a person walking by or a conversation with someone about local go-to spots at the bar. The world can be a scary place, and yes, there’s a lot of bad in it, but I have learned that the majority of people that you will run into as a traveler have open hearts. I have been absolutely inspired by the kindness and compassion of those I’ve met abroad as well as those back home during this trip.

My spot of advice for those traveling solo: You know that feeling that you may get when you realize that every single person has a life of their own, with all of the experiences and feelings and life that makes them an individual? I have been trying to interact with every person I cross with that thought in mind. Meeting new people is like discovering new cities; you can never know everything about them, but you’re always the better for trying to learn what you can.

Love, Ari


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Many of us get homesick, but some of us get distance-sick, aching for adventure and a fast track to the horizon. The worst two years of my life were between periods of travel. Granted, there were many elements that went into making that period of my life absolutely unbearable, but chief among them was the sense of loss that I felt when returning “home” from an amazing adventure. I had opened doors, collected experiences, and breathed deeply for the first time, and then when I landed back home it seemed like all I got to keep were the knick-knacks and memories. That wasn’t enough for me.

I began to experience that overwhelming feeling of wanderlust, bordering on sickness. When I have been abroad, including now, I have never for one second missed my “home”— just my friends and loved ones, of course— but the feeling of missing the rest of the world was inescapable for the entire two years that I spent trapped back in the place of my birth.

On my quest to cure my distance-sickness, I had to change a lot. I had to let go and reanalyze my ideas of what my future would look like, how I would maintain relationships, how I would practice my spirituality, how and what I would eat, how to manage my illnesses, what my personal values were, and my entire lifestyle. I went from a very depressed, sedentary individual who ate primarily meat, lived with her partner, who used a lot of props in her spirituality and who had way too much stuff (like way too much), to a much more mentally sound, slightly more active person who is at least attempting vegetarianism, is temporarily nomadic, and is living (mostly through necessity) a rather minimalist lifestyle.

These were all goals that I had at one point or another, but felt too overwhelmed to attempt when I was “home”. It was through following my truest desires that I was able to come to a place where growth in other aspects of my life was possible.

When you can come to a place within yourself where you accept that the things you deeply desire are more often than not a sign of what you really should be pursuing, life becomes a lot less complicated and a lot more enjoyable. You can choose to cure the sickness of want that you’re experiencing if you can trust yourself enough to know what you need. Maybe this all sounds obvious to most people, but it took me an awfully long time to accept these things and an even longer time to put them into practice.

The cure for my poisonous life was simple— leaving it behind, prioritizing my mental health and wellbeing over societal norms, and finding myself among people and places that make me feel alive. Maybe it’s not always that simple, but it’s always worth trying.

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When I left my life behind, I knew that some part of me was doing it in the hopes of finding something. I wasn’t just running away, I was running towards something— though at the time I couldn’t have told you what it was. I just knew that it was “out there”.

For most of my life, I felt that I did not belong, a feeling accompanied by a hollowness and a sense of longing that I could never quite understand. There was some connection I longed to make with the world around me, some search for meaning that had to be undertaken, and I became convinced that I had to leave my life behind to find it.

When I began my travels alone, I felt outside of things, completely separate from the world around me. I doubted myself, and reasoned that maybe I was searching for something that did not exist— that place where I belonged and happiness didn’t feel like such a struggle.

Then my search took me to a place called Bella Vita, a Bed and Breakfast near the Italian seaside. Through Work Away, I worked there as a volunteer, and in return I was given food, a place to sleep, and the opportunity to meet dozens of new people, while sharing the beautiful sunshine and sights with those passing through. I planned to stay for two weeks and then make my way into the unknown to continue my search.

It is difficult to put into words how the next five weeks at Bella Vita changed me. I unpacked my bags and my expectations and just began living a new life. I worked in the mornings, lounged in the afternoons, and enjoyed home cooked meals and the company of pleasant strangers in the evenings.

I learned how quickly strangers can become friends, and how easily my heart can break when they go away.

I learned that honest work, friends, sunshine, delicious food, and the sea really can bring the greatest happiness.

I learned not to hold too tightly to any schedule because life has a plan and 9/10 times it’s going to overrule yours.

I learned that there will always be moments when I feel the emptiness.

Most importantly, I learned that what I had been looking for was “home”, and it could never be found just in a place or a person.

I felt it a dozen times while I was at Bella Vita—

At dinner while watching the sunset with a new but dear friend.

Looking out over the sea and enjoying the silence with a companion.

Walking alone and encountering flowers and trees I had never seen before.

Driving on the crazy Italian mountain roads with the sunshine and wind in my hair while listening to music on the radio.

Eating gelato so good I was surprised every time I reached the bottom of the cone.

Laughing with a friend over my poor knife cutting skills while trying to prepare a meal together.

Using homemade Italian language flash cards at a public dinner with my coworkers and listening in to the many conversations around us with smiles on our faces and food in our bellies.

Drinking cups of Earl Grey tea in the late afternoons with a friend and enjoying the dying light outside the window.

Taking a nap with the neighborhood canine companion in the middle of a warm, sunny afternoon.

It was moments like these when I felt like I had found what I’d been searching for, and I had to accept that they were only moments. Moments with amazing people, in breath-taking places, and moments that I had to let go to truly enjoy. If I tried to hold too tightly to them, they began to only make me sad because they were over. So in this way I learned that it really is living life in the moment and accepting the end of things that allowed me to find what I had been looking for.

After many conversations, sunsets, shell hunting expeditions, delicious dinners, laughs, goodbyes, and minor heartbreaks, it was time for me to leave Italy. Getting on the train and saying farewell to two people so close to my heart felt like a betrayal to myself and my happiness. But I got on the train and waved so long, and allowed it all to become  a beautiful memory.

No matter what other adventures I may have, I will never forget my time at Bella Vita— so aptly named “Beautiful Life”— because it was here that I came to accept how beautiful life really can be.

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