“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. 

Aloha!

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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.

Aloha!

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