I was scrolling through Instagram, zoning out on life itself, when it hit me. 

Like a bus, I was overcome with wanderlust— “a strong, irresistible impulse to rove or travel about.” 

Some call it being bit by the travel bug.  No matter what label you strap it to, for me, the end result was irrefutable: I had to pack my bags and go somewhere… Somewhere breathtaking, and beautiful.  And… I had to go fast.

Blame it on pretty woman Julia Roberts and her role in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.  She says, “I just want to marvel at something.”  And everything inside of me agrees wholeheartedly, I remember thinking to myself, “By all means, by golly, I too must marvel!”

There’s something magical about getting out of dodge and exploring the exotic unfamiliar.  The food.  The people.  The culture.  It almost doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you’re somewhere and that somewhere is new.

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This wanderlust I felt back then, is one I still feel today.  Both then and now, it’s calling me — drawing me to discover some rather remarkable locales along the way.  We’re talking iconic travel destinations like Waikiki, Hawai’i; Telluride, Colorado; and Puerto Peñasco, Mexico; to name a few.

Wanderlust- “a strong, irresistible impulse to rove or travel about.”

In one form or another, these picturesque places have helped to satisfy my wanderer’s need for adventure and to shake hands with the unknown. 

While each of the above-listed cities has played a key role in shaping the brave, open-minded traveler and woman I am today, I’d like to discuss one in particular, that’s near and dear to my heart: the stupendous beach city, Waikiki.  My coming to the realization that travel to certain cities has helped to define my ‘me’, begs one conclusion that I feel compelled — nay, obligated — to share: This insatiable wanderlust is not only natural — it’s necessary. 

Here’s how my desire to travel (and my willingness to follow it) will only bring you good:

Everyone has a story

The best part?  You get to write your own.  This one’s mine.

Aloha, I’m Stephanie.  But, you can call me Steph.  The truth is, my name’s not all that important to this tale.  That said, if ever you plan to travel to any of the six (very different) Hawaiian Islands, what I’m about to share is that the ‘locals only’ stigma is all hype.

There has been much lively discussion over the years on what it means to be a ‘local’ vs. a non-local vs. a ‘local haole’ or a hapa haole in Hawai’i. 

Oftentimes, those who participate in this conversation seem to assume that to be a local is to be non-white only.  Yet, I’m white and consider myself a local.  I’m a local haole.  More specifically, a hapa haole, or person of mixed Caucasian (“haole”) ancestry — the offspring of Caucasian and Hawaiian parents (my mom’s half Hawaiian/half Chinese, and my father—Caucasian). 

Let me explain: The term ‘local haole’ may seem like an oxymoron because the word ‘haole’ quite literally means a white person of foreign origin, in both the Pukui and Elbert’s Hawaiian Dictionary.

So, how can a foreigner be a local?… And, why would this matter to a Wyomingite with zero Hawaiian lineage and plans to travel to Hawai’i on vacay? 

Let’s take a quick sidestep to help explain the gravity of these questions.

Money matters influence change

Caucasians make up approximately 77 percent of the population here on the mainland, or the continental U.S.  They are the vast majority.  For me, memories of childhood and adolescent discrimination on Oahu are real.

Oahu is home to the state capital, Honolulu, Waikiki Beach — an iconic surf spot and tourist dining and night life area, as well as the historic WWII Pearl Harbor site.  It’s also the island where my mom and dad met and fell in love, and where my older sister Krystal and I were born. 

Although native to the islands, and with ancient Hawaiian lineage that can easily be traced, I don’t look the part of a traditional ‘local’.  In fact, despite being hapa, I look explicitly haole.  Because of this, I experienced anger and humiliation at a young age when my friends and I were kicked off of a beach near my home for appearing too white.

Odd ke kenaka out

As a teen, I was again ostracized for what was likely my non-local appearance: When I went set out to hunt for my first summer job. 

It wasn’t until my aunty, a former Miss. Oahu and Miss. Waikiki scholarship pageant champion, and a local-looking, well-known Hawaiian local, accompanied me on my search that I began to receive employment offers… some from the same businesses that had denied me unaccompanied just a day earlier. 

But, things have changed on the islands since the days of my youth.  In the past two decades alone, the bullying and racism in Hawai’i, once a staple on Hawaiian beaches (and in Hawaiian surf culture in particular) for the most part, are dead. 

In my experience, and the shared experiences of friends and colleagues of mine who have traveled to Waikiki, other Hawai’i cities, and popular tourist attractions located on any of the six Hawaiian Islands, there’s an overwhelming understanding amongst locals (of every form) that tourism helps support the local economy. 

Millions of mainland Americans travel to Hawai’i each year.  Each year, tourism is successfully supporting approximately 200,000 jobs statewide for residents who depend on Hawaii’s No. 1 industry.  As a result, Hawaiians are gradually becoming more and more accepting of their eastward Pacific neighbors. 

Additionally (although slightly off topic), far greater problems exist that are prevalent to the areas in and around Waikiki including drug use and abuse, and homelessness.   

So… back to the original question at hand: How can a foreigner be a local?… And, why would this matter to a Wyomingite with zero Hawaiian lineage and plans to travel to Hawai’i on vacay? 

I believe the answer is this: Who cares?!  How you or I self-identify is up to us alone.  How others view us, on an island or otherwise, is up to them.  We can only control how we allow how others view us to affect us.  And that, my friends, is as beautiful a conclusion as any.   

If you feel compelled to travel — do it!  I’m of the opinion doing so will likely do you good.  And, I highly recommend Waikiki. 

 

Ma Kekepania Lyn Mew for 82717

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