vacation reality

West Coast of Oahu
We just got back from a week in Hawaii celebrating our 10th anniversary. It was a welcome time of rest and relaxation in the midst of very busy season of life.

During out time, along with the hoards of Hawaiian visitors, we visited several popular tourist spots. Two things I noticed. First, the Hawaiian tourist industry loves to tell the stories of Hawaii - myths of gods and volcanoes, kings, and of course, hula dancers. Secondly, tourist spots are full of friendly friendly friendly employees. From tour guides, to restaurant servers, to hotel staff, “aloha” rings in your ears the minute the plane hits the tarmac.

In both cases, while I appreciated for the overall tone of positivity, I realized that life in the tourist-realm of Hawaii is more an illusion than reality. The reenacted legends are packaged with catchy tunes and bright colors, giving the impression that pre-modern island life was one big luau. And the smiling greetings can get tiresome when you get “aloha” from the same person every two minutes you walk by. In this environment, vacation ends up vacating reality. 

Yet I wouldn’t trade our week in Hawaii for anything, as I also encountered a better vacation reality. Our time to connect and refresh as a couple was invaluable. And beyond the shiny tourist culture we found our way off the beaten path a few times, catching glimpses of this better reality: reality in the beauty of the wildlife, waves, and waterfalls of this tropical wonderland - reality in some of the people (such as one local who warned us from swimming in some very dangerous waters on one of the less touristy beaches).

In case you think I’m being a bit too cynical, I should clarify: I really don’t mind being a tourist, so long as I keep my experience in perspective. Vacation shouldn’t mean we have to vacate reality. And if I have to go to Hawaii to learn this lesson, well, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make! ;-)


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