With winter rapidly approaching and Virgin America launching affordable flights to Hawaii last week, it’s hard to not want to flee the mainland and chase the dream of Endless Summer. Hawaii borders on mythological in how its chillness is portrayed in media and film: dinosaurs could feel “whatevs” about a 65 million year blip in their existence in Jurassic Park and, far less believable, a complicated woman could be persuaded to marry Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates. It is the magical archipelago of American culture.
In spite of the gripping Hawaii brand, actual Hawaiian values of mana (spirit and power), ‘ohana (family/community), and love still thrive on the islands some people simply call “home.” When I visited Hawaii, I noticed the locals’ vibe had gotten to my friends living there too and we got to dissecting its mellow bodysnatching ways. Roland Chang is a Hawaiian-born musician in the band Kanilau and owner/operator of EO Waianae Tours. Yvonne Franklin is a stylist and student focused on Hawaiian language and culture; she has lived in Hawaii for approximately one year. They shared their thoughts on the idea of Hawaii v. actual Hawaii and how knowing the difference can make you a happier person, and not just cause you saved the $400 on airfare.
Would you call this “Paradise”? How is living here different from visiting here?
Y: No. The breathtaking natural setting of the islands takes people to that state of mind easily, but I'm still adjusting to roaches, the heat melting everything, the price of groceries.
R: On a commercial level, it is paradise. On this particular island (Hawaii), are we overbuilding? A little bit, yeah. The paradise, in that sense, isn’t what it used to be. I had a guy from Korea on our tour. He didn’t speak English. He remembered Hawaii from movies and videos. When he saw all the buildings, it was different for him. But when we took him to the country, the ocean, the mountains and the sea life, he started crying. We didn’t share the same language, but there was an understanding. It’s paradise through someone else’s eyes.
What are some differences you notice between people here and on the mainland?
Y: Fresh, positive, and healthy energy. Being active outdoors is a way of life (here) and you can truly feel it uplift you. Frankly, everyone just seems high on sunshine all the time. Most young people are disconnected with nature and tend to be self-involved. Kids that grew up in the inner-city would have very little in common with a surfing/fishing/paddling/hiking-happy local boy. There's obviously a different sense of history, too, especially for native Hawaiian kids who don't necessarily relate to the ladder climbing "american dream," but more to the sustainable way of life their families had for 1000+ years. Nothing saddens me more than seeing someone arguing business on the phone while sitting poolside. Leave your awful vibes back in your office - or just go to Florida.
R: As a Hawaiian it’s always been important to take care of things. Whether it’s the water or the land. As an indigenous culture, it was important for us to remember why we were here. We’re here to take care of the culture and the land cause in turn, it will take care of us. (Hawaii is) a healing place if you’ve got things that need to be healed in your personal life. There’s a chi here or a ka. Some Hawaiians call it Huna. Huna is like you’ve got peace where you’re at. Sometimes when you’re at concrete jungles like Chicago, Detroit, wherever, an island can really help you out.
How important is humor to island life?
Y: Essential! Life's absurdities really come under microscope when you're existing on a remote rock in the Pacific. It's like, what is there to complain about in paradise, right? Try watching 100 commercials for restaurants that don’t exist here, or driving with no rearview mirror because it melted off your car, or the first time an adorable gecko poops on your white booty shorts. Ain't no sunshine gon' save you now, haole! Just laugh it off.
How can you incorporate Hawaiian values into your own life even if you don't have time or $ for a ticket there in the near future?
Y: I'll never forget the guy that waved off my gratitude with a laugh saying "We're all on an island together." Take his advice to heart and treat our planet like that island. That means not only looking out for one another and expanding your `ohana to include everyone you encounter, it means being stewards of the land and practicing sustainability so that our future keiki (children) can also live in paradise.
R: Love yourself. Love your family. Love a higher source, whatever /wherever that leads you. Love others. And then come back to it.
Relax. Take a breath. Get your bearings. Get your compass together before you tackle the road.
Always take care of things and they’ll take care of you.