Mid-August and I’m back home on Whidbey Island bringing in garden bounty and kayaking in local waters after a 10-day vacation on Kaua’i with family—my partner, my daughter Sally, her partner Joe, our grandchildren, and also my sister Margaret and her family. We were a party of nine, ages ranging from 5 to 70.
When she was sixteen, I took Sally to Hawai’i in a special mother/daughter trip. She’s thirty-three now and has been wanting to take her family to Hawaii. The trip was a year in planning, including getting swimming lessons for five-year-old Sasha so we could all venture into the water safely. We wanted an opportunity to immerse ourselves in water sports in a place of cultural diversity with the young families in our lives.
We had an amazing time—truly appreciated the little fish that our grandchildren and nephew have become. Loved living our days in awe of nature’s bounty— the rain forest where “houseplants” are “trees” and it can pour rain in bright sun and make rainbows—all at once. We loved the ocean where we saw dolphins, sea turtles and a remarkable variety of fish. I will never forget our collective squeals of delight when we saw a baby in the midst of a pod of spinner dolphins, or our awe seeing an endangered monk seal resting on the beach.
Despite all of this, I am keenly aware that our flights and visit came at a cost to the earth. So, our intention was take this trip as responsible travelers, not merely tourists. For me that means diving into an understanding of the place you are visiting and working to be a positive presence while being there.
We purposely chose to live in rural Kaua’i by renting a home in Hanalei.
We were responsible for trash and recycling. We were awakened by the ever-present feral roosters that start to crow in the wee hours of the morning. We cooked most of our own meals and shopped the local farmer’s market.
When an activity required expertise, like a boat trip up the Napali Coast, we hired a local company.
We practiced learning to read the waves and the weather so we could make wise decisions about which beaches to visit for snorkeling or boogie boarding.
We started our days with a circle of planning to gain input from everyone and we took lots of time to acknowledge stories and appreciation of what we were experiencing.
We attended a local, educational hula show hosted by the Kapa’a Cultural Center rather than a hotel luau.
We worked to know the names of some of the local flora and fauna. We all practiced saying the name of Hawaii’s state fish: humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the rectangular triggerfish, which we often saw while snorkeling.
All seven+ billion of us are one people making our home on one planet. Traveling helps us see beyond the borders of our own lives and interactions. It raises our tolerance and understanding of difference. It opens our minds and hearts to the wonder of the earth. It is a wonderful privilege. May we always use it wisely. What are some of the ways you practice being a responsible traveler?