A few weeks ago, four buddies of mine — three from my dorm and one from another house — hopped onto the five-dollar Stanford shuttle with me. We arrived at the airport and lugged both our bags and our sleep-deprived bodies onto Hawaiian Airlines Flight 11.
Shawn, Danielle, Nibha and Anna had never visited Hawaii before, so upon mutual agreement and spontaneous coordination, I decided to host them at my house this winter break, giving them a place to sleep at night and the opportunity to explore the wonderful food, communities and landscapes on Oahu –– my island home.
I introduced my friends to members of my large family of six; some of my family members, sometimes with me and sometimes without me, decided to steal away “my tourists,” taking them to beaches, hiking spots and local eateries.
My favorite memory was adding some risk to our trip’s equation by cliff-jumping from a lava-rock ledge into ocean swells on the outskirts of Honolulu. My friends from Stanford (each of whom are originally from U.S. “mainland” states), my younger sister and several of my high school friends who just happened to be at “China Walls” that same day and time joined our adventure.
These adventures shared with friends during the short period they resided on Oahu allowed me some time for careful personal reflection. For instance, I came to realize that despite the fact that Stanford does not offer any tourism and hospitality-type majors, the tourism industry has always been an important part of my life whether I’ve realized it or not (after all, according to information released by the Hawaii State Government, tourism provides 21% percent of my state’s revenue and supports 204,000 of our jobs).
Of course, there are downsides to the tourism industry’s presence in Oahu: mass urbanization (and its environmental effects), the encouragement of cultural appropriation, and so on. Nonetheless, my unofficial “Hawaii Tour Test Trial #1” with my friends was not just a time for me re-explore my favorite island hot spots and maximize the quality of their vacation experience, but also a time for me to quite literally share the spirit of aloha and Pacific Islander culture with them –– to immerse them into the Hawaii lifestyle.
Furthermore, by giving my friends a new and more transparent perspective on my non-Stanford lifestyle back home, I found relief, meaning and fulfillment. Through the late-night conversations and mini “road trips” from town to town, by taking the effort to guide my friends on sightseeing adventures, I ended up enhancing my own winter break experience!
On balance, although designing our “itinerary” and embarking on these excursions took up a solid portion of my winter break, I do not regret any of the energy invested into the trip; the work is what made the break memorable. The best part of the journey was not the panoramic scenery, balmy weather or ono (“delicious”) Hawaiian plate lunches; rather, the best part was growing closer with those around me while simultaneously learning how to balance time and familial obligations during the Stanford off-season –– a fun and low-commitment practice round for the friendly relationships I hope to develop and new spontaneous experiences I strive to create this upcoming winter quarter.
Contact Matthew Mettias at mmettias at’ stanford.edu.