A Conversation With The Hawai'i Local Shestin

Hey friend 🥰

Please welcome the first guest on the SoT Podcast and listen to this truly insightful and inspiring conversation. Shestin is a Hawai’i local. Shestin is kind, generous and cares about the well-being of the world and Hawai’i. Let’s listen to what he has to say. Shestin and I talked about:

  • The origin of American entitlement in regards to traveling
  • What tourists should do to have a meaningful Hawai’i vacation
  • What role knowledge about Hawai’i plays for having a great experience
  • The sensitivity of Hawaiian ecosystems
  • The difference between American and European travelers
  • The distinction between tourist vs. traveler
  • We each pick our favorite Hawaiian Island
  • And much more!!

 

Transcript

Hello, dear listener, welcome to the Science of Travel Podcast, the podcast that combines all things Earth, landscapes and travel destinations with Earth science.

On this podcast, we're talking about a travel destination, Hawai’i, and today I'm talking to my very first podcast guest. His name is Shestin.

Shestin has lived 15+ years in Hawai’i, half of this time in Maui, which he intends to make his forever home. But he currently lives in O’ahu, where he teaches third grade. He works in both tourism and education, and he is a tour guide and educates people from all over the world on Hawaiian history, culture, flora and wildlife during his hikes.

I met Shestin on Instagram a few weeks ago. I saw that he posted a comment below a picture of the Wai’ānapanapa State Park Beach on Maui that was posted by the EarthPixs account.

I've found his comment to be very thoughtful and different. Different because usually below these images where beautiful beaches are shown, people usually post: “How beautiful. I have, to get there. How can I get there? That's my dream destination. Is this place easily accessible?” and so on.

But his comment said:

“Yes, you can access Wai’ānapanapa Beach through the State Park and see the black sand beach. But this is not what you'll see, however. You’ll likely see throngs of tourists stepping over one another to get the best pic or views and trampling native and introduced plant species, among other things. Most of them will retain the full sense of American entitlement that they flew over with, and precious few of them will have educated themselves on the actual history of the Hawaiian Islands and people. Perhaps a handful of them will know that this was once a self-sufficient, thriving, sovereign nation with its own strengths and flaws before colonialism, religion and other systems of oppression made an appearance. Don't be like the others. During the course of your planning, spend some time truly edifying yourself on the place you are going to visit and remember that there is a strong and vibrant culture that comes along with the place you'll be vacationing in.”

That's why I contacted Shestin and asked him if he was willing to speak to me about Hawai’i on the Science of Travel podcast. And guess what? He said yes!

Before we dive in, there is one thing I need to tell you. I just launched a new travel online course about Hawai’i's formation and nature at EarthyUniversity. This course will make you appreciate Hawai’i's natural beauty, will turn you from tourist to traveler and will make you Hawai’i's dream traveler. I wish this course existed when I travel to Hawai’i. It's the perfect addition to any travel guide and definitely a new travel essential. The link to the course is in the show notes.

Now, before we start, there is yet another thing I want to tell you. It's a little correction. A little later in the podcast I speak about a song called Hawai’i ‘78. I made a little mistake there and said that the gods and goddesses are addressed in this song. But the singer addresses the Kings and Queens of Hawai’i. So just a minor correction there, but I just wanted you to know about this. The first two lines of the song go like this:

“If just for a day

Our King and Queen

Would visit all these islands

And saw everything,

How would they feel

About the changes of our land?”

The song is beautiful, and I highly recommend listening to it.

But now, dear listener, give it up for Shestin!

Daniela:

I just want to welcome you to the Science of Travel podcast! Thank you again for being here and your time and for sharing your experience. You're the first guest ever, so I'm really excited about this.

Shestin:

Awesome. It’s an honor. Thank you!

Daniela: Please, thank you! So, I think just go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself. Just tell the people what you think they should know.

Shestin: (laughs) What I think they should know about me… I grew up in Massachusetts. I'm not from here. I first came here in 2004. I came for school, and it was only for a semester. I had to go back to Massachusetts to finish my degree. But as soon as I graduated, I was on the plane back out here. So, I moved here 2006, to O’ahu. I lived here about five years, and then I moved to Maui. Maui’s where a lot of my, you know, interest and knowledge about the islands and about Hawaiian culture really came into play. I worked for the Hawai’i Nature Center over there, so I taught elementary school kids about the flora and fauna here in the islands. I worked for a zip line over there that did a little bit of eco tour knowledge about the Hawaiian people in the place that we were living. I worked for a company called Hike Maui. So, we did a lot of waterfall hikes, eco tours. And that was where it was more of a deep dive into Hawaiian culture and the botany and the geology out here. I also was a STEM teacher for an elementary school over there. So just all these different pieces came into play to build my knowledge of the place that we live. And then my natural curiosity, of course, I want to know where I live on and know who lived here before me and how they lived on this land. I like to know what the plants are around me. I want to know who I'm sharing this place with, a what is edible and what I can use to survive living in the middle of the ocean. So practical reasons, but also, you know, just general curiosity about this place. And it's really fascinating. It's really beautiful. The history of this, the islands themselves, you know, they vary in age, right, but this chain, this archipelago has been in existence for 80 million years or more. Human life here has been such a blip, and it's changed so fast from when the Hawaiians came here to then the Europeans, to the Americans and then just where we are now. It's all been so fast, and it's fascinating to see. And it's really disturbing also to see the ways that people that have power have used that power to their advantage and to the disadvantage, like the blatant disadvantage, of the Hawaiian people.

Daniela:

Yeah, I totally agree. And the reason we're actually talking right now is because I saw an Instagram comment from you. I really loved this comment. And this is why I reached out to you, because the reason I'm doing this podcast and the websites, that you maybe have heard of, are exactly because of what you said, because I want the people to care about the place they're going to visit, because tourism has both the power to destroy a destination, but also to help it thrive and become even more beautiful, if only the people knew about it, and if they respected the destination like it deserves. So, I want to talk to you about, or what do you mean by the American entitlement? And where do you think this comes from?

Shestin:

So, it's a difficult question to answer. There's a lot of facets to that, but in my opinion, and I've made mistakes, I've been wrong about things before, but in my opinion, American entitlement comes from the notion of American exceptionalism, that we're somehow better or different than everyone else on the planet, right. I think both of those things are the products of ignorance, lack of knowledge, right. Which is a result of a deliberate educational shortcoming, right. So, it's not like American children don't want to be educated or their parents don't want them to have the best education. Just what is provided to them is not, it's not high quality, right. They're not being told a lot. They're being told a lot of things that aren’t entirely true. They're being given half-truths and straight up lies, right. So, they're not [taught] the true history of America, of the United States. If they happen to hear or read some negative truth here or there, there's no pressure. There's no inclination for them to process those facts in a meaningful way. It just comes in, you're like: “Oh, well, that sucks.”, and then they forget about it because no one makes them sit there and understand this is actually what that means. This is the long-term impact of that one thing that you just read. There's this notion in the US that we're blessed by God, right. God bless America, and which is why we deserve so much while other people around the world are suffering. And there's also this notion that anyone who's willing to work hard enough can attain whatever they can elevate their station in life through hard work. So, if you haven't done that, if you're not elevating yourself, it’s because you didn't work hard enough, right. The first notion, that God bless America, is completely illogical, and it would take a while to unpack that. The second notion does have elements of truth to it. There are people, here, that they work hard, and they elevate themselves. But those are the stories that are posited into the textbooks. They're the ones that we lift up and say: “See, I told you!”, right, but they leave out all the other things that the people that have tried and failed for reasons that are not under their control. There's very little, if anything, in our children's history books that explores the advanced and thriving societies of the Native Americans or really any other indigenous cultures. There's nothing that talks about the history of chattel slavery in the United States, and impacts not only on African Americans, but Americans as a whole population, right. There's no real exploration of the loss of the mother culture that a lot of Africans have dealt with, right. You're being stripped from your country, separated from everyone, you know, deliberately. You're not allowed to speak your language and so on and so on. And so, what does that look like in the 21st century with millions of people from Africa that have no connection to their roots, right?

So, there's all these layer upon layer that's happening. We have migrant workers, right.

Migrant workers come into the US from Europe and Asia, rampant discrimination there. One after another. There are straight up racist laws that have been enacted in this country, like the Chinese exclusion Act of 1882. Like, just straight up saying, “Yeah, Chinese can't come here.” And the list goes on and on, right.

There's no explanation for the logic that allowed European immigrants to come here and colonize the Americas. Both continents, destroy the inhabitants, whether intentionally or otherwise, lay claim to all of the natural resources that are here, decide that private property is now a thing, even though it never was on these continents before. And then just pull the ladder up and be like, you know what? Now we're in. No one else can come in, even though you're trying. And this is what we all want. And this is what we told you should try for; we're just going to whip the ladder off from under you.

I think that's part of where the American idea comes from, this ideology.

Most American children never learn the real history of the country. They're raised with this nationalist notion that their advantages come from their own efforts and their own talents, right. And then they grow up and they have children, and they have grandchildren, and they’re raised the same way. And if they ever question that notion, they're branded as communists or socialists or un-American or whatever, like the new slur is in that day and age, right.

So, we end up with the sense that whatever we have, we deserve, right. Whatever we can pay for with our American dollars, we should receive.

Daniela:

And that's exactly what the tourists do, right. Not all of them, of course, but some of them, they come over and they think they're like gods and goddesses in Hawai’i. So, what do you think it could do with them if they knew the history of Hawai’i?

Shestin:

Well, I mean, you’d have a much more meaningful experience, first of all. I think about Americans just in general traveling in the contiguous United States.

If you're in the continental US, you can travel from one state to another. There's no borders to cross. You just go across the States. And because they're the United States and they've been American for so long, there's no reason to think about the Native American people that live there, right.

If I drive through Massachusetts, there's nothing that tells me this tribe once lived here. This tribe once lived here, right. Driving across the western US, for example, what comes to my mind is National Parks, right.

I might go and visit all these beautiful National Parks, these amazing places, but there's no connection to the culture that once thrived there.

And so, it takes a lot of work for someone to actually go in deep and be like, who lives here before? Can I speak with these elders? Can I find out what their culture is like?

But if you did that, you'd have a much more rich travel experience, right. You’d find out this is actually what this mountain is named, right. It's not called Rushmore. That's ridiculous.

So, I think coming here, there is a whole world that is separate from the tourist experience. They packaged Aloha in plastic, and they sell it to visitors here. But it's like skimming the surface. It's barely skimming the surface, right. It's like an iceberg. And there's a bit of Hawaiian culture that's on the top.

And then there's 9/10 of it is below the surface that you'll never, ever, ever see, because you're never going to stop and get out of your car and speak to a brown skinned local uncle or cousins standing on the side of the road, right.

There's a lot of knowledge that never gets passed to not just Americans, but any tourists coming from anywhere, because there's no reason for them to take the time. And there's no one telling them ahead of time, like on the plane, for example, on the flight over, it should be mandatory. “Here's a video, just in a nutshell, 20 minutes of basic Hawaiian history”.

Daniela:

Yes. I absolutely agree. In my opinion, I think – I second everything you say, first of all – I think the knowledge is so important, because it starts to build an emotional connection. And if you have the emotional connection, you won't just go to the beach and leave your trash there or whatever they do, or step on the coral.

You've lived on O’ahu and Maui, and you've experienced the tourists, and you've even taken tourists on hikes. So, how do you wish, as an experienced tourism worker or tour guide and Maui and O’ahu local, the tourists behaved. Other than learning before they go, what do you wish they did in Hawai’i to immerse themselves in the culture better?

Shestin:

Speak to people, speak to locals, right. Like there's – I don't want to claim that all Americans are racist by any means. It's completely false, right – but I think a lot of us, no matter who we are, where we are, when we go someplace new, we don't really branch out and speak to people that we don't know. We have this protectionist idea, like: “Oh, my family is with me on vacation. I need to keep everyone safe. And they're strangers over there.” The whole “don't touch on strangers” notion is such a ridiculous thing. But if you talk to strangers, you might have a really rewarding experience. You'll find out things that you didn't know before. So even if you don't educate yourself before you fly all the way out here, just, like, talk to someone on the side of the road and ask them like: “Hey, do you know about this place? What can you tell me about this place?” Maybe they'll tell you. Maybe they'll say: “Fuck off.”, right? You don't know. But if you just talk to people, you're going to have an amazing experience and you'll find out you'll learn a lot that way. Just talk to people on the side of the road.

Daniela:

Absolutely.

Shestin:

And I think that's true, too, of… I think that a lot of times we have a perception of our neighbor. We see someone, and we're like, oh, that looks like someone I wouldn't want to talk to.

It doesn't matter what color of skin they are; it doesn't matter…

In a way it does matter, right. If you're coming here and you're seeing, like, a brown-skinned man or woman without a shirt on, it's probably because they live here, right?

Maybe take a shot and ask them like: “Hey, do you live here? What do you know? What can you tell me?” I feel like I’m repeating myself there.

I think another thing, too, and it goes into the education, is recognizing that Hawai’i was a sovereign nation. It was illegally overthrown by all international law standards. This is still a sovereign nation. It's being illegally occupied, right. And I think a lot of Americans don't know that. They don't know that. And they don't understand that and if they hear that, they're like: “Well, whatever. That was a long time ago. It's a state now.” And they wanted statehood. Like, they wanted statehood, right.

So, because it's a state now, I don't need to do anything. It's America. What else do I need to know? They should assimilate to our culture and that's it. They speak English, they use dollars. It's America.

Daniela:

But do you think that's only Americans? Because in my perception, it's not only Americans, but it's a general trend that we don't care as much as we should. It's not only Americans, in my view.

Shestin:

Yeah. No, I wouldn't say that. It's not only Americans. I would say that on the whole, Americans are generally less educated about their neighbors. And maybe it’s just my perception, but I feel like Europeans – because Europe is such a closed continent with so many different countries and different languages and cultures that are all next to each other, sharing that space. And there's clear ways to get from one country to another. You have the Ural, for example. You can walk across borders – there is a lot more understanding of different cultures there. There's a lot more, like, people speak other languages, like more than one language is pretty common, I think, for most of my European friends. And so, I think that Europeans are generally, and it's an assumption, but generally they're more open and understanding that there's other cultures, other people here on this planet, besides me. It's not just me and my culture, right.

Americans, I feel like, are different in that regard. They may recognize those other cultures, but they don't really care to learn about those other cultures by and large, because they're not that important. I mean, we're the ones that have the power and the money.

Daniela:

Yeah. I see where you're getting at. Yeah. So, what's one thing that you want the people that come to Hawai’i to know of for sure, like if you had to tell them one thing or, I know that's probably hard, but what do you think is the most important thing to know?

Shestin:

Yeah. It's hard to choose one, but I guess the thing that is declining the most and I think is the most urgent is the number of native and endemic species that exist here. So, Hawai’i is the endemic species capital of the world, the endangered species capital of the world. There's more species that only exist here and nowhere else in the world than anywhere else. And because of that, there's more species that are in danger of extinction here than anywhere else in the world, right, by percentage. So, human impact here, especially you know, visitor impact, because they don't know what they're doing and there's no one telling them how to do it, right. Yeah. There's a loss of biodiversity happening here that is really sad. And other introduced species are taking their place. So, it's still going to be green and still going to be lush and beautiful. But we're losing a lot of things that we’re never going to see again.

I would also say Hawaiian culture, but I feel like the Hawaiians have a pretty good handle on reviving their culture, and they're pretty strong in it.

Daniela:

How are they doing it? How are they reviving it?

Shestin:

Through education. Through just like, standing up and being Hawaiian and practicing their culture again. It was outlawed for a long time. You cannot speak Hawaiian. You cannot chant any medley. You cannot dance hula. These are all devil worshipping things that don't honor God. Yeah. Hawaiians have been taking it back and they're reclaiming their sovereignty. And it may not be real in the world of America and the United States, but for the Hawaiian people, they are making a resurgence.

And it's really beautiful to see. And they're uniting with their Pacific Polynesian, the Polynesian neighbors. And so just seeing those together, the Hawaiian and the Polynesian, the Tongan, Samoan, the Tahitian; all these cultures support one another in regaining their identities and their sovereignties.

It's a really beautiful thing to see, even though it's, there's still a chance that we could lose that. I don't think that's really an urgent thing, because they are so strong and they are fighting back, whereas endangered species, that are plants and animals, don't really have that ability with the onslaught of humans that are coming here.

So, I think I've had to choose one thing. Yeah. The plant animal species on land and in the water.

Daniela: Yes. Beautiful.

Shestin:

Maybe the water more so because more people are getting in the water and doing more damage there.

Daniela: Is that the case?

Shestin: That's the sense that I'm getting. I mean, you look at the reefs out here, the coral is, it's rapidly declining, and it's kind of a metric of ocean health in general, right. When the reefs go, the fish go. When the fish go, the bigger fish go and so on. And then what we're doing on land, of course, everything flows to the ocean. So, you not only have people that are in the ocean and dripping off their sunscreens and makeups and hair dyes and all these things into the water, but you also have all the runoff happening there. You have boats and oil spills and all the things that are happening, everything is impacting the ocean.

The species that we have on land, they are still endangered or in danger. But I think it's a little bit easier to manage land because we can just close off an area and say this is now a National Park. This is now a protected reserve area. You're not allowed to enter it. Or if you do, you have certain precautions you have to take.

The ocean is just so vast and it's so open to everyone, and it's connected. It's really hard to regulate anything that happens with the ocean. But ocean health is super important for us.

Daniela:

Definitely. What I've heard last year, or read about last year, is that in Hawai’i, it is now mandatory to use reef-safe sunscreen.

Shestin:

So, it's mandatory for anybody here to sell that. You could still come from somewhere else with your own garbage.

Daniela:

Oh, so it's not mandatory to really use it.

Shestin:

Yeah. If you're selling sunscreen here, it has to be that. But you can bring it from somewhere else. The same thing with plastic bags, right. There's a plastic bag ban. And so, grocery stores can't give you a plastic grocery bag. You can still bring it from somewhere else. You can still buy a box of them and have them ship to you. Same with styrofoam, right? Like there's a styrofoam ban for restaurants. But you can still ship a washing machine over here that's pack in styrofoam or television is packed in styrofoam. We can control what happens within our state. But, and that's part of being an American state as well, right? Because we're not a sovereign nation. We cannot say you can't come in or this can't come in because

it's part of the United States.

We have to abide by whatever rules they have, which is any American can come here any time without a passport, any other visitors, many other countries, they're not on a no-fly list. They can come here and bring whatever they want within reason.

Daniela:

That's why it's so important just to tell the people before they go, or anywhere. It doesn't even matter if their travelers are not. Even if they just stay home. They just have to be aware that buying a lot of plastic products and whatever they consume has an impact. And even if they don't think it does, it does.

Shestin:

But, I mean, I think that speaks to more of a general sense of appreciation and protection of the planet. And that's not, it's not a paradigm that a lot of people have. I think I have that. It seems like you clearly have that, right. We want to protect the space that we live. We see it as a valuable resource, I guess. But I have friends who don't see it that way.

They see it as God made this planet for us to use however we want it, and he's coming back. He's going to rescue us from whatever we do to ourselves. So, it doesn't really matter what we do to the planet because it's in God's hands and the second coming of Christ, it's going to be soon. So, no big deal.

Daniela:

How do you handle this? How do you react to it when they say something like that?

Shestin:

So, I grew up going to Christian school and being immersed in that religion. And so, my go-to rebuttal for any of that is just logic, right? I try to dissect the logic of the Bible and how many contradictions there are. How many things just straight up don't make sense. So, if you can just get someone to admit one thing doesn't make sense, then it really deconstructs everything that they built their premises on. The people have been saying that the Lord is coming back for centuries, you know. Yeah, maybe that's a real thing. I don't know. But it doesn't make sense just to squander the gifts that you've been given in the meantime. That's silly.

Daniela: No, that's true.

Shestin:

Why would you want to be like: “Hey, Jesus, welcome back. Look at how we fucked up your planet, bro.” Like, no, you want to, when the guy comes back, go “Look at what we did, this is awesome!”, right?

Daniela:

What this reminds me of, this, you probably know this, the song Hawai’i ‘78. I love that song.

Shestin:

I just had that in my head the other day. How would they feel

Daniela:

Yeah. For all those who don’t know: The singer sings about the changes that have been made to Hawai’i ever since the settlers arrived there.

And he addresses the song to the gods and goddesses [note the correction I made in the introduction] and tells them that they probably would be disappointed if they arrived or saw Hawai’i the way it is today.

I think that speaks volumes, but I'm glad to hear that the Hawaiians are managing to restore their culture. That's really awesome.

And I'd love to ask you another question. Do you think Hawaiian residents and Hawaiians welcome tourists using Hawaiian words like “mahalo” or “aloha” or do you think they shouldn't do it?

Shestin:

I think it depends who you speak to, but on the whole, I think that Hawaiian people – so there's a couple of different classes, I think, of Hawaiian people that I've just made up in my head, right.

There are the ones that are very, very into their culture and they're very into ‘ōlelo Hawai’i and speaking Hawaiian at any opportunity. And so, they would welcome anyone speaking Hawaiian in any way, shape or form. And they'll correct you if you say it incorrectly, right.

But there's also a lot of local people here who maybe have a little bit of Hawaiian, but they're mixed or they're not Hawaiian at all. They just have lived here for generations. And I think that group of people could care less. They wouldn't say mahalo. They would say thanks. They speak Pidgin. If they hear you say mahalo, they're like: “Okay, whatever, haole.” But for the most part, I think that if you are visiting from somewhere else and you're speaking whatever words you know, I think that it's acceptable and it's appreciated by some.

Daniela:

I think so. I mean, if there are people, there are people in Germany who are not German. And I highly appreciate it when they can speak a few words, even if it's just a few, because I think it just shows that they’re aware that they're in a different country.

Shestin:

I was born in Germany.

Daniela: Really?

Shestin: I was born in Bitburg.

Daniela: Wow.

Shestin:

Yah. But I've not been back since. I have a lot of German friends and I've learned a few words in German. My friend Ben taught me “Was geht’n, Alter?”, which I've spoken to other like, I guess, younger thing, because older Germans don't, they’re like “I don't know what that means.” So, do you understand that, though?

Daniela: Yes, yes! So how long have you been in Germany?

Shestin: I was there for two months.

Daniela: Alright.

Shestin: I was born in February, and I left in May.

Daniela: Alright. And then you went to Massachusetts.

Shestin: We flew to Washington State, and I lived there until I was 2. And then Massachusetts.

Daniela: Oh, wow. What did you learn in Massachusetts?

Shestin: What did I learn?

Daniela: Yeah.

Shestin: I mean, I was there from the time I was 2 until the time I was 26.

Daniela: Okay. So, you went there to college or university as well?

Shestin: I went to elementary school, high school, university.

Daniela: Oh yeah, so you grew up there. And then after that, you immediately came back to Hawai’i because it cast a spell on you.

Shestin: Yeah. Pretty much. So, I came out here. I got my graduate degree recently here. I've been here 15 years.

Daniela: That's beautiful. I've been to have in 2013 for four weeks, only, it was my dream. I've always wanted to go to Hawai’i. When I was little, I would always, I would collect everything that had to do with Hawai’i. And in 2012, I was an au pair in Connecticut. And I had the opportunity to stay one more month in the United States because of my visa. And so I thought I have to go to Hawai’i. I'm never going to be as close. So, I spent four weeks there. I went to four islands. Yeah. It was amazing. I mean, I don’t have to tell you.

Shestin: Was it Maui, Kaua’i, O’ahu and Hawai’i?

Daniela: Yes. And, you know, definitely, I have to come back and see the others.

Shestin: What is your favorite?

Daniela: Oh, you know, I always say it's hard to pick because all of them are unique and, you know…

Shestin: Of course.

Daniela: … but I think if I had to pick, I'd say Kaua’i. Because it's just so lush. And I had the most magical experience there. It was my very first island. I arrived in Lihu’e, and I met friends there the first day. And it was really great. Yeah. What's your favorite Island? I don't know.

Shestin: Yeah. So, when I lived on O’ahu, the first time around, Kaua’i was my favorite. I would go as much as I could. I went every – we have Hawaiian holidays as well as the US holidays, so we have Kamehameha Day, honoring the first the King, the ali’i [chief] that United the islands through conquest, right. That's the dark side that a lot of Hawaiian people don't talk about. But Kaua’i was my favorite. I would always go and hike Kalalau, the Nā Pali Coast. And every time I went, I would stay longer and longer and longer. But then I realized this island is the best, by far.

Daniela: It's so hard to pick because all of them are beautiful.

Shestin: But I think you touched on… your experience is what made it best for you, right. For me, going to Kaua’i was beautiful because it was a time of detoxing, letting go off work and just, like, exploring and playing in nature and just being myself. And I found that living on Maui for that many years, like, I didn't need to go anywhere for that. It was just I could go up the volcano and go into the crater and have that. I go to the beach and my friends, like, all my people are there. I have that everywhere I go there. And it's just a mix of the different elevations. So, you have different climate zones and different plants that live within those climate zones. When you go high enough, it reminded me of being in the Northeast, being back in Massachusetts or Connecticut. You get a little bit of the seasons. There's snow and ice sometimes in the winter up on the summit. But in the same day, within a matter of an hour, you can go down to the beach and have summer, you know? So, yeah, my experience is that the people made it the best for me.

Daniela: Usually like that. Wow. If the people would like to connect with you or go with you on a hike, I don't know if you still – do you still work for Maui Hike or Hike Maui, sorry?

Shestin: No, I stopped working for them in 2018, right, before I moved here. I moved here and I started teaching. I teach third grade now.

Daniela: So, you don’t, I don’t know, maybe you have two weeks a year where you take a flight to Maui.

Shestin: I have two months a year where I'm off. Two school years ago, I guess it was 2018/19, I went back to Maui for that summer of 2019, and I ran my friend’s business, which was basically doing tours of the island.

Daniela: Okay.

Shestin: So, he flew back to the continent and did his summer there. And I ran his business. Last summer that was the plan again, but then COVID happened. This summer, I don't know what's going to happen. So, I have plans to go to Maui. I don't know that I would work there necessarily, but I would play, and I don't turn down work, you know, if it's exploring and teaching people about the place. So, yeah, you can give me your money and I'll do that for sure.

So, if people wanted to reach out to me and go on a hike with me somewhere, I would prefer Maui for sure. O’ahu, I could do it, but I'm not as excited about O’ahu.

But yeah, if people want to reach out to me, Shestin@Hotmail.com is a good way. Or just reach out on Instagram, @shestino.

Daniela: That's awesome. Thank you. Would you, are you willing to offer private tours?

Shestin: Yeah, always.

Daniela: That's awesome. If I ever go to Hawai’i, I will, I’d love to go on a hike with you, too.

Shestin: Of course, definitely.

Daniela: Oh, my gosh. I don't know when, but I don't know, someday!

Shestin: I, honestly, I'm in the same boat, right. Because I really would like to go to Germany not only because I was born there and I want to return to the land of my birth, but because I have so many really dear friends that live there and I just haven't ever been, you know? So, I really want to go. And as prices of airlines go up and down, I'm like I got two kids now. I got to get out there before the second one is old enough to have to pay for his seat, you know.

Daniela: [laughs] Yes, exactly. If you're ever here, let me know and we can meet. Is there a cause or an organization or something that you'd like to give a shout-out to?

Shestin: I mean, the first top of mind, the first thing that comes to mind is Kōkua Hawai’i Foundation, Jack Johnson’s Foundation – or his wife actually, Kim’s foundation, not Jack’s. Jack supports it. Kim is the one that came up with this notion. But yeah, they do the ’āina in schools program as well. So, they're bringing gardens into elementary schools and getting kids invested in growing their food and having healthy lifestyles. They're into the plastic-free Hawai’i, doing beach clean ups and just providing education and awareness around some of these issues. And then Jack, of course, is, I don't know if he's still doing it, but he was putting on the Kōkua festivals with the music and artists that are supporting these ideas as well.

Daniela: That’s awesome!

Shestin: That's the first and the easiest one that comes to mind. With more time, I could come up with some other ones as well, I’m sure.

Daniela: You can send them to me. I will just put them in the show notes as well.

Shestin: Awesome.

Daniela:

That'd be awesome. Thank you. You're so kind and generous. Thank you. It was really nice.

Shestin:

It's been a pleasure. Thanks for talking with me about these ideas and issues and listening.

Daniela:

Oh, that's what I wanted to do, because, like you said, you know, just reach out to the people who live there. And that's what I wanted to do. Yeah. I think that's important because nobody knows better than the people who live in the destination. And you worked in tourism. So, I don't know. It was just the perfect match.

Shestin:

I mean, honestly, the world of tourism has its goods and bads, right. A lot of local people, a lot of Hawaiian people really depend on it. They depend on tourism for their existence. And if they don't directly depend on it, they have a brother or a cousin or an aunty or somebody that does work in tourism. And so, it depends on it. It's not ideal. It'd be nice if we had our own independent ways of thriving and surviving out here. But currently that's the situation. As land on Maui, for example, they just ended the sugar cane industry in 20 16. So ideally, all that acreage, 30 something thousand acres of land would be converted to us growing our own food and be, like, have food sovereignty here. But we don't own the land. And so that's not actually happening.

But, yeah, I don't want to just sit on tourism and tourists. I've actually I heard once it was a distinction between tourist and traveler, right.

The tourist is the one that just goes and takes all the pictures and all the souvenirs and doesn't give a shit. And the traveler is the one that educates themselves and knows a little bit about where they're going and what they don't know. They find out on the way as much as they can, right? They’re not just passing through. They're actually living in that place while they're there.

Daniela:

Oh, please. Yes, I absolutely agree. And I have to include this in a podcast as well. It was gold, such a nugget. Yeah. I also work with the tourism industry. I studied tourism, actually, and I worked in the industry for 4 or 5 years, and I was really bothered by it because I just couldn't handle just sending people off to destinations and making packages and they wouldn't learn anything about the place.

So, yeah, I think tourism is good and it is bad, just depending on how you do it. If your travel or tourist, it depends.

Thank you. I'm going to let you go ahead with your day. Thank you again and have a great day. Thanks!

Shestin: You as well, Daniela, enjoy your Saturday night.

Daniela: Thank you.

Shestin: Thank you. Aloha.

Daniela: Aloha.

 

Thank you so much for tuning in, dear listener. As always, the transcript to this episode is on my blog, The Science of Travel Blog, and the link to it is in the show notes.

Also remember to check out the online travel course about Hawai’i at EarthyUniversity. You won't regret it.

Be kind and love nature.

Bye!

Daniela


Be kind and love nature, 
Daniela


Psssst: Can't wait to learn about Hawai'i after listening to this episode? Don't not where to start? Start with the two online travel courses about Hawai'i at EarthyUniversity.

 

Shownotes

Definitely check out at least one of the organizations Shestin recommends:

Kahea: http://kahea.org/about

Kupu: https://www.kupuhawaii.org/

Kōkua Hawai'i Foundation: https://www.kokuahawaiifoundation.org/

Maui Invasive Species Committee: https://mauiinvasive.org/

Hawai'i Conservation Alliance: https://www.hawaiiconservation.org/

The Nature Conservancy: https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/hawaii/

Hawai`i Marine Animal Response: https://h-mar.org/

Surfrider Foundation: https://oahu.surfrider.org/

Contact Shestin @shestino on Instagram or via mail at shestin[at]hotmail.com

 

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[Image Credit: Daniela Dägele]

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