The Corona Pandemic has made one thing really clear: less tourists is better for Hawaiian honu (sea turtles), monk seals, coral reefs, forests, jungles, other animals ... you get the idea!
More than 10 million visitors visit the islands each year. That's 10x the Hawaiian population. This gives you a slight clue of how crowded and packed the islands can be.
It also gives you a clue about the status of Hawaiian culture, language and nature.
You guessed right: Hawaiian culture, language and nature are threatened.
Sadly, many tourists don't really care about Hawaiian culture, ignore rules that protect nature and aren't interested in anything besides where the most beautiful beach is located, on what day to drive the Road to Hana, or where the best Mai Tai is served.
They don't understand the critical role of coral reefs not only for Hawaiian fauna, but for the health of our planet and the air that we breath.
They believe that Hawai'i is a paradise where the sun shines all day long, without a single cloud in the sky (seriously, this is what somebody told me they expected from Hawai'i).
Pretty soon, they'll be disappointed. Because it rains in Hawai'i. A LOT. And it's exactly this rain that makes it so wonderful. Wind, waves and water have been shaping these islands for over 80 million years. Without it, the islands wouldn't be so pretty.
Hawai'i is so special in all respects.
If tourists don't look deeper, oblivious of Hawai'i's true beauty, blinded by superficiality and materialism, they'll be sure to miss out on (probably) one of the most beautiful, life-changing experiences of their lifetime.
It's not only their fault. Consuming has been trending for a long time, to some, it's cool and something to strive for. More, more, ever more.
But I believe that we're about to enter a new era.
An era where we focus on things that truly matter, such as being nice to each other, to take care of each other, of nature.
Where we focus our attention not on consuming, but on giving, on learning, on appreciating. Where we start to turn our backs on superficiality and embrace fondness and connection.
The most beautiful Hawai'i experience is not created by residing at the nicest hotel, dining at the best restaurants or hanging out at the beach all day.
No single experience is. Think of your fondest memories.
Aren't those the ones where you were happy, surrounded by friends you love or nature that calms you, where you felt so alive? Was it the times where you just lived, jumped in dirt puddles, not caring about anything but living in the moment? Was it the moments where you helped another person accomplish something? Was it the moments where you felt great because you did something good for someone else?
Did the car you drove, the phone you had, the hotel you stayed in, how tan you were, how great you looked on pictures, really matter that much? How much do these things contribute to the success of anything you do or experience?
These material things make life easier, yes, and I do enjoy their benefits as well. But they don't make it worth living.
Connection is. Finding meaning and joy is.
I hear this many times and can confirm it myself: Hawai'i is special because of the feeling you get when you're there. Because of how locals treat you.
Because of how connected you feel to humanity and nature again all of a sudden.