This article was originally published (in print) in the February 2018 edition of Emersons Green Voice and sister publications.
Throughout my travels, I’m always intent on learning more about the local culture. This was no different during my time in Hawaii.
While there, I quickly realised just how deep their love and respect for nature really is. One particularly profound moment for me was when I was exploring Kīlauea Iki crater on The Big Island – a volcanic crater you can hike around (and even inside).
As Hawaii is an archipelago formed out of volcanic rock itself, one of their most famous legends involves Pele (or Pelehonuamea) – the Volcano Goddess. My tour guide said it is taboo to steal lava rock from the island, as legend dictates that if you steal anything related to the land such as lava rock or even a grain of sand then you will be cursed!
Although The Big Island was where I began to understand this respect for nature, it was prevalent when touring the other islands too.
During my time on O’ahu, perhaps Hawaii’s most popular island, I spent some time exploring Byodo-In Temple. This is a Buddhist Temple found near Kaneohe, a 30 minute drive from world-renowned Waikiki Beach. When arriving at the temple, you’re expected to ring a gong and are asked to take off your shoes as a sign of respect.
I can’t help but wonder that this respect for nature and their beliefs has driven Hawaiians to also respect each other. And this is why.
Whilst at Byodo-In Temple, you have the opportunity to feed the birds and koi fish with a small bag of food that can be purchased in the gift shop for $2. I was watching a family feed the wildlife when they spotted me watching and actually gave me the rest of their bag of food. The mother must have been struck by my apparent surprise at their kindness as her words were simply: “Someone else gave us this bag of food so we’re just paying it forward.” Here was a family who seemed to be completely embodying everything I now hold dear about Hawaii’s culture – respect nature, respect each other.
I’ve since learned that “Aloha” is more than just a greeting. It’s actually a common state law in Hawaii known as the ‘Aloha Spirit’, which insists each person must think positively and display positive feelings to others. There are a few ways you can show positivity according to these laws, such as “Akahai” (kindness and tenderness), “Ha’aha’a” (humility and modesty) and “Ahonui” (patience and perseverance).
This is a culture entirely centred around respecting nature, loving one another and showing positivity. And when you combine this with a set of islands that are diverse, dramatic and stunning, Hawaii quickly becomes an amazing place and one I won’t hesitate to recommend to other globetrotters.
But I have just one more thought to leave you with today. Next time you think of your significant other, neighbour or friend, I implore you to remember the words of the ‘Aloha Spirit’ and respect one another! “A Hui Hou Kākou” (until we meet again)…
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