The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see

— Gilbert K. Chesterton

I heard on the radio today that visitor arrivals are back to pre-pandemic levels. I tried to find a website that substantiates that, but the relevant governmental website isn’t coming up today for some reason. More and more it feels like life is getting closer to “normal,” pre-COVID. Masks are no longer mandated indoors, outdoors, or even on most planes (suddenly), and the Hawai’i Safe Travels program has ended.

It’s an unusual situation to live in a place that regularly has a lot of tourists. You always see visitors from elsewhere. Most tend to be concentrated at certain places and sights. Locals enjoy many of those places, too. I try to enjoy popular places, here and in places where I’m a vacationing visitor, at “off” times — maybe off-season or non-peak times like dawn or dusk. It feels really special to be the only ones on a trail at Volcanoes National Park at dawn, hearing only bird song and wind blowing through the trees. Hawai’i also has (human) winter birds, people who live here during the cold months of wherever else they live. There are people with second homes here who regularly visit, frequently enough that they’re assumed to be local.

Hubby and I ate at a restaurant in Waikoloa one time, and when the server brought us our check she said, “Enjoy your vacation.” There are certain places where we’re regularly asked where we’re from. Now? Where we last lived? Or where we were born and raised? Someone sees you, hears your accent, and quickly wants to make broad generalizations/conclusions about you. At a shave ice place I happened to be wearing my Kamehameha Schools t-shirt that has “Ho’ōmāka’ika’i” in big font, so the lady assumed we qualified for the kamaʻāina (Hawaii residents) discount. I didn’t even know they offered one. My cousin felt miffed since she has shopped at Waikoloa many times over many years, and one time was offered a kamaʻāina discount, whereupon she realized some stores were even offering such a thing. Had she been missing out up to then?

We all make assumptions. We have to. Take something neutral, like citrus here in Hawai’i. There are green skinned citrus that are lemons, not limes. There are yellow-skinned limes. There are orange-skinned lemons. Numerous times I’ve cut a citrus expecting one thing and smelling another. If we remember it’s human nature to jump to conclusions, when we find ourselves experiencing negative feelings about others, maybe we can cut them some slack.

An article I read a while ago says “unplanned interactions with close friends, casual acquaintances and complete strangers” can be a catalyst for creative thinking. “Not Spending Time at Coffee Shops Can Drain Our Collective Creativity.” For various non-COVID-related reasons, we haven’t been hanging out at any cafes lately. Maybe that’s why I’m not creative. Ha ha.

I’m not as creative as I’d like to be, but I’m appreciative of others’ creativity. One friend, a regular customer, got into making latte art at home during the pandemic, and now his wife is experimenting, too. They shared some of their recent creations made with our coffee and whole milk just for this post. Thank you! Maybe it’s something you’d be inspired to do. There’s a longer history to latte art than I realized.

I love unplanned interactions, but I’m not always putting myself in situations to increase that likelihood. Time for us all to poke our heads out of our snail and honu shells and get out there. And be a traveler, not a tourist.

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