In several ways, 2018 was the year of decluttering; as we moved out of the suburb where I lived for as long as I have lived in the States, so much of what I have collected purposelessly and often unintentionally needed to be shaken off of my life, and what is essential needed to be given the space it needed. And as I sit down again in front of an empty digital page, I see that I need to do the same with all the snapshots I have taken along my journey around the sun. I'm gonna go reverse-chronologically and review all the photos and add some context to them, trying to find stories wherever I can find.
I had not been back to Oahu in a while. I had felt that, after the first 5 or so years I frequented the most populous (and developed) of the islands, I'd rather visit outer islands and save Oahu for family occasions. I just wished that it were not for this particular occasion.
Of course, the island always offers the perfect blend of familiar and exciting things.
It's easy for me, a visitor with a local hookup, to think that life here is slow and simple while I scoff down Malasadas and hike around the hills of Manoa. The reality, of course, is a lot more complex for many, and in every few breathtakingly beautiful things you see, a somber reminder; water quality warnings for beaches due to the aging sewerage system, plastic waste spotted at every scenic point, homelessness and poverty.
Not too long ago we took 2 trips to Hilo on the Big Island roughly one year apart from each other, and witnessed one particular rather-undiscovered snorkeling spot going from the most vibrant and massive coral reef colonies I've ever seen to a greyed-out shell of its former glory. The amazement of finding myself, upon diving in, surrounded by the massive civilization underwater, and the devastation I felt when I dipped into the exact same spot to find it all gone, are indescribable. ("Chasing Coral" a documentary is one of the many documentations of this urgent, global and very local issue.)
I, off all people, shouldn't need a reminder. I have seen and learned everywhere I have been, new and familiar, the effect of overtourism. That also should not come as a surprise to anyone who has a social media account (or a blog). Stories from your awesome vacation told in pictures are least-controversial, non-combative and popular posts from your peers, and every hard-working middle class who drops money in these communities that accept them deserves those likes. The most importantly, however, throwing the sheet of your hard-earned cash over the pile of dump you took on the street of Venice is definitely not the way to go.
My people used to (and maybe still) do just that, only a few decades back when we started to come up in the global economy, treating this gem of the Pacific as just a wallpaper for their wedding picture or an outlet mall for overpriced trinkets. I don't think anyone should be advised against staring into a sun setting on Waikiki beach or from atop Diamond Head. Hell, I'm pretty sure I'd hit Robot Restaurant next time I'm in Tokyo. Just remember to take your fucking plastic bottle with you when you leave.
Also; count your blessings. To have been and seen where and what you thought was beautiful, you are more fortunate than the most. And that takes way more than some dumb hashtag. I'm not judging, just telling myself how fucking lucky I am to be where I am, and hope to have enough time to thank everyone and everything who made that possible.
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. New EP "Six Songs from Insomnia" is out on all major streaming platforms.