Oh, the people you’ll meet while traveling

Published 3:38 pm Friday, June 24, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Admittedly, I don’t get out of the house very often. I enjoy the comfort of my couch most evenings and weekends. But every now and then, even I like to take a vacation.

Back in late 2019, my friend convinced me to join her on an international trip scheduled for June 2020. Of course, the pandemic put those plans on hold. It wasn’t until earlier this year that we decided to adjust our plans and finally make that trip, except we changed our destination to Hawaii instead. An acceptable substitute that wouldn’t include the hassle of leaving the country!

So this month, I took that vacation and had a fantastic (but also extremely tiring) time. While all the sights and explorations were very interesting, one of my favorite things about traveling is the people you meet along the way. I’m a people-watcher by nature, always intrigued by the way we interact with each other and our surroundings. These are people I’ll never see again, but I’ll definitely remember these little moments when I look back and reminisce later.

Here are just a few examples of random encounters during my trip:

The lady who sat beside me on my first flight, who told me stories of her children and grandchildren she was going to visit. It’s been eight years since the last time I was on an airplane, and I was pretty anxious about flying again. But this lady was so friendly that I didn’t even have a chance to think about how worried I was. It was a good way to kick off my trip.

The shuttle driver who shared interesting facts when my friends and I visited the island of Lanai. She drove us to our destination while sharing tidbits of history (the island used to be 98 percent pineapple fields but is now mostly owned by a billionaire) and geography facts (the island gets so little rain that they planted pine trees on top of the mountain to draw in moisture from low-lying clouds). But the most interesting bit to me was, as we drove up and down the edge of the mountain, the shuttle driver said her ears had stopped popping with elevation changes years ago. It’s cool how people adapt to the places they live!

The kid who said with dismay “oh man, we shouldn’t have come in here” at the Maui Ocean Center aquarium. To be fair, he had just stepped into the history exhibit that didn’t feature any live ocean animals like the rest of the place had; just a bunch of displays to read. His disappointment got a quite chuckle out of me. You gotta admire how honest kids are, right?

The family who shared a picnic table with me while I waited for my friends to finish up their hike at the state park. As they unpacked their lunches, the siblings started squabbling over the peanut butter to jelly ratio of their sandwiches, and which one of them was to blame for the error. As someone who has a younger brother, that silly teasing dispute sounded exactly like how we’d argue too.

The people who kept climbing the “no climbing” tree. There was a beautiful, old banyan tree in the park at one of the towns we visited. The massive tree spread out to shade the whole area. It was planted back in the 1800s, and there were several clearly posted “no climb, no swing” signs all around. And yet, as I rested on a park bench for a while, I saw no less than six different people climb the tree! A local nearby muttered “the higher they climb, the harder they fall” quite ominously. He’s probably seen enough climbers to know…

The lovely tour guide we had at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The attraction/museum features exhibits on not only the culture of Hawaii, but also other islands in the Pacific Ocean. Our enthusiastic tour guide made sure we were able to experience as much as possible while we were there so we weren’t wandering around and missing out on the cool stuff. (And there was A LOT of cool stuff! It was probably my favorite stop of the whole trip.) At the end of the tour, she explained that many of the workers there, including herself, were students at the nearby BYU-Hawaii campus. She was from The Philippines, and was able to attend the university through a scholarship supported by the Center. It was nice to learn that visitors like us helped indirectly support education for so many!

These are only a few examples of the people I encountered during my travels. There were some parts of Hawaii which felt like a foreign country (like, why was there never any good air conditioning?), and other parts which felt just like home (plenty of beautiful sunsets, for example). But people are pretty much the same no matter where you go. Whether we’re doing our jobs or just visiting somewhere for vacation – even if we meet them for only a brief moment and never again – there’s always some common ground we can find or something we can learn from each other.

That is, if we take the time to listen.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.