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My Trip to Maui: Traveling and being racially conscious

When you travel, do you think about race?

So many of us travel to exotic tropical destinations that are primarily communities of dark brown skin. A couple of years ago, I traveled on a cruise ship to Mexico and most recently traveled to Maui for a week with my family. On both of these trips, it was really hard to ignore the reliance on tourism by the local community, which doesn’t always translate to improvements in living for the local people (schools, housing, infrastructure, etc).

I couldn't help but feel as though I was a part of an invasion into a community. I come on my boat and plane alongside hundreds of others to take up space on someone else’s land. What is unique about being in Maui is that I was born and raised in Hawaii. There are many ways, being there makes me feel at home.

But on this recent trip, I was reminded of my white privilege. The looks that I would get from the locals on the beach, were not ones I would get from family. I was definitely seen as an outsider. Considering my pasty white skin tone from 15 months of being inside with the pandemic along with living in the PNW, it definitely is no surprise. And the reality is, I am a tourist to Maui. I was there to explore a place that I’ve never been to, but that is extremely close to my origins in Oahu.

In preparing for the trip to Maui, I was looking for an Airbnb. Many of these are one-bedroom condominiums that are turned into 2-bed units with a sofa sleeper. Out of the 40 or so that I looked at, only one of them was owned by a brown skin local. All of the others were owned by white people. And when I arrived, I was surprised at how many white people were on the island. In most places we went, the majority of people were white. There were more white people than brown people. There were very few black people. The white people were not just tourists, but from their very tanned skin and bleached hair, obviously lived on the island for some time.

When I travel, I try to be conscious about how I am supporting or exploiting the local community.

Which is a really tough balance considering that tourism is a major part of the economy.

So it goes a little something like this.

When I make food and business stops, I'm looking to see who is operating and owning the business.