Sunday, March 23, 2008

Authentic Hawaii

There is an article in the March 24, 2008 edition of Time magazine by John Cloud called Synthetic Authenticity. In this article the author talks about the ideas that what consumers are now purchasing is an experience, not a product. The explanation is that Walmart sells all products as a commodity. Starbucks sells an experience. You get the 98 cents cup of coffee or you can buy the $3.69 Italian coffee experience. I'm just finishing up my trip to Hawaii here and one of the things that impressed me is the difference of my experience. I saw both ends of the Hawaii spectrum. I visited both Waikiki to experience the packaged Hawaii, neat Hawaii and visited Volcano National Park(VNP). Just outside of Volcano National Park is a small town called Volcano or Volcano Village. If you Google the place you get Volcano, HI. If you look for the sign it says Volcano Village. It is the same place. I found that Volcano Village genuinely welcomes tourists. I was looking to not spend too much on my accommodations and the when the National Park lodge could not put me up Saturday night, they recommended a local establishment, Lava Lodge. Lava Lodge is not a resort, but it is affordable, clean, and quiet. I actually found the quiet very relaxing. If you like to spend a lot of time at a resort, you may be disappointed, but for me the resort may seem a little packaged. I prefer the Lava Lodge. A part of the experience for me was attending church at New Hope of Volcano, which I felt like I met people in their own environment. I was not a customer, but a guest. That is not guest as in the hotel industry guest, but visiting with a family of believers who welcomed me into their worship service. I love visiting churches, however, New Hope I think was the one who I have found most warm and welcoming. I also visited the Jagger Museum on VNP one evening while the crater was glowing. Many native Hawaiian families were there and celebrating the event. Again I was there as a guest. I was able to share the experience of the local families with mothers and aunts visiting, the men huddled in their grouping and the children were doing more running around than observing the glowing crater. To me it was not synthetic, it was authentic.
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