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January, 2011:

Two Mai Tais, 25 Years Apart

Adult beverage Beach Bar Moana SurfriderTwo drinks, one life.

The first drink launched the first life in 1984. The blurry cell phone photo is the second drink; stirred and sipped 25 years later in 2009. Although it’s never been my favorite entry in the squishy-sweet umbrella beverage category, each Mai Tai celebrated a significant occasion. One heralded the beginning of my Navy career, and one marked my post-Navy life as a writer.

Both reflected a pinky-orange Waikiki sunset viewed from the Moana Surfrider hotel (where a cocktail, then and now, is about the only thing I can afford at such a swank establishment.)

In 1984 I’d flown into Honolulu to report aboard my first Navy ship, homeported in historic Pearl Harbor. My assigned guide from the crew took me directly from the airport to the Surfrider in time to catch one of those spectacular sunsets. I was actually a little crabby because my first-choice ship was homeported in Italy, and I’d had to jettison a whole Alfa-Romeo-on-the-Amalfi-Coast fantasy to be stationed on Oahu with my 1973 Ford Gran Torino.

Twenty-five years later, I’d just finished a jam-packed blogger press trip across the Hawaiian Islands; a group of us were invited by the Hawaii Tourism Authority in an effort to boost Hawaii’s visibility in social media channels. As the “family travel” person, I was there with my 9-year-old son, who at this Mai Tai moment was blessedly occupied jumping around in the surf and out of my hair.

25 years.

A bunch of gray hair and crinkly skin and a 22+ year Navy career enjoyed but finished, and here I was on the same beach drinking the same drink, a lot wiser and YES, dammit, I was pleased to admit….quite happy with my lot in life.

I ordered another one.

Sheila is co-founder of Tourism Currents, which helps make sense of social media for destination marketing for tourism professionals, and she writes for the multi-author Perceptive Travel blog. She hopes it doesn’t take another 25 years to return to Hawaii.

The Obama Family Vacation

The Original Shave Ice

Original Shave Ice by Kila via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Our man in the White House was Hawaii born and raised, so it makes perfect sense that during the winter break, he packs up the family, the fabulous Michelle and his lovely girls, Sasha and Malia, to head to Oahu for a little down time. Now that the holidays are over, seemingly everyone is back at work, including the President of the United States — but the Obama family vacation continues to make news, some absurd, some political, some just kind of amusing.

I love to read coverage of the Obama’s visits to the islands because I’m curious — as a person who’s tries to explore the local angle — about where that oh so attractive family of four (and who knows how many secret service people) choose to spend their time. I’m not so interested in the family’s accommodation of choice, they’ve got a budget I couldn’t hope to replicate, though there is a certain voyeuristic appeal in seeing what gorgeous view property they’ve rented this time. I’m more interested in where the Obamas go to eat, which beaches they choose, what they’re doing when they’re being, as best they can, an American family on vacation in Hawaii.

The Christian Science Monitor tells me Barack Obama got shave ice (no “d”, people) but doesn’t say where. You’ve got to go to the New York Times to learn it’s Island Snow. That same article says the President took his girls to the Honolulu Zoo, via motorcade. (I’d recommend walking, it’s pretty close to your Waikiki hotel.) ABC News says they visited Pyramid Rock Beach — on the grounds of the Marine base, where he also played golf.  CBS News says the family ate at Alan Wong’s and snokeled at Hanauma Bay on the day when it’s closed to the general public, meaning they don’t have to blow by it because the parking lot is full. As a person who likes a little off the beaten path exploration, I find the Obama itinerary a little lackluster, but I suppose there are some limitations when you’re traveling with a party of 24 staffers and a bunch of bodyguards.

According to the The Telegraph the Obama family vacation cost about 1.5 million dollars. As a person who’d budget about 175USD a day for a Hawaii vacation (hotel, rental car, meals, everything… ), reviewing the Obama itineraries is a little unsatisfying. Where are the private snorkel boats? The chefs brought in to prepare seafood caught that day? I’m sure that as mere outsiders, we don’t get to see what’s on the dinner table, we don’t get to know if they’re paying a guy to go to the fish auction at 5am to get the best blue fin for that night’s dinner.

It would be fun to review the Obama vacation and think, “So THAT’s how a local does it!” Instead, adjusting for a flashy budget and security, the Obama’s look a lot like just another family.

Obama Family Stops: