Ep 124: Keep it Aloha: How to Engage with Hawaiian Culture Responsibly with Kamaka Dias

by | Jul 9, 2024

In our latest episode of Hawaii’s Best, we had the pleasure of having Kamaka Dias.

Kamaka, a native Hawaiian with a rich background that spans across continents, shared not only his life story but also his insights on how to truly embrace and respect Hawaiian culture. Here’s how you can bring the spirit of “Keep it Aloha” into your own travels and everyday life.

Kamaka brought incredible wisdom to our discussion, setting the tone for a deep dive into what it means to live and travel with Aloha. His unique experiences, from an immersive Hawaiian education in Hilo to transformative years abroad with the Peace Corps, have given him a nuanced perspective on cultural engagement and respect.

Kamaka’s Journey: From Hawaii to the World and Back

Kamaka’s childhood in Hawaii, education at UH Manoa, and global travels have all shaped his understanding of cultural dynamics. He shared how these experiences led him to appreciate the importance of giving back to the community and the value of cultural sensitivity—lessons that are crucial for anyone visiting Hawaii.

Actionable Steps to Embrace Aloha in Your Travels

1. Educate Yourself About Local History and Culture

Before you visit Hawaii, take the time to learn about its history, culture, and language. Understanding the place and its people deepens your appreciation and enriches your experience. Resources like the Hawaii Verse platform and local museums or cultural centers are great places to start.

2. Support Local Businesses

Make a conscious effort to eat at local restaurants, shop from local artisans, and use services provided by local entrepreneurs. This not only boosts the local economy but also helps preserve the unique culture of Hawaii. Platforms like HawaiiVerse.com can guide you to authentic local experiences.

3. Participate in Community Activities

If your stay is long enough, look for opportunities to volunteer or participate in community events. This could be a beach clean-up, a cultural festival, or a community restoration project. Engaging in these activities helps to build respect and a genuine connection with the place and its residents.

The Race to 50K and Building Hawaii Verse

After returning to Hawaii, Kamaka initiated the Race to 50K project to tackle his student loans through innovative community-based challenges. His journey inspired many and led to his involvement with HawaiiVerse, a platform that supports local businesses while fostering community engagement.

How to Keep it Aloha in Daily Life

1. Show Gratitude and Respect in Interactions

Simple gestures of thanks, like a shaka or a polite acknowledgment, go a long way in showing respect and gratitude. Kamaka emphasized the importance of these small acts in daily interactions, especially in a culturally rich and diverse place like Hawaii.

2. Engage with Local Culture Authentically

When visiting cultural sites or participating in local customs, do so with respect and authenticity. Avoid the tourist traps and seek genuine experiences that offer insights into the Hawaiian way of life.

3. Reflect Aloha in Your Environmental Practices

Hawaii’s natural beauty is unmatched but fragile. Practice eco-friendly habits such as using reef-safe sunscreen, staying on marked trails during hikes, and minimizing plastic use. These actions reflect the true spirit of Aloha towards the land.

Kamaka’s Vision for Ethical Tourism

Our conversation also touched on the broader issues of commercialization and the ethical responsibilities of tourists. Kamaka shared his vision for a tourism industry that supports and uplifts local communities without overshadowing them.

Kamaka’s Top Recommendations for Local Eats

Before we wrapped up, Kamaka shared some of his favorite spots for authentic Hawaiian cuisine, from the best acai bowls at Lanikai Juice Co to the traditional flavors at Highway Inn. Trying local food is a delicious way to support local businesses and experience the culture.

Wrapping Up with Kamaka Dias

Kamaka reminded us of the importance of each individual’s role in preserving the culture and integrity of the places they visit. By living the “Keep it Aloha” philosophy, we not only enrich our own lives but also contribute positively to the communities we engage with.

Whether you’re planning your next Hawaiian adventure or seeking to incorporate more respectful and meaningful practices into your travels, remember to keep the Aloha spirit alive in all that you do. Mahalo for listening, and until next time, keep it Aloha, everyone!

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Transcript

124_Kamaka Dias_01

[00:00:00] Kamaka Dias: When I said, take, take, take, and you got to give back. You don’t have to give money. You don’t have to, you know, give your time to do anything specifically because we get a yard vacation or you’re just moving here. You’re figuring things out. But I think the biggest thing that people can give is gratitude.

[00:00:12] Kamaka Dias: I think that’s one of the biggest things that we want.

[00:00:17] Bryan Murphy: Kamaka Diaz is someone deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture and passionate about sharing its richness and as he mentions normalizing Hawaiian. In today’s episode, Kamaka takes us from the lush landscapes of Hilo on the island of Hawaii to his transformative years in the Peace Corps in Madagascar, and back to his vital work with Hawai’iVERSE.

[00:00:38] Bryan Murphy: If you’re curious about authentic Hawaiian culture, responsible travel, and living with true aloha, you won’t want to miss this episode. So stay tuned. Let’s go!

[00:00:49] Announcement: Aloha, welcome to Hawaii’s Best. Here you’ll learn what to know before traveling as we discover Hawaiian culture, local businesses, and the experiences that make Hawaii one of the most incredible places in the world.

[00:01:02] Announcement: And now your host, Brian Murphy.

[00:01:06] Bryan Murphy: Aloha and welcome back to Hawaii’s Best. It’s great to be with you again and I hope you are having a wonderful summer. Um, I’ve been away for about a month and a half, at least from podcasting and we’ve done, we’ve done summer ourselves. We did a epic road trip as a family all the way up to Montana, almost to the Canadian border from where we live in Southern California.

[00:01:31] Bryan Murphy: So that was a trek and, uh, glad to be home. Glad to be back in the groove of things. And I hope to Like I mentioned you are having a great summer as well Uh, you want to check out the last episode that I did about what summer in hawaii is like So be sure to check that out episode 123 but today today is going to be a good one This episode was actually recorded, uh quite a while back And just been waiting I guess for the right time to release it and I think in travel We’ll see And especially in how to continue to travel responsibly, I thought this episode was fitting.

[00:02:09] Bryan Murphy: It’s with Kamaka Diaz, as I mentioned in the, uh, the teaser intro, he is someone who truly embodies what it means to live with Aloha and respect across all cultures. Kamaka is a native Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese local boy from the big island of Hawaii, where he grew up in Hilo Town. He’s fluent in Hawaiian, his first language, uh, from a young age, and he graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

[00:02:36] Bryan Murphy: But Kamaka’s journey didn’t stop there at just academics. He ventured far beyond the islands, spending three years there. incredible years with the Peace Corps in Madagascar. And after returning to Hawaii, he tackled a massive personal challenge that we’ll hear a little bit about, the race to 50k to pay off his student loans by doing all kinds of odd jobs, which he documented to inspire others as well.

[00:03:00] Bryan Murphy: Now he’s spurring his passion into supporting local businesses as the director of outreach and host for his podcast, Keep it Aloha. So if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, or just dreaming of one, Kamaka’s insights are amazing and I’ll put them all together in a succinct spot on our website at hawaiisbesttravel.

[00:03:18] Bryan Murphy: com slash 124. Where you can find all today’s key points. And today we’ll dive into the importance of understanding local culture, how to be a respectful visitor and why giving back to the places you visit makes all the difference. And we also get into the nuts and bolts of ethical tourism, what that is, how to tangibly do that and how to generally support local communities and not just take from them.

[00:03:42] Bryan Murphy: You can catch more of Kamaka’s work@keepitaloha.com and follow their social channels like on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. For more aloha, be sure to check out his podcast. Keep it aloha wherever you get your podcasts. Alright, so let’s go ahead and let’s talk story with Kamaka Diaz

[00:04:07] Bryan Murphy: Kamaka. Thank you so much for your time. You’re aloha and for coming on Hawaii’s best today. How you doing, man?

[00:04:14] Kamaka Dias: I’m good. Thank you so much for having me It’s great to meet you and I’m stoked to talk story.

[00:04:18] Bryan Murphy: Yeah, man. This is gonna be good Talk a little bit about growing up on Hawaii Island But also just kind of bring us up to speed of where you’re at today

[00:04:26] Kamaka Dias: I like to think I had had somewhat of an unorthodox Childhood and even light still to this day I grew up in Kilo went to a white emergent schools all of my life until my junior year You Hawaiian was my first language, so ever since I was born, my dad only spoke Hawaiian with us, even to this day, even our text messages, everything’s in Hawaiian.

[00:04:46] Kamaka Dias: So I went through that process. I was really into sports. I played a lot of sports growing up, some video games on the side as well. So that was my, my two main passion. But this is, this is before like streaming and everything. It was just for fun, that kind. And then my senior year of high school, I moved to Kaiser high school on Oahu to play football and soccer.

[00:05:06] Kamaka Dias: So I did that. I graduated from Kaiser. I went to UH Manoa. I was a super senior. I didn’t know what I wanted to do the first couple of years. I ended up majoring in communication and my senior year I studied abroad in Spain, in Sevilla, and from that point on I, I, I just caught the travel bug, I loved learning about culture, languages, other people, and I was, I was just, just super hooked.

[00:05:32] Kamaka Dias: So I came back to Manoa, I got a minor in I studied abroad again in Argentina, but the biggest thing that I guess like the pivotal part of my life was when I was in Spain during that semester abroad, I learned about something called the Peace Corps because my resident director was in the Peace Corps in Micronesia a long time ago, so I just overheard the conversation.

[00:05:54] Kamaka Dias: I wasn’t part of it and I went home, looked it up. It just looked like everything I wanted to do. You can travel, you can help others. You can learn a new language, learn a new culture, you can challenge yourself. So, uh, that just sounded like everything I wanted to do and what I was looking for as I finished my college career.

[00:06:11] Kamaka Dias: So after I graduated in 2016, I went to Peace Corps Madagascar and I was there for three years. I loved it so much I extended for a year. Wow. And it was just The best experience of my life. It taught me so much and it gave me so much perspective on life and helped me understand others and myself at the same time.

[00:06:29] Kamaka Dias: And then I got back in 2019 and I did this thing called the race to 50K where I paid off 53, 757 of student loans in one year. Just by doing a bunch of odd jobs, like collecting cans and recycling, yard work, delivery, dressing up as Buzz Lightyear for a kid’s birthday party, like all kind of things.

[00:06:48] Kamaka Dias: Worked every single day. The grind, the hustle, love it. Exactly. It’s so tiring, but I loved it and I love connecting with others. And this is during the pandemic as well. Crazy. So that made it a little bit more challenging, but I was able to finish in 11 months. And then while I was doing that, I met the people who had the idea to start Hawaii Verse and they brought me on to kind of be the face and promote this idea that they have, they had was they wanted to create a coupon directory for local businesses, kind of like a local version of Yelp and Groupon.

[00:07:16] Kamaka Dias: Right. And we started with 40 businesses in Hilo. We would do spotlight episodes, record a cool video at their place, promote them. We started with 40 businesses. We grew. to a thousand businesses statewide, and it kind of just exploded from there. And then at the end of 2021, we kind of transitioned out of those spotlight videos.

[00:07:35] Kamaka Dias: We had an e commerce store as well, where we sold local products. And we decided to start a podcast. And it’s funny because like podcast is my life now and it’s my passion, but I didn’t even want to start the podcast. They told me I should start a podcast. And I was, I was kind of hesitant. They said they’ll set it up.

[00:07:53] Kamaka Dias: I just had to come up with a format and everything. And I started doing the podcast, which we started as Whativerse podcast. And it just blew up so quickly and the conversations kind of started to go into culture and people more so than local businesses and entrepreneurship, even though we talk about everything, right?

[00:08:13] Kamaka Dias: There’s no topics that are off limit on the podcast. So most recently we lit the podcast from our business, Hawaii Verse, and now it’s Keep It Aloha podcast. And that’s what we’re doing today.

[00:08:25] Bryan Murphy: You mentioned you only came back in 2019. So this is like, Oh yeah, still fairly recent. Like a lot has happened in these last couple of years.

[00:08:32] Bryan Murphy: And I’m curious in all your travels and specifically Madagascar, what was it like for you traveling kind of as an outsider, a Malahini, if you will, to another location,

[00:08:45] Kamaka Dias: In Madagascar, they have a word that we have in Hawaii that’s similar to haole. It’s called a bazaha.

[00:08:51] Bryan Murphy: Okay.

[00:08:51] Kamaka Dias: That’s what foreigners and travelers who aren’t Malagasy are referred to, or pretty much anybody just white or doesn’t look like they’re Malagasy.

[00:09:01] Kamaka Dias: Yeah, right. And it’s similar in a lot of countries like that, where they have a lot of visitors. There’s usually a word for haole. And that was a big, I guess, step in my journey of discovering who I was and finding out my identity and giving me perspective on being a haole. Because for the first time in my life, I was a haole.

[00:09:25] Kamaka Dias: I was a haole living in another country. I was trying to dress like them, speak like them, eat like them. And to me, I was doing it out of respect. But when I reflected on that and I thought back of my life here in Hawaii, I would always get upset at people doing that. People coming here and they’re matching Aloha shirts with their family and saying Mahalo and Aloha.

[00:09:49] Kamaka Dias: Saying words poorly, pronouncing them poorly. And I would get annoyed by that and then I realized, wow, I’m doing the same thing in Madagascar. And I’m not doing it to be disrespectful, I’m doing it as a sign of respect. So that really shifted my mindset and gave me a new perspective and a little bit more empathy for the people coming here.

[00:10:10] Kamaka Dias: But it also made me realize that, you know, it’s okay to live in another place and travel, but there always has to be some, some sort of gift back. You know, my thing is like, what value are you bringing to that place? And I think that’s the biggest issue with here in Hawaii. If people move here and they take, take, take, you know, that that’s all they want to do is enjoy the island.

[00:10:33] Kamaka Dias: You know, buy a nice property over here and they don’t add anything to the community. So that’s my biggest thing is where, and it’s even made me hesitant to travel. I haven’t traveled outside of the U S since I’ve been back, but I’m so much more conscious of being a good visitor and a good guest that I almost don’t want to.

[00:10:55] Kamaka Dias: Put myself in that how let’s choose again.

[00:10:58] Bryan Murphy: Wow. We could like deep dive into that right there. I’m just so curious. Can you think of that family all matching, you know, Aloha shirts or quote Hawaiian shirts? Yeah. Yeah.

[00:11:10] Kamaka Dias: It’s a lot of shirts people.

[00:11:13] Bryan Murphy: If you had to like, okay. And maybe we could drill down a little bit, but like your biggest.

[00:11:17] Bryan Murphy: Tip, you mentioned like, take, take, take, take, but like, what is like the biggest tip that you can give someone traveling to Hawaii, how to give back?

[00:11:25] Kamaka Dias: Yeah, I think, I mean, depends what your intention are. I think that, that’s the biggest thing, is what are your intentions here? Is your intention just to go to the beach and go to all the nice places in Waikiki, have a, have a real touristy vacation, which is fine.

[00:11:40] Kamaka Dias: You know, just don’t do anything dumb, but are you trying to move here, live here, create a family here with that, you know, I think it’s good to, you know, maybe look for some organizations to volunteer, you know, if you really want to get involved in the community, but I think at the lowest scale is just educating yourself on the history and the people.

[00:12:01] Kamaka Dias: And knowing what to do and what not to do over here. Because when I said take, take, take, and you gotta give back, you don’t have to give money, you don’t have to, you know, give your time to do anything specifically, because we get it, you’re on vacation, or you’re just moving here, you’re figuring things out.

[00:12:15] Kamaka Dias: But I think the biggest thing that people can give is gratitude. I think that’s one of the biggest things that we want. When I see someone crossing the street, or I let somebody go on a crosswalk, and they don’t throw up the shaka. They don’t wave or acknowledge you. That, that is one of my biggest pet peeves.

[00:12:32] Kamaka Dias: It would be so much different if they just threw up a shaka. They mouthed the word, thank you. Like that, that sometimes that’s all we need is the acknowledgement that I did something nice for you. I showed my aloha, you gave me aloha back. I see you. And it’s something as small as that, to me, is like giving back or just, you know, not going in the, The sacred places or just, sure.

[00:12:54] Kamaka Dias: Not saying flip flops. I don’t know.

[00:12:59] Kamaka Dias: There’s levels. Yeah. There’s a lot of levels. Levels, yeah. But yeah, the simplest, simplest level. Throw up the shock. I said when? When in doubt. Shock out. When in doubt. Thumb in. Pinky out. There you go. .

[00:13:11] Bryan Murphy: A lot of the conversation I think around like giving back. Goes into like volunteerism, you know, it’s like such a hot word and and giving you your time and and you know But you know grandma’s got the stuff booked up at the Sheraton and we got to go eat at Duke’s on Sunday We got to do this and that like when we’re gonna go volunteer and it’s like, okay, you mentioned something.

[00:13:31] Bryan Murphy: That’s so tangible gratitude is so is so huge and I think that can lead into, I want to hear your definition of Aloha and, and just the thought behind the title of the podcast, Keep it Aloha, what does that mean to you? And Aloha in itself, but just the phrase, keep it Aloha.

[00:13:52] Kamaka Dias: I love that. I usually ask my guests what does keeping it aloha mean to them and what the definition of aloha is, so now it’s split.

[00:14:00] Bryan Murphy: I’ve talked to you a little bit. I

[00:14:02] Kamaka Dias: think it’s interesting because everyone interprets it differently. I’ve gotten some really interesting answers when people tell me what keeping it aloha means to them. For me, I think keeping it aloha is just having patience, having compassion, and having love towards others and yourself.

[00:14:21] Kamaka Dias: You know, when, like, when I see that person that I let cross the road and they didn’t throw up the shaka, they didn’t acknowledge me, you know, I tell myself, I got to keep it aloha, you know, aloha always wins, you know, because to me, aloha is unconditional, but, you know, so I can show you aloha and I don’t expect anything back, but I do believe at its core, aloha is is reciprocal.

[00:14:50] Kamaka Dias: To fulfill that circle of Aloha, you need some sort of reciprocity. You know, I do something for you and you do something for me. And it doesn’t always have to be, you know, something physical, tangible. It’s just like, like I said, throwing up a shaka. To me, that’s what the essence of Aloha is, is just showing I see you, you see me.

[00:15:09] Kamaka Dias: Let’s just talk, think about like the avatar, you know, the blue people when they, they say, I see you, right. That that’s Aloha. It’s that it’s understanding. It’s like, I see where you’re coming from. You see where I’m coming from. Let’s all Aloha each other and this world would be so much better. So yeah, keeping it Aloha is really just like.

[00:15:28] Kamaka Dias: I guess to summarize it for me, I think understanding and compassion.

[00:15:32] Bryan Murphy: As native Hawaiian, do you ever get tired of that?

[00:15:36] Kamaka Dias: I think I get annoyed when people don’t, don’t do things, but then, but then I also have that perspective where I can understand where they’re coming from because maybe that’s not just their culture.

[00:15:48] Kamaka Dias: Maybe that’s, that wasn’t the way they were raised. And that’s why you need to have ahonui. You need to have patience. Because one of the other things I realized when I was in Madagascar is not everybody thinks the way you think. Not everybody’s gonna do things exactly the way you do it. When I, when I moved into the city during my third year in Madagascar, I would, I lived in an apartment, so a lot of people would come through, through my apartment when they came to the capital.

[00:16:12] Kamaka Dias: And I would always take off my slippers or shoes before going into my house. And then some other volunteers that are from different parts of the state, they would just come in with their slippers or shoes. And then I would always kind of cringe and like, you know, have a little exorcism inside of my, my body.

[00:16:28] Kamaka Dias: Don’t you know? Yeah. And then I’d be like, oh, sorry, sorry, sorry. Can you just take off your slippers? And then eventually I got so annoyed by that. I mean, I didn’t vocalize it, but in my head, I’m just like, how are you this disrespectful and unaware that you cannot even take off your slippers and shoes when you walk into my house?

[00:16:46] Kamaka Dias: But then I, again, I, you know, reflected on it and I thought maybe that’s just not how they were raised, you know, and, and instead of me getting angry at them, which a lot of people do here in Hawaii, you see something happen, you’re just angry, you, you yell at them, educate them. I think that’s the biggest thing that we can do.

[00:17:04] Kamaka Dias: If you educate them, then they will do it again. And if you do it in a, in a nice manner. Then they’re going to receive it way better than if you were just selling that to them or you put the word to them, you know?

[00:17:16] Bryan Murphy: Right. What are some resources and maybe the podcast and Hawaii Verse is one of those resources.

[00:17:24] Bryan Murphy: But if someone is looking to, you mentioned even just learning a little bit about Hawaiian history and getting educated on maybe some of the do’s and the don’ts, what are some resources that you’d recommend? Um,

[00:17:37] Kamaka Dias: Yeah, I would follow Hawaii creators, maybe the, the people who actually are from here and have a perspective because you know, you follow people who moved here for college and lived here and they’re just showing you all the secret places to take a picture, you know, or something like that.

[00:17:52] Kamaka Dias: Maybe those are the right people to follow if you really want to educate yourself on the true Hawaiian history. I think the podcast that I host is a really good resource. People learn a lot from that. I get a lot of really good people on and it’s pretty much just me asking dumb questions to smart people.

[00:18:10] Kamaka Dias: And it’s so educational. I think there we’re at a point where my generation is doing a lot of things for the Hawaiian community, trying to educate people and use social media as a way to share our story instead of just. The romanticized version of Hawaii.

[00:18:28] Bryan Murphy: Mm-Hmm. .

[00:18:28] Kamaka Dias: So yeah, just look out for that People, um, find the guest that I had on my podcast, Coulee

[00:18:36] Kamaka Dias: I think she just got married to her last name is different right now. But she, she’s a musician and she, she has really good thoughts on Hawaiian language and Hawaii culture. I, I like following. So, yeah.

[00:18:48] Bryan Murphy: And as you’re listening, I will link up some of the episodes that we’ve had. We’ve had Elijah McShane on, we talked about some of the do’s and don’ts.

[00:18:56] Bryan Murphy: We had Kahunui Solatorio on, we talked about, he’s been on a few times actually, um, defining aloha and then talking about a little bit about Hawaiian history and just kind of talking story about that and educating. So those are some good resources.

[00:19:13] Kamaka Dias: Yeah, I was just thinking as I finished explaining Aloha and you brought it up again.

[00:19:18] Kamaka Dias: I feel like my definition of Aloha always changes. Like you could ask me a week from now and it might be different. I got to record a video for somebody telling them what Aloha means. And you know, when I was rehearsing it in my head the last week, I was thinking like, you know, Aloha ain’t a love for the land, love for others, love for oneself.

[00:19:36] Kamaka Dias: And now, you know, Where I’m at this week, whatever is going on in my world, I’m like, oh, it’s compassion, it’s patience, it’s understanding. And that’s because just the other day, when I was going surfing, I saw somebody go across the street and he threw up the shotgun, and I really appreciated that. So, you know, that’s why I brought up that example.

[00:19:54] Kamaka Dias: So I feel like Aloha is always, you know, It’s contextual, just like the language. So it’s, you know, whatever’s going on in your life, maybe the aloha that you show and you receive is different at different parts of your life.

[00:20:06] Bryan Murphy: I want to touch on something because the shaka and maybe saying aloha or mahalo or whatever.

[00:20:13] Bryan Murphy: It’s not trite. Like, it’s really Encouraged. Is that, is that what I’m hearing? Like, so someone, you know, traveling and like, maybe they want to, you know, throw up a shotgun, but like, I don’t know. Is that, is that okay?

[00:20:25] Kamaka Dias: I hear that a lot. Yeah. And I get where they’re coming from. Cause it’s like, you, you don’t want to be that wannabe, right?

[00:20:32] Kamaka Dias: It’s the same thing as traveling anywhere and learning a language. You have to get past that, that shame. In Hawaiian culture, we say, A’aika hula, bai hoika, hila hila, makahale. It’s, uh, dare to dance, leave the shyness at home. You know, that’s one of the sayings that we use. I think it’s good when people do that.

[00:20:54] Kamaka Dias: I used to have a different perspective growing up. I was like, I don’t want them to do that. But because I would love to have Hawaiian normalized, In Hawaii.

[00:21:04] Bryan Murphy: I would

[00:21:05] Kamaka Dias: love hearing people say Aloha and Mahalo, even just the smallest words, right? You don’t have to know how to say a whole sentence in Hawaiian, but if you just use certain things like, Oh, well, why does it say cane on this bathroom sign?

[00:21:17] Kamaka Dias: Oh, kāne, which means man, you know, everything’s in education. Wahine? Yeah, wahine, everything’s an educational opportunity. And I do appreciate when people try to use the language because as a, as a You know, traveler myself, if I go to Madagascar, I want to say Manon, I want to say Misutra for thank you. If I’m in a Spanish speaking country, I want to say gracias, you know, so I think people, the locals appreciate that.

[00:21:45] Kamaka Dias: Sometimes, you know, it can be cringy because, you know, it’s like you see somebody saying a word that you’re so used to hearing with a weird pronunciation. But I think, I think locals need to have more compassion for others.

[00:22:00] Bryan Murphy: Let’s, let’s define that real quick. Local versus Hawaiian. Yeah. A lot of people talk about supporting local, and I think this will kind of lead to talking more about Hawaii verse.

[00:22:10] Bryan Murphy: But what is local, and what does it mean to support local?

[00:22:13] Kamaka Dias: Yeah, so, Hawaiian is somebody with the blood, Hawaiian blood. And if you look back in our history, you know, Hawaii could also mean somebody that was a resident here or lived, you had nationality here. But I think more so how the more accepted term these days is if you’re Hawaiian, you have somebody with a butt.

[00:22:33] Kamaka Dias: It’s not like you’re born in California, you’re Californian. So if you’re born in Hawaii, it doesn’t automatically make you a Hawaiian. You can live the Hawaiian lifestyle, you can have the Hawaiian mindset, but I think that that’s kind of like a controversial thing these days. For local, I think it’s anybody who was born and raised here.

[00:22:51] Kamaka Dias: Maybe even somebody who’s been here for a while. For me, I think it’s all about how you behave and your mindset and how you act. Because I can see right so, so quickly if somebody’s local or somebody’s not, or they try to pretend like they’re local because they’ve been here for the last 10 years, every six months because they own a house over here.

[00:23:13] Kamaka Dias: You know what it is. They got their Mahalo rewards cards. Like in that South Park episode. That

[00:23:19] Bryan Murphy: episode is so spot on. It’s

[00:23:20] Kamaka Dias: so good, yeah. I don’t think there’s, you know, one specific term for local. I mean, if you look in the dictionary, it’ll explain what a local is. But, I mean, if I’m just trying to make it as simple as possible, it’s just somebody who is born and raised here, but isn’t Hawaiian or somebody who’s lived here for a really long time and is integrated with the community.

[00:23:46] Kamaka Dias: I don’t, yeah, I, I feel like maybe that’s one of the biggest things. If you’re not integrated into the community, maybe you’re not so much a local.

[00:23:54] Bryan Murphy: Yeah, that makes sense. The phrase Hawaiian at heart, Israel Kamaka Iboole, kind of, I remember there was a concert that he mentioned that phrase. And the first time I heard that phrase, how does that phrase sit with you?

[00:24:07] Kamaka Dias: I personally kind of like it. I know that’s not a popular thing to say. I know BJ Penn got a lot of slack for that when he was running for governor saying Hawaiian at heart. It’s tough because I’ve been in places where I felt so in touch with the local community, like in Madagascar, I felt like I was Malagasy because I spoke the language and.

[00:24:32] Kamaka Dias: Again, like there’s, there’s levels to this, you know, people come, don’t come here and learn Hawaiian and live in the middle of nowhere and really get in touch with the Hawaiian culture. It’s like, I was like, yeah, I went with the Peace Corps and one of the goals, you know, to live like the locals, like I got water from a well, I lived in a community where.

[00:24:49] Kamaka Dias: You know, there was no one else that looked like me, so I really got to live that Malagasy lifestyle and speak like them and everything. So, you know, at that point I felt like I was Malagasy at heart. I, I wouldn’t, you know, ever be Malagasy, you know, it’s, it’s more of like a, a joke if I ever said like, ah, if I, if I’m Gasey za.

[00:25:06] Kamaka Dias: It’s like, I’m already gossy, you know, it’s more of a joke. And they think it a lot better than if you said it over here, like, Oh, I’m already gawaii. If you say that, then you’re gonna get some stink eyes. So, I think Hawaii is a very specific situation where you can’t do that just because of the trauma, I think, from past.

[00:25:28] Kamaka Dias: And, you know, the indoctrination, assimilation, colonizations, all the Asian words, but I think, I think it’s because of that, that people are more sensitive to that stuff today. I feel that I have a unique perspective because I’ve traveled and lived, lived abroad. I feel like a lot of people probably don’t have that same mindset.

[00:25:51] Kamaka Dias: And I like to think of myself as the bridge between, you know, both. Kind of generations, right?

[00:25:58] Bryan Murphy: So maybe talk a little bit about how you guys with Hawaii’s verse are supporting local

[00:26:03] Kamaka Dias: Well, we’re doing what we’ve built in the last three years It’s something very special that I wish more people got on what was on board I mean, we have a lot of supporters and our name is pretty well known in the community But I feel like it’s still it’s still hard to train people to do something right to train them to go on the app and look for local businesses And even support local and buy local because it’s not always convenient.

[00:26:29] Kamaka Dias: Supporting local is, is not the most convenient thing. It’s more expensive. It maybe it might take longer for your thing to get to you. If you order something online, because it’s a, you know, small business, we don’t have the luxuries of having factories and workers and, you know, print on demand stuff, you know, stuff like that.

[00:26:52] Kamaka Dias: So I think, you know, what we’re doing with Hawaii verse is. giving them accessible ways to support local, you know, just instead of going to McDonald’s or Taco Bell, just go on the Hawaiiverse app, look for the local businesses that are around you that have food, you know, instead of going to Zara or Macy’s or something, just go on Hawaiiverse and look for some local retail shops, you know, so we’re giving them opportunities to support local.

[00:27:22] Kamaka Dias: And for me, it’s really just about creating the environment and Showing them that it’s a possibility. But the main thing is really just shifting your mindset and being more conscious of how you support local. Because I don’t think it’s feasible to support local all the time. You know, at midnight, there’s no local places open.

[00:27:42] Kamaka Dias: You maybe there’s a few, but Taco Bell’s open. There’s Taco Bell. Yeah. So, I mean, at Jack in the Box, maybe those are times, you know, you go, you go to those places, but you know, in the daytime when it’s possible, try your best to support local. You know, even if you gotta pay a little bit more, I’d rather pay a little bit more to buy something knowing that it’s going to support a local family rather than, you know, going to a corporation.

[00:28:07] Kamaka Dias: So, like, I don’t, I haven’t been to McDonald’s. Since I got back from Madagascar or like one of those fast food, I don’t, I don’t eat at a fast food places like that.

[00:28:16] Bryan Murphy: Supporting local is huge, which kind of leads me to, I think, like a, maybe a, a bigger question, but I want to get your thoughts on it, you know, since, I mean, there’s, there’s been criticism about the commercialization of Hawaiian culture and how do you, or how would you navigate that issue in promoting, if you will, ethical tourism?

[00:28:40] Kamaka Dias: I think you got to work with the locals. Nobody knows the perspective better. Nobody knows the local community better than the locals. And, you know, not, not even just the Hawaiian, but like the local people that are born and raised here, that grow up here. I mean, if you can hire Hawaiians, that, that’s even better.

[00:29:00] Kamaka Dias: You know, I think. Working with the locals is the best way to go to do that. And like, I, I was just thinking about this recently. Like we don’t need to keep everyone away from Hawaii. I think there’s a good balance where we can work together with some people, you know, on the continent and some people over here and kind of work together to make Hawaii a better place.

[00:29:21] Bryan Murphy: So, in working together with visitors, travelers, maybe people who are moving onto the islands, if you had a magic wand, like, how would you see Hawaii, ideal place as far as community and thriving? What does a thriving Hawaii look like to you?

[00:29:40] Kamaka Dias: I would wave that magic wand to Take all the, uh, tourists out of the surfing zone so we can have so much more waves for surf.

[00:29:51] Kamaka Dias: That would be the first thing I’d do. I think my, my ideal Hawaii, the one that I envision is kind of going back to that ahupua’a system where it’s like this ecosystem where, you know, people up in the mountains are helping people down in the sea. Everyone has their own roles as farmer, fisherman. And now we kind of have this modern world where we have social media or we have business side.

[00:30:18] Kamaka Dias: I feel like trying to create this modern is my, my main thing, and having locals and Hawaiians realize that what you’re doing is okay and you’re still supporting the community by doing what you’re doing. It just looks different these days, you know? And you’re not gonna find me in the lobby that much.

[00:30:38] Kamaka Dias: You’re not gonna find me fishing or doing whatever. I feel like what I’m doing in social media, in business. is what I’m contributing to my community of Hawaii. And I feel like it’s just growing that mindset and letting people know that it’s OK to be doing what you’re doing. You know, we don’t all don’t have to be farmers.

[00:30:57] Kamaka Dias: We all don’t have to be hunting and shooting boars all the time. That that’s a boar in the English language, pigs. But I I do hope a lot there will be a lot more farmers. And Hawaii becomes a lot more sustainable so that if the ship stopped coming, we would be able to last more than two weeks. I’m going to be honest, I probably won’t ever be somebody who’s going to be a farmer, but I would, I would love to know how to grow my own food.

[00:31:30] Kamaka Dias: So if that ever happened, if the zombie apocalypse came, you know, I’d be able to do that. And it’s just one of those, those things that, you know, I have to. Get better at, you know, that in that phase of my life as a Hawaiian, I have the language, I have the culture, I know the tradition, but there’s still a lot of aspects of my life that I want to be better.

[00:31:51] Bryan Murphy: What are some things that you’re looking forward to as far as like, you think all things considered from the podcast to Hawaii verse, you know, I guess I don’t want to say like, what’s next, but like, what are you excited about now? And maybe some, some goals you have.

[00:32:06] Kamaka Dias: I’m really excited to just keep doing what I do and keep meeting people and building the connections.

[00:32:12] Kamaka Dias: I like to say connections because connections are strong, but connections are better. It’s like that, that relationship between locals, between Kanaka, between Hawaiians, it’s a lot, it’s a lot stronger. I want to, you know, keep building community. I want to inspire others to do the same. I really want to see the Hawaiian language thrive.

[00:32:33] Kamaka Dias: I think that’s one of my main thing of what makes me super excited because from the time I was in Hawaiian immersion school until now, I’ve seen it grown so much. We were at the brink of extinction. It was a dying language. And now I think it’s a thriving language. There’s so many people speaking it.

[00:32:48] Kamaka Dias: There’s a lot of resources. I do believe in the next. 10 to 20 years, the landscape of Hawaii with supporting local, with the Hawaiian language, with equal tourism, I think it’s going to be so much better if we can get people in positions of power. Because I feel like what I’m doing is really important to spread the word.

[00:33:08] Kamaka Dias: And I do believe that with Hawaii Verse and my podcast, we can make change, but it’s really hard to do that from the ground level. I feel like we do need Hawaiians in office. We do need to kind of kick out a lot of the people that don’t have the interest of Hawaii in their mind. Some people without political agendas.

[00:33:28] Kamaka Dias: But I do believe in the next, like I said, 10 to 20 years, maybe even longer. And, you know, even if it’s the next generation after us, I’m not even gonna lie for that. I hope that there is some sort of change that gives Hawaiian people and local people the upper hand. Because we’ve been at such a disadvantage for so long.

[00:33:48] Kamaka Dias: And I don’t want to blame the victim harder, you know, have that victim mentality. I’m the kind of person like, okay, this sucks, let’s work harder. You know, Hawaii is really expensive. Well, let me make a lot of money so that I can live here. But, you know, not everybody has that mindset. So I do want to be, find out a way to help people live here and thrive in Hawaii.

[00:34:08] Kamaka Dias: Yeah. There’s a lot of things that we can do, but I’m just trying to do whatever I can do in my lane.

[00:34:13] Bryan Murphy: Yeah. That’s beautiful, man. What are some of your top eats on Oahu?

[00:34:19] Kamaka Dias: I love acai bowls. Yeah. You know, that’s like one of my favorite, or smoothies. That’s one of my favorite cold surf snacks. I like some of these from Lani Kai.

[00:34:29] Kamaka Dias: There’s usually one everywhere, so it’s super easy to go. The Health Bar in Diamond Head has good acai bowls with the pa’i hai on top. Another Health Bar, I think they’re like Brazilian owned or something like that. The owners are really nice. They make a good acai bowl. And then in one of my favorite, Coconut in Cocorina, in Hawai’i Kai.

[00:34:51] Kamaka Dias: They have really good acai bowls with toasted coconut flakes. And then for food, I, I really like, I don’t eat out too much, but I really like Highway Inn. That’s usually like a, one of the places that I bring my friends if they’re visiting, because they have good Hawaiian food. And it’s kind of like family style.

[00:35:09] Kamaka Dias: And then Pioneer Cafe, they have good food as well. Yeah, that’s probably some, I’m, I’m sure I’m missing a whole lot of other places. But those are usually my, my go to places. Like Salt Caw Caw. Well, you can find good places there. Even local kitchen. That’s a good place as well.

[00:35:24] Bryan Murphy: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:35:25] Kamaka Dias: I got to run some Hilo spots cause you know, that’s, that’s my hometown.

[00:35:29] Kamaka Dias: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Poke, Poke market, probably one of the best poke bowls you’ll ever have. They have really good sides and Kula shave ice, uh, endowed on Hilo by the farmer’s market. They’re on waiver. So if you mentioned waivers to get a dollar off the best shave ice I’ve ever had. Well, we say ice shave in Hilo, but it’s the best you’ll ever have.

[00:35:48] Kamaka Dias: Organic, natural flavors. There’s one they put like jalapeño cream on top. It’s, it’s amazing. So definitely check those places out. And if you want to be a little bit more fancy, wooden turtle. They source from a lot of local farmers. Super good. So yeah, East side, West side. I’m sorry. East side or West side?

[00:36:07] Kamaka Dias: East side or West side? Well, I mean, so sometimes my haircut would say West side, but I’m an East side boy. You know, East side. And when I moved to Oahu, I lived in Waikato with my grandma and that’s also East side. So even though I want to, you know. Be a, a west side banger. I’m an east side boy. I’m turning into a townie now.

[00:36:32] Kamaka Dias: I live right by Ala Moana. I surf town, so. You know, I’m just accepting my reality.

[00:36:38] Bryan Murphy: Kamaka, thank you so much for coming on. Curious how people can find Hawaii Verse, how people can find Keep It Aloha podcast.

[00:36:46] Kamaka Dias: You can find us on Instagram and Facebook for Hawaii Verse, even Tik Tok, and then our website HawaiiVerse.

[00:36:53] Kamaka Dias: com. Keep it aloha. We are everywhere. We try to dominate social media on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. We post new clips every single day, maybe even more than one clip every single day. So you’ll see a lot of keep it aloha spam from us. And then keep it aloha. com. I forgot we just created a website and we’re selling our merch right over here.

[00:37:15] Kamaka Dias: Keep it aloha. And we’ll have more in the future. Yeah. Only been doing it for about a year and a half. So we still have a long way to go and a lot more exciting things to come. Kamaka,

[00:37:26] Bryan Murphy: thank you so much for coming on today, man. Appreciate you.

[00:37:29] Kamaka Dias: Mahalo. I appreciate it.

[00:37:31] Bryan Murphy: Mahalo Nui to Kamaka for his time and for coming on the show.

[00:37:37] Bryan Murphy: I hope his story and insight have given you a deeper appreciation for what it means to truly engage with and respect the local cultures and communities that we all visit, especially in Hawaii. A couple of things to take away from our conversation today. First, traveling with intention isn’t. Just about where you go.

[00:37:56] Bryan Murphy: It’s about how you connect with the place and its people and like Kamaka said it’s about giving back Not just taking and a second thing that really stood out to me was the importance of showing gratitude Something as simple as a shaka or thank you Mahalo can really go a long way and reflect the aloha spirit and make a meaningful impact And like I mentioned you can find the resources we mentioned today And a bit more about Kamaka’s projects at our show notes page, hawaiisbesttravel.

[00:38:26] Bryan Murphy: com slash 124, where we dive in more about these topics and some of the resources mentioned in today’s episode. And if you found value in today’s episode, love to hear from you. You can share this podcast with a friend or drop a review wherever you get your podcasts and every little bit helps spreading the aloha and helping others discover beautiful Hawaii.

[00:38:49] Bryan Murphy: So until next time be well and keep it aloha.

 

Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.