By Nadine Kam
With Andrew McCarthy at the HTA Conference at Hawai'i Convention Center. — Toby Tamaye photo
I was really intrigued by Andrew McCarthy's keynote address at the Hawaii Tourism Authority's 2013 Hawaii Tourism Conference, on Aug. 22.
The sometime actor and travel writer talked about the illuminating experience of solo travel. It's not a unique idea, but it's still unusual in that most people choose to travel in the company of others, and his talk resonated with me because it is a subject I've thought about constantly over the years. I have done some solo traveling myself, and found it true that it opens your mind and spirit to whatever may come and what people may come your way.
I have met some true characters on the road and feel richer for the experience. In New Mexico, I went riding up a mountain with a couple of Indians I met at Taos Pueblo, who chanted all the way. We stopped to eat piñion off the permafrost and after our trek through the wilderness, we ended up in an all-white cowboy bar where 6-foot men wore belt buckles nearly a foot across. Heads turned when we walked in, and as an Asian girl in the company of two brown skins, I thought we we're going to get run out of the place for sure, but it was all simpatico.
As McCarthy said in my interview with him—at http://www.staradvertiser.com/featurespremium/20130820__Americans_should_not_fear_travel_says_actor_and_avid_explorer.html?c=n —the world is much more welcoming than it seems in the media, and if people would just go out and experience other places and cultures firsthand, the world would be a better, safer place.
On another trip to Arizona, I visited one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the United States, Old Oraibi on top of Third Mesa in Navajo County, founded in 1100 A.D. I was told not to take anyone's picture there in the Hopi village because they are a traditional, private people and consider any invasion of privacy to be rude.
While making my way to the top of the mesa, I saw a couple of German tourists peering into windows of the homes and taking pictures, which is akin to having someone walk into our yards and taking pictures. An old woman came out of one of the homes and chased them away.
I was just an innocent bystander but when she saw me being respectful she invited me to one of their ceremonies, which are typically closed to the outside world.
It was around Christmas or new year so there was a big family celebration and they invited me into their home for a potluck meal, and I got to see one of their kachinas, or spirits, come to life.
He was there to scare bad-behaved children. I was standing outside with some of the kids, and we saw him scratching and pounding at the door like a big bad wolf, so when he turned his head our way, we ran away!
Since the death of my husband Christopher Neil in April, solo travel is more likely to become my norm. Although I do like the company of others, as a writer I may be more accustomed to solitary pursuits than most people and don't mind it. So I look forward to more adventures on my trip to Bali, some of which I will share here.