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Recently, I was asked one of those grand, sweeping questions that seem super cheesy but still leave you with your tongue hanging out, a stumbling “uhhh” on your lips.

“Where is your favorite place in the world?”

Nothing too earth shattering, but enough to make me pause for an extra second, close my eyes, and try to conjure up an image of perfection. I scrolled through my mental camera – favorite spots in my hometown, spectacular sights from trips abroad, and even some moments from my DukeEngage experience here in Kaua’i. But nothing felt quite right; even the most beautiful images seemed empty, yearning for something past the bright lights and colorful scenes.

The rabbit hole was briefly interrupted by a friend nearby: “it’s about the people, not the place” he jeered with a grin. Another seemingly cheesy comment, but once again I was forced to pause for that extra second. Isn’t there always some truth to the cheese? I scrolled through the mental camera again, this time with the addition of a crucial element: family, friends, even strangers in the background. The result was transformative; the gaps filled in, the appetite for more satisfied.

I could never have chosen this island as my favorite place. Not because it isn’t an incredible location – the views from mauka to makai physically take my breath away every day. And not because the people aren’t wonderful – the strength and resiliency of this community is inspiring, and everyone I have met has shown me nothing but respect and gratitude.

 Afternoon at Ke’e Beach – usually overrun with tourists, but now practically empty because of the post-flood road closure

But this is not MY place. When I gaze up at Makana, the peak on the far side of the North Shore, I feel no special connection to the land. When I enter the dark cavity of a sacred cave, I feel no special connection to the history of those that have come before. When I watch the children hula and listen to them Oli, I feel no special connection to the rich Native Hawaiian culture of this island. This is not MY place, these are not MY people, this is not MY history and culture.


Departures are always bittersweet, and this upcoming departure is no exception.

Bitter for having to leave such an incredible place, sweet for having the opportunity to spend so much time here and truly immerse myself.

Bitter knowing this can never be my place, sweet knowing I have a favorite place elsewhere, that we all have a community and a history somewhere in this world.