During my time on the Big Island of Hawaii, many similarities to my home territory of the Yukon have come to my attention. I know what you are thinking right now – “you’re crazy” and “I can’t think of two places that have less in common”, but hear me out. I thought the same thing coming here, but I’ve seen too many similarities to ignore.
Yes, the Big Island is an island, while the Yukon is surrounded mostly by land (but for a few exceptions). The Big Island is a year-round paradise, while the Yukon is thought by many to be a desolate land of ice and snow (though this is not the case all the time). The similarities I see are more in the lifestyle and the people than anything.
Both of these places are quite isolated and have that everyone-knows-everyone feeling as far as residents are concerned. Both of these places also thrive on tourism. Though the Big Island is a bit more of a tourist destination than the Yukon, many people looking for excitement and adventure tend to head to the Yukon, or Alaska via the Yukon, so we get quite the crew of interesting characters there as well. Tourism is one of the largest industries in the territory.
In the Yukon, it is not uncommon to meet residents that traveled there once and decided to stay, or to meet tourists that keep returning again and again. Everyone has a story about how they ended up in the Yukon for good. I will never forget about my high school history teacher and how he ended up there, or at least the story he told us about it. He had just graduated from the University of Alberta and was married to a girl. One summer, he took a motorcycle trip through the Yukon to Alaska and just absolutely fell for the Yukon. He vowed that he would return there to live. When he arrived back to his wife in Alberta, she flatly refused to move somewhere as far away and desolate as the Yukon. Not long later, they got a divorce and he moved up north. Many years later, he was happily married to someone else and teaching high school students in Whitehorse, never regretting his decision. My own parents arrived in the Yukon planning to stay only a year or two, when I was two years old. I ended up spending my entire childhood there. The Yukon is full of stories like this, but I have found that the Big Island is as well. Many people just have a feeling that “this is where they belong”. People leave behind perfectly good lives on the mainland to come and struggle to make ends meet here in Hawaii, but they stick to the idea that this is where they are supposed to be. Some come to visit once, and then decide to move to the Big Island. People are attracted from all over the world to settle in both of these places, and I find that amazing.
The inherent culture of the Hawaiians is very central and obvious here, and I found the same thing with Native culture growing up in Whitehorse. My elementary school used to have “Native Culture Days”, where we would eat bannock and make Native crafts, or learn how to snare a rabbit. Hawaiian culture is apparent everywhere here, and I know that the schools teach children Hawaiian Culture classes, as this is probably the favourite of my 6-year-old cousin. I think that tourists enjoy the injection of culture at both of these locations.
There are a few small ideas that hilariously carry over between the two places. In Hawaii, there is this idea of “Hawaiian Time”, or always being fashionably late. More than that, I think it is being a little bit zen and living in the moment, and if you end up being late for something, well, so be it. I grew up learning of “Yukon Time”. In the Yukon, things never begin on-time and people are rarely expected to be on-time. In the Yukon, we also have this idea of “Yukon Formal”. Events rarely have a strict dress code, and this idea is merely one that reflects that. It is the idea that whatever you are wearing is fine for wherever you are going. Don’t get me wrong, we often have events where the majority of people are dressed up nicely, but you always have to arrive in boots and a winter jacket. Not to mention, that old guy in the plaid shirt and huge winter boots with no change of clothes always shows up fashionably on “Yukon Time”. It’s the Yukon – you can’t expect to change people. I bring this idea up because here on the Big Island, the trend seems to be “You’re in Hawaii – no one cares what you’re wearing”. There is no appropriate level of dressiness for almost anything here, or so it seems from my experience. Even on the resorts, the staff are dressed rather casually compared to upscale hotels on the mainland. In fact, I often feel silly spending too much time on my hair or clothes here, much like I do in Whitehorse.
The final reason that I see so much in common between these two places is the connection with the outdoors and all the activities it affords. Yes, in Hawaii, many of these activities are on the ocean – but in the Yukon we do many similar things, just on lakes and rivers instead. The Big Island has many beautiful hikes that tourists and locals alike flock to, and this is true of the Yukon as well. During my day off-roading all over Waipio Valley, it hit me that this was probably the biggest reason that I felt these places had so much in common. That day was totally something that a group of people would have done in the Yukon, it just would have been a different type of location. Overall, both of these places have an amazing attachment to the land that they exist on, and the people make full use of that.
This is a topic I never would have considered writing about when I first arrived here, as it had never occurred to me that this could be possible. I have found two places that just feel incredibly similar to me, more so than any other two places I have been in my life. I find it amazing that two places that really are so different have so many inherent similarities.
I don’t mean to take away from either of these amazing, unique places. The similarities that I see don’t make either of these places ordinary – in fact, I really do think that they are both extraordinary locations. There are still many things that make each special, but it is in parts of the people and the lifestyle that they feel the same. Maybe this is why I have had such an easy time adjusting to life here in Hawaii.