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Editor letter

SUMMER 2004 | Editor's Letter - The Changing World

SUMMER 2004 | Editor's Letter - The Changing World

King Kamehameha was a handsome, muscular, nearly seven-foot-tall monarch who united the Hawaiian Islands with a firm hand for the first time in their history. In the end his reign was one of unparalleled peace among the previously warring islands. On his deathbed in 1819 in the quiet cove of Kailua-Kona, his very last words to his people were "Enjoy what I have made right."

I lived on the Big Island for years and spent a long time soaking up its natural mystic atmosphere. Hawaii may be part of modern America, but it is very much its own universe, full of lava goddesses and menehune (leprechauns) and a tangible feeling of existing amid thousands of miles of open ocean. The peace that Kamehameha created is still as strong there today. This profound uniqueness of place--in all its geographical specificity and human drama--is what traveling, in my view, is all about.

As the current battle for same-sex marriage rages on the mainland, many forget that Hawaii was where it all began in 1990, when three gay couples applied for marriage licenses in Honolulu. The issue was eventually put to a public vote in 1998, when it was resoundingly defeated.

The fact that minority rights were put to a majority vote is another topic altogether. But what struck me as funny is that before contact with Europe, Hawaii was a society with blurred sexual lines, a very loose definition of marriage, and a culture of aloha (love)--where everyone was included regardless of their differences.

Despite political setbacks, Hawaii is still one of the most gay-friendly, laid-back places on the planet. And as more and more out gay and lesbian travelers return to discover the 50th state, the traditionally conservative Hawaiian tourism officials come closer to embracing the gay travel market. And who knows--if Hawaii residents had been more acutely aware of how popular their islands are for gay tourists, they might have drawn on their own history and voted differently.

As my former colleague Arthur Frommer showed me, travel is not one of life's extravagances but one of life's necessities. It has the immense power to change our character, our preconceptions, our worldview. It shakes us out of our ruts and expands our notion of what is possible in this life. But often overlooked is the power that we travelers have on the places we visit. As more and more gay and lesbian voyagers spread out into the world, openly and happily and without feeling the need to be marginalized, we become accidental ambassadors. The simple act of visiting other places in our casual state of identity causes people in different places to alter their own preconceptions. And the world changes.

I look forward to sharing this sense of the transformative nature of travel in the future pages of The Out Traveler. I believe it will be a revelatory journey for us all.

Matthew Link

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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