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Hawai'i as A World Class Wellness Destination

hawaii - a world class wellness destination"When you return home from a vacation in Hawai'i,
you just want to be a better person."                                 --Garrison Keillor

For as long as I can remember, the Big Island has been known as the "Healing Island." Thus, the origin of the name of this column. Those of us who are blessed to live in Hawai'i know that there is an almost mystical quality to life here. It feels good to be here. On the physical level we have the warm moist embrace of scented air, the sparkling of the morning sunlight after a night of rain, and the colors, oh the colors. Hawai'i's impact on the senses was aptly described by Mark Twain when he called it "a place where you can get drunk without drinking."

But it is the invisible forces all around us that create impressions which filter through our wakefulness and into our subconscious realms. The aloha graciousness of Hawaiian people, the aina, or the spirit and beauty which permeate the land, and the mana, the almost tangible blessings and grace of the Great Spirit, grab hold of us and move us toward wholeness and wellness.

Many of us who have migrated from the U.S. mainland and other countries were brought here by a longing. We may have verbalized our longing in a variety of ways, but we knew on some level that by coming here we were doing something that would be good for us.

Healers of all persuasions have always been drawn to these islands and to the Big Island in particular. They also have responded to the magnetism wrought by the aloha, the aina and the mana. Those of us who live here are incredibly fortunate to have such a diversity of gifted and spiritually-in-tune health care providers within a short, beautiful drive of wherever we are on the island.

Tourists have always come to Hawai'i because being here simply made them feel good. The tangible beauty and the legendary romance inherent in just the name, "Hawai'i," evoke smiles and stress-releasing sighs. Past tourists may not have put it in these words, but they came here in search of health.

What is happening now is that there are rapidly increasing numbers of tourists who are consciously looking for vacation opportunities that promote their well-being. Providing services for these health-focused travelers is becoming a full-blown cottage industry in the islands.

At the end of February I attended a wellness tourism networking meeting at the Hamakua Ecology Center near Honoka'a. The content of the meeting emphasized how individuals and groups on not only Hawai'i, but the other islands as well, are starting to promote wellness-oriented vacations. The meeting was organized by Laura and Betsy Crites, sisters who are focused on communicating to the world the vast resources Hawai'i offers for healing the various levels of existence. To this end, Betsy and Laura have compiled an excellent publication titled, "The Call to Hawai'i, A Wellness Vacation Guide Book." Their stated intention in publishing the book is "defining wellness travel as a vacation with the intention on enhancing balance and harmony on all levels -- mind, heart, body and spirit."

The first part of the book is rich and thorough, describing the healing experiences that are possible in Hawai'i and setting the tone for what is to follow. It offers clear instructions to the reader on self-assessment to determine the nature of the wellness vacation they might find most useful. There are also a number of articles on philosophies of healing and healing methods. The second part of the book is an island-by-island discussion of magical and healing places, activities, and a directory of island resources.

"The Call to Hawai'i" is a beautiful, chock-full of information tool that clearly defines wellness tourism and is destined to become the industry's "Bible." I found both the Garrison Keillor and Mark Twain quotes in "The Call."

Laura and Betsy are also the founders of the Hawai'i Wellness Tourism Association (HWTA), whose stated mission is to "promote Hawai'i as a premier destination for wellness travel, contributing to the economic health of our islands while emphasizing our diverse culture, sacred land and aloha spirit." The Association has a number of impressive people on both its board of directors and its advisory board.

Another person at the meeting at the Hamakua Ecology Center was Patrick Linton, Executive Director of the Five Mountains Organization, which has been involved in health and wellness resource networking on the Big Island for several years. Five Mountains, like HWTA, seeks to promote the island economy through its web sites, publications and outreach activities. Patrick is on the Board of Directors of HWTA.

Sharman O'Shea, also at the meeting, has been in the Big Island wellness networking trenches for years. Her organization, Holomana 'O Hawai'i, publishes a newsletter, organizes health expos, and networks out of Kamuela. Her web site, Hawai'i-Healing.com, promotes state-wide Hawai'i healers and wellness-related activities and opportunities.

At the meeting at the Hamakua Ecology Center, it was noted that wellness tourism has been traditionally viewed as a niche, like ecotourism. By the end of the meeting, it was clear that wellness tourism is not a niche -- it is integral to all tourism in Hawai'i. The mission is to communicate how everything comes together here to contribute to health and well-being.

In "The Call To Hawai'i," Laura and Betsy Crites say that a "magical convergence" has taken place on the islands, and that there is no other place in the world whose environment and people generate an atmosphere so profoundly conducive to healing. Many of us have for years known this to be true. That's why we are here. Sharing the magic through wellness tourism can only mean good things for us, for our visitors, and for the planet -- a perfect example of thinking globally and acting locally.

Laura and Betsy Crites: 808-941-8253, crites@hawaii.rr.com
Hawai'i Wellness Tourism Association: 808-223-2533
Five Mountains Directory: www.kekukui.net.
Five Mountains, Home Page: www.fivemountains.org
Sharman O'Shea: www.hawaii-healing.com
Hamakua Ecology Center: 808-775-9083

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Drs. Connie and Marcel Hernandez - Pacific Naturopathic Retreat Center
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