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  • Life-Changing Travel Contest: Kirsten

    I went to Hawaii in 2007 for an Intercultural communications class.  For three weeks, we were able to learn about the true hawaiian culture, and not being “Tourists” of Hawaii, rather, we were able to be engolfed in the culture and live their way of life.   Their culture and spirituality has had a great impact on who I am today – almost 5 years later.  For me, Hawaii is one of those places that leaves me speechless.  I have been back twice since 2007 and I get the chills every time I am there.  The typical tourist may not feel this way, but when you are able to spend time with local hawaiians and listen to their stories about their culture and way of life, it is truly an inspiration.

    Return to the main Finalists page

    Posted on:

    184 Responses

    1. Derek says:

      Sounds like an amazing place…you deserve to go Kirsten!

    2. Nick says:

      Good luck,

    3. Shari Johnson says:

      My vote is for you 🙂 Hawaii is the best!

    4. KIrsten says:

      Thanks to everyone for the comments/votes!! If you are unable to leave a comment- check back in a few minutes! (but before midnight! ) thanks!!

    5. Amanda says:

      Sounds like an amazing experience! I hope to get there someday! Thank you for sharing and good luck!

    6. tom wilson says:

      Great story. My vote is for you.

    7. A says:

      Good luck!

    8. Ashley says:

      Great stuff Kirsten!!! That experience changed us all for the better!

    9. Hello…Kirsten loves to go to Hawaii for her getaway vacation…the weather
      is so beautiful and warm…I’m voting for my former fellow worker Kirsten
      Simon…so it is the good time to go to Hawaii during Minnesota winter for
      a week or two weeks…smile and Kirsten loves vacation trips especially the
      warm climate…I’m voting for Kirsten…thanks Nelly 🙂

    10. Jenna says:

      I would LOVE to go to Hawaii someday! Sounds like you had an amazing time and what a great way to experience Hawaii by actually doing non-touristy things and getting to know the real culture there!

    11. Dan O says:

      Good Luck Kirsten!

    12. R Murphy says:

      Sounds like a trip for sure!

    13. Greg S. says:

      Hawaii is a very special place, as are the locals. Good luck with the competition.

    14. Anna says:

      Kirsten should get paid for all of the advertising she does for Hawaii. I have known her for 13 years now, and she is rarely happier than when she is talking about Hawaii, or talking about going back to Hawaii. It has truly been an amazing experience for her and she deserves to have another one soon! Best of luck to you Kirs!

    15. Kelly says:

      I love ur updates and pictures of all ur trips!!! Good luck girl!

    16. Kelly says:

      Good luck!! I always enjoy ur pictures and updates of your trips!!

    17. George Pryor says:

      Kirsten is by far the coolest of all the contestants. She learned so much from her travel and time in Hawaii. It changed her completely–gave her a new and positive outlook on life, made her more mellow and relaxed and just a wonderful person to be around and hang out with. She for sure deserves to win!

    18. Kristy H says:

      Go get em Kirsten.

    19. Logan says:

      That story brought tears to my eyes.. Just beautiful

    20. Lauren says:

      Kirsten, I just returned for that trip about three weeks ago and your thoughts and feelings towards the experience totally resonate with me. Best of luck in this competition!

    21. Kirsten says:

      I hope you win Kirsten. You deserve it!

    22. Ashley says:

      Kirsten represents her own and all of the other UMD ohanas proudly – I hope you win this pretty lady!

    23. Greffie says:

      Hope you win!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is COOL!!!!

    24. Lizzy says:

      This is cool….hope you win

    25. Lizzy says:

      HOPE YOU WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    26. sondance says:

      GOOD luck…..hope you get back to Hawaii

    27. Catherine H says:

      How fun! Good luck!

    28. Jordan says:

      Good luck!!!!

    29. Pilar Blomquist says:

      Hope this helps 🙂

    30. Scott Peterson says:

      Sounds like an amazing experience Kirsten! I have been lucky enough to travel all over europe and a few countries in Asia but have never had the chance to visit Hawaii yet. I would love to see the cultural that you were immersed in with your visit. Good luck with the contest, you deserve it!

    31. Josh Mitchell says:

      would love to go to Hawaii some day. Hopefully Kirsten gets to go and will show us all their pictures.

    32. Theresa says:

      Kirs deserves this!! lets go back packing in hawaii!

    33. Aaron says:

      Good luck Kirsten! Glad I made it in time to try and help out!

    34. Rachel Rachel Kowalczyk says:

      Kelsey S –

      Did you visit Hawaii with Kirsten? I’ve never been to Hawaii but since I’ve been to all 48 states in the continental US, it may be high time for me to see 49 & 50. Kirsten’s got me sold on Hawaii, and Adam Elliott’s done the same with Alaska. Check out his slideshows on The Ambler. They’re gorgeous. He is a professional photographer so his stuff is particularly stunning, but Alaska is so photogenic that even the point-and-shooters come home with some spectacular images.

      I’m curious how your experience in Hawaii was truly life-changing! Care to share?

    35. Megan Hadley says:

      Best of luck on your travels! I pick YOU!!!

    36. Anonymous says:

      I took that class in 2005. Great experience. Good luck.

    37. Rachel Rachel Kowalczyk says:

      Such a good sport, Kristen! I’m so happy that we had the opportunity to highlight your inspiring submission! You did a terrific job continuing the conversation on your entry, and it’s so nice to see you supporting one of your “competitors.” Best wishes to you in finding creative ways to travel the world and have a positive impact on the places you visit (I know you will!)

    38. Wildcard says:

      This trip was incredible. The people are amazing! They invite you to live and hang with them, play you songs, take you hunting. The spirits inhabiting Hawaii are strong and they have subtle and not so subtle ways of telling you they are with you and listentening.

    39. Hi Kirsten, I’m Kristen J, another contestant. I wanted to give you my vote. Unfortunately, I am not able to win this since I’m not an American citizen, but I’m glad I got to share my story with everyone. I really love your story and I hope you win. If you ever want to write about your story in more detail, I’d love to have you as a Guest Poster on my website: http://www.hopscotchtheglobe.com. Send me an email. Goo luck:)

    40. Tony Nicolai says:

      I love hawaii! I can’t wait to go back.

    41. Kirsten Simon says:

      I love Hawaii. Cant wait to go back again!!

    42. Brian Sorenson says:

      Super jealous of your Hawaii experience! Hope this helps you get back there!

    43. Leo says:

      In a New York Minute this one should win!

    44. Kelsey S says:

      I did this trip also Rachel, and it truly is a life changing experience.

    45. Jaci Reynolds says:

      Great opportunity! Hope this helps you!

    46. Pete says:

      Good luck! Was there a few years back and it truly is a life-changing experience.

    47. What a great story and inspiration.

    48. Shay says:

      Your time in Hawaii sounds amazing and inspiring. I hope to one day check out beautiful Hawaii and learn from their culture as well!

    49. Matt J. says:

      I went on this trip in the class before Kirsten. The people, the places, the stories; all were incredibly life-changing. It’s a pity to think that people travel to O’ahu, sit on the beaches of Waikiki, sip their pina coladas, and never know what happened in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s (and what is still going on). Do yourself a favor – put down the fruity drink, make a conscious effort to travel to many different islands, learn from the people, absorb the REAL culture, and listen. Learn. Try to comprehend what happened. Try to understand their present-day struggles. It’s truly a life-changing experience you’ll never, ever forget.

    50. Cool trip. I wanna go!

    51. Megan says:

      I too have gone on this trip just this past winter break. And it was absolutely life-changing! It is different than any other trip that I have been on. And to come together with all of the people from school (most of didn’t know each other beforehand) and especially with the locals. We were able to create such a strong bond in such a short amount of time. I miss my time there everyday, and it’s only been 2 weeks since we’ve been back.

    52. corey says:

      Hawaii has been one of the most life changing experiences I’ve ever had, and if not for Kirsten I am unsure it would have been the same. The local people of hawaii are the most genuine and caring people I have ever met and Kirsten has so many traits that also mirror those i see in my native friends. Thank you for sharing this experience with me and good luck in your adventure wherever life may take you.


    53. Lauryn (Anderson) Doty says:

      Good luck! I was there in January of 2008 for the same class and I miss it!

    54. mike sunnafrank says:

      Well, you know what I think about Hawaii. It really is about the people, not so much the place. But whadda place and so whadda, whadda people.

    55. Gina says:

      Sounds like such an amazing Experience! 🙂 I would love to travel to Hawaii someday!

    56. Kirsten says:

      **Frank – I know you have experience Europe…** (Not Hawaii.. Sorry! my typing was a bit fast ** 🙂 (which that is on my destination list to go again too)

      Becky, Thank you. I agree that is is SO important to always take away more then just a ‘vacation”. Make something out of it and meet someone new. You NEVER know who could make an impact on your life

    57. Kirsten says:

      Thanks to you all for the votes!!- I would agree with Frank! (Thanks for commenting and being supportive with this!! – I know you have experienced Hawaii in a similar way!!!) Conversation is good! 🙂

      Greg, I would agree. The Big Island is definitely the place that has a great spirituality to the Island. All of the Islands are beautiful but something about the Big Island make it by far the most influential island for me!!

      and YES, the “Hawaii 78” is a very influential song to so many people and it really spells out what the Hawaiians have gone thru.

    58. Frank says:

      Thanks everyone!!

      Sean – I’m glad you listened to ‘Hawaii 78’. Its a great song!
      Greg – Thank you! I would say the Big Island, definitely. The people and the land there are amazing and so different from the other islands!

    59. Emily Dahl says:

      Beautiful Kristin! Sounds like an amazing experience!

    60. Laura says:

      Awesome! Good luck kirs:)

    61. Becky says:

      Your story is very inspiring. It is so important to always take something away from every place you go and every person you meet.

    62. Frank says:


      Hawaii is the next destination for me. I plan on going next year but you just convinced me to do it a bit differently. I really enjoy being pampered, being a beach bum, room service, and all of that which was my plan. I still plan on doing some serious R&R but after reading what you said I’m going to do more adventuring on the islands and mingle more with the locals and not the hotel staff. Thanks!


    63. Greg says:

      The Hawaiian Islands are like no other place on earth that I’ve seen. I read through a few of these entries and I have to say that I truly enjoyed yours. Reading your comments make me want to go back again and experience some of the things you did. Which Island was most influential to you?

    64. Louie says:

      Good Luck Kirsten

    65. Donna says:


      We have traveled to several foreign countries and throughout the United States We have gone to Hawaii five times and I still get the chills, as you do, everytime I’m there. I totally understand your love of the islands. There is no place like it. What a great submission and my vote is for you.


    66. Katie Kautto says:

      That trip was truely amazing!!! I hope you win!!

    67. Eliza Rose says:

      HOPE you win….What an awesome experience

    68. Elizabeth says:

      I hope you win…..Can I come along too. Always wanted to see Hawaii

    69. Clare says:

      Good luck, Kirsten! 🙂

    70. Brady says:

      Good Luck Simons! 🙂

    71. Georgie Ace says:

      Great story!

    72. Maggie says:

      Good luck!

    73. Ryan Riemer says:

      Awesome! Good luck!

    74. Jena spaulding says:

      How wonderful. Good luck Kirsten!

    75. Jamie says:

      I would love to visit Hawaii too someday! The culture there seems very cool. Its awesone that you have been able to go there and get so much out of it beyond just the normal tourist experience 🙂

    76. Mandy says:

      Hope you win!

    77. Natalie says:

      Hawaii is so beautiful! Good luck!

    78. Chancie says:

      That sounds awesome. I hope to visit Hawaii at some point in my life as well. If we could all be so lucky to have that type of an experience!

    79. Brendan says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I had the privilege to visit this place many years ago and hope I get another chance to see the true beauty Hawaii has to offer.

    80. Sean says:

      Kirsten – I know how much you loved Hawaii and how it has made you view the world and your life a little differently ever since. It would have been great to experience this trip with you. Maybe we will have to do a trip there and you could be our tour guide and introduce us to your friends. Thanks for sharing. Also – I listened to Hawaii 78 – The words really make you realize what the Hawaiian have gone through…. Thanks for posting that recommendation. This is really an eye opener to realize how naive you can be of the rest of the world. I hope you win so you are able to experience another culture in the way that you did in Hawaii. Best of Luck!

    81. Kira says:

      Your story sounds great – I hope to visit Hawaii in the next few years and I will definitely read one of the books you recommended before going. Thank you for the insight and recommendations! Good Luck!

    82. Sara says:

      I have never been to Hawaii…YET! I love the idea of traveling and submerging yourself in the culture of where you are. All inclusive hotels are great, but you maybe never really get the true sense of the local culture and the most beautiful spots to hit, and the best food to grub! Best of luck to you Kirst! xoxoxo

    83. Reilly says:

      This sounds amazing! What a cool place! Sara Thinks so too.

    84. Kirsten says:

      Erika – Hawaii is such a beautiful place and so much unlike many other places! It is a place where you can be a tourist and spend a lot of $ or the complete opposite – That’s the best part! If you enjoy reading, read a book on their culture – I think when you are aware of aspects of their culture, you can automatically connect with the people and the Islands. There are a few museums over on the Islands that were really great to visit and get more visuals on their culture – I recommend visiting.

      Meghan – Make sure to make it there someday! Thanks for the vote!

    85. Kirsten says:

      Sarah – I think you can have any experience of Hawaii if you want! I DEFINITELY recommend reading those books before the next time you go back (It is a long plane ride!) I think just being aware of their culture, traditions and spirituality of the Islands, you will definitely have a different outlook on your vacation – Makes it a little more special that way! And yes, I do agree. Our 50 states are all a little different, but it seems like we only know what our own state is all about. Its a great learning experience to add into a vacation!

      Doug – Thanks! It would be awesome 🙂 I have been reading up on a few new cultures that I don’t know about currently and whether I win or not, I plan to read about them and visit the country/state/etc with a different view!

      Greg – Enjoy your time in Hawaii – Grab a book to read on the plane over! 🙂

    86. Kirsten says:

      Dave – It is a great place! I think you and Lucy would absolutely LOVE it there!!

      Bernice – Enjoy Hawaii! 🙂

      Megan – Definitely add this place to your bucket list. I would recommend trying to make it to the Big Island when you go!!

      Kayla – that is definitely a possibility! I will never turn a trip to Hawaii down. It would be great to introduce you to my friends over on the Big Island!

    87. Jake says:

      Always have such a good time visiting there, good luck!

    88. RaeAnn says:

      great story! I would LOVE to go to Hawaii someday!

    89. Kate says:

      Sounds great! I’ll make it there someday…

    90. Narth says:

      Love the story and love Hawaii! Can’t wait to go someday! I wish you all the best.

    91. Mike Arver says:

      Sounds wonderful! I need to go there sometime in my life!!

    92. Kyla Hoffman says:

      That sounds so awesome Kirsten! 🙂

    93. Meghan says:

      I’ve never been to Hawaii but I’ve heard wonderful things about it from everyone who’s ever been there. Hope my vote helps you continue traveling!!! : ) Good Luck!

    94. I am voted for Kirsten Simon…so I know she loves to go to Hawaii…my niece lives in Hawaii and someday I would love to go and visit her…so I heard a lot about Hawaii and all that like cultures, food and weather….smile and I am voting for Kirsten Simon…smile <3

    95. Amy Lulich says:

      My sister is currently living and there and she LOVES IT! I have also been there and would go back….Kirsten it sounds like it was a great opportunity for you and life long memories!

    96. Jake says:

      Voting Kirsten… Because she deserves to win…

    97. Erika Schewe says:

      My first trip to Hawaii was the most amazing experience because I had no idea how beautiful it was. I think the adventure aspect was also a reason why Matt and I loved it so much. We of course went back, and it was just as great. We tried to talk to the locals and go to “local” restaurants and places as much as possible, but I am truly jealous of your experience that let you dig into the true Hawaiian culture for an extended period of time! I would love to learn more about that the next time we go, and there will be a next time.

    98. Greg Lulich says:

      I am going to hawaii in three weeks and i will be spending more time with the locals this time than I did the last time I went. I hope that I will share some of the same experiences that you had!!?

    99. Doug Reier says:

      Kirsten — Sounds like an awesome experience you had in Hawaii. I was there once in high school and have been anticipating my return ever since. I hope you win this thing so you can experience more life-changing travel! –Doug

    100. Lacey says:

      K- this is amazing! Way to rep UMD education! GO DOGS! 😉

    101. Kira Lace Hawkins says:

      Sounds like an amazing experience, Kirsten!

    102. Sarah says:

      I have been to Hawaii a few times and have never experienced it like you did. I know that Hawaii is a very spiritual place and I could see how one might connect with the Island. I will definitely be going back in a few years and I am planning on reading those books you mentioned below. Thanks for sharing your story. Its great that just visiting a place can be such a life changer for people. I think we all need to experience a little culture in our lives and what better then learning about a completely separate culture within our 50 states.

    103. Kayla says:


      I know how much you love Hawaii and I’d love for you to get the opportunity to go again! It sounds like an amazing time and someday I hope to experience it with you 🙂

    104. Megan says:

      I have always wanted to go there and now it’s definitely on my bucket list because of your experience!!

    105. Bernice Olson says:

      Voting for you! at my daughters house in Hawaii.

    106. Dave Amundson says:

      Sounds like a great place to visit. Can’t wait to go.

    107. Kirsten says:

      If you’re interested, here is an amazing song that touches many people’s lives…

      Hawai’i 78 by Israel kamakawiwo’ole

    108. Kirsten says:

      George – Thank you for the kind words. Hawaii definitely changed me in a good way! Bringing 26 students together who didn’t know each other (and being with each other 24/7) to having 26 amazing friends by the end… that in its self is a life change. I think each person brought something to the table and changed my life in one way or another!

      Jan – Looks like we need to plan a trip 🙂 You really can go there pretty inexpensively – It is a trip of a lifetime. And yes, it seems like many people that I have talked with haven’t been to the big island and it really is the most interesting Islands…

      Jeanne – Enjoy the trip! I really advise you to read some history before going 🙂 I provided a few book titles below.

    109. Patty says:

      Kirsten…I would love to have spent time with the families of Hawaii. When I was there, I went to a play that depicted the culture & history. It was done at a theatre in Lahina, Maui. The music was beautiful, the colors beautiful, the story amazing. Thanks for reminding me of what a special trip that was & how I dream of returning.

    110. Kirsten says:

      Melissa – I hope you get a chance to go! It really is an eye opening experience to see beyond the “mainlander’s” way of life. Hawaiian culture should really be in text books that we should learn about!

      Liz – If I had all the money in the world, there is no way I would stay in Minnesota – Id be a world traveler and be able to share experiences at every place I go. Too bad you don’t get paid for that – I’d be the first to sign up! :). This world is full of amazing people and places and I hope to see more and learn more throughout my lifetime.

      Mary – I have heard that book is Amazing. Before my next trip to Hawaii, I am planning on reading that!

    111. Kirsten says:

      Thanks Cassie and Jimmy!

      Leah – I will be glad to go back with you! 🙂 I recommend the Big Island for next time. There are some AMAZING places to see that have a lot of spiritual and cultural meaning behind them. I love that all the islands are a little bit different.

      Rick – You hit that spot on. Its amazing what education can do for someone. I really believe that it is what you take away from it though. I look at my 4 years of college – I learned a little bit that may help my professional life. In the few weeks I was in this class, I learned more then I have my whole life… Mostly about myself, how I want to live, and what is truly important in life. Changed my life for the good! I hope you and Leah are able to go – I will recommend reading the book titles I provided below. I think it will definitely enhance your vacation – better yet, you could have something to do on the plane ride over! 🙂

    112. Barb says:

      Sounds like a wonderful experience and there is no better way to understand other cultures than to be immersed in them.

    113. Babette Lightner says:

      Kristen, I know you’ll make the most out of any travel you take. Good luck.

    114. Anne says:

      Sounds like an amazing experience.

    115. Jeanne Ashton says:

      We will travel there for the first time this year, and I know I will see it through a different lens because of your experience.

    116. Jan Sponsler says:

      Kirsten, you have been very fortunate for all of the places that you have traveled. I would love to travel to Hawaii at some point, but not sure of when that will be. My brother-in-law, Seth’s brother, used to live there where he called the “backside” of the big island, not many tourist areas there. He was a minister there and had many interesting stories. We always wanted to go there but didn’t make it. From the pictures that I have seen of your trip there, it looks like you made many friends and made the most of your time there. You would be the perfect travel guide. Best of luck to you!

    117. George Pryor says:

      Kirsten has really blossomed and flourished after her travel to Hawaii. She is more confident, out-going and sure of herself in her highly demanding federal work.

    118. mary says:

      Hawaii, the book by Michener has always been on my “to read” list. It must be a magical place … thanks for sharing your experience.

    119. Nadine Kasel says:

      Life Changing Experience. I am honored to be part of another life changing experience with you. Your wedding was a big one and this trip sounds fantastic! I would say take me with you but that would be weird! lol Good luck to you. Make sure to upload some pictures!

    120. liz says:

      You have the wonderful desire to see the world.
      We know that Hawaii greatly impacted you.

      HOPE you can go again

    121. Melissa says:

      I have always wanted to visit Hawaii and hearing about your experience has only increased my desire to go there someday. I hope I am able to experience some Hawaiian culture someday as well! Thank you for sharing!

    122. Rick says:

      Education often affords us the opportunity to experience things that change the way we view the world. Both during school and after, those changes affect how we perceive and handle challenges and new experiences in our every day life. Hopefully Leah and I will be able to have our own Hawaiian adventure someday soon and get a glimpse into the culture that continues to influence you to this day. Thank you for sharing your story with us we really enjoyed it.

    123. Leah says:

      Kirs, I have heard numerous tales of your adventures in Hawaii. I myself have been to Maui, but I can’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy with each story you tell me because your experience seems to have far exceeded mine! You deserve nothing but sunny days and weeks of endless beaches in the many years to come! Good luck, darlin’! =)

    124. Jimmy says:

      Wow, what a great story. A pleasure to read.

    125. Cassie says:


      I just returned from a two week vacation in Hawaii yesterday afternoon! What an amazing place to visit and we will definitely be returning! Wonderful submission Kirsten – my vote is for you!

    126. Kirsten says:

      Erika – Another book to read:Ancient Hawaii (by Herb Kawainui Kane). I would recommend reading this and the one I posted below before visiting!

    127. Kirsten says:

      Erika – I would recommend ‘The secrets and mysteries of Hawaii: A call to the soul.’ I think this book really catches the spiritual and magical heart of Hawaii, beyond the “touristy” Hawaii as most see it today. I think that reading this (or another cultural book) before going to Hawaii, will really make your experience of an ‘ordinary’ vacation to Hawaii something different; not just a vacation.

    128. Sue says:

      I’ve traveled to 48 of our 50 states. After reading Kirsten’s entry, I KNOW Hawaii will be the next state I’ll visit. Thanks, Kirsten!

    129. Kelsey K. says:


      You’ve definitely got my vote. That trip was a life changer for all of us! I can’t wait to go back some day! Good luck with the submission!

    130. Keppen says:

      Wow- I’ve always wanted to go, and now it’s jumped to the top of my list. Thanks!

    131. Kirsten says:

      Jeannine – Its so true. Everyone always thinks of Hawaii as a romatic beautiful place. It is, but it has a culture all in its own too. The history of Hawaii is actually very interesting, yet very sad. There are so many things that are so important to Hawaii (plants, animals, even burial sites) and developers are trying to take it all away and build more and more condo’s and buildings to make a profit – forgetting that there is a culture over there who are fighting to keep the beauty of Hawaii beautiful. It really is an incredible place, and well beyond just the visible beauty of the landscapes.

    132. Jeannine says:

      I have never been to Hawaii and after all my International travels, wasn’t sure if I had any interest in going until I read about the experience you had when you visited Hawaii in 2007. To view the islands as a culture and not just a beautiful place to rest our weary heads and soak our aching feet on vacation was eye opening. When I think about how much I love the east cost for its history, I never really thought that Hawaii has a history of its own also and is much more than just warm air and beautiful beaches.There is a lot of culture to be explored and appreciated. Thank you for that insight.

    133. Nicky says:

      My vote is for you Kirsten! This trip is where I met you, and I’m so thankful for that. We learned so many things in that trip and we gained life long friends in the process. Love ya beautiful!

    134. Erika Grefsheim says:

      hey Kirsten — do you have any good book suggestions for me ?

    135. Kirsten says:

      Christina – I am so glad that you were able to join me (and many others) in this experience. I think it was one thing to read the books on the hawaiian culture like we did, but another thing to actually be able to hear about the deep stories of that culture directly from the source. Still to this day, I think about some of the stories that were told by Pali or listen and think about hawaiian songs (some sung by Big D and his band)… Always will put you in the best mood! Their culture is really one that people should be aware of and get to know. Thanks for the comment!!

    136. Kirsten says:

      Ben – How exciting to go back with a new group. I miss Big D and his band! I am hoping to take my husband over there soon and would love to coordinate it with the next group. Either way, I want to introduce him to our friends. That is so great you were able to bring your brother. I hope he had a great experience in Pahala – I dont think its possible to have a bad time with those wonderful people. Thanks for sharing! Aloha to you as well Ben 🙂

    137. Kristina says:

      Couldn’t agree more Kirsten, Hawaii is amazing in so many ways! Good luck!

    138. Kirsten says:

      Erika – Since you like to read, I would advise you to read a book on the hawaiian culture before you go. We were required to read two different books and it made the experience that much greater, because you had a background of the lifestyle/beliefs!

    139. Erika Grefsheim says:

      Hawaii is definitely in the top 5 places that i would LOVE to visit. The overall experience of stepping out of “the tourist box” would absolutely be something that would stay with you for a long time. I can’t wait to go visit it someday!

    140. Susan Grefsheim says:

      The only state I have yet to visit! Sounds like it should be a top 5 place for me to visit in the next few years! Great experience. Can’t wait to visit!

    141. Susan Grefsheim says:

      Kirsten you have my vote!!! Best of luck!

    142. Ben says:

      Kristen – I am so excited for you as you wait for the results of this contest! I was just in Pahala for the new year hanging with our friends. Big D and his band rocked the town of course! They rocked so loud and so long that the police came 3 times. It was funny though, the police were cousins of some of our friends. It was refreshing and invigorating for me to connect again with all of the greatness Hawaii and its people have to offer. It truly is about Ohana, the #1 priority! I was even able to introduce my brother to our friends…it was amazing! Now I’m getting long winded from all this excitemnet. Aloha and good luck!

    143. Kirsten says:

      Lisa – it is a must! Everything about it is amazing… the smell, the landscapes, and just the “feeling” you get once you are there.

    144. lisa kurkoski says:

      Never been to Hawaii, but It’s on the list!

    145. Kirsten says:

      Jeff 🙂 – Yes I will be your Tour guide and show you the non touristy beauty!

      I think the thing I most love about the Hawaiian lifestyle is not about having money, or a nice car, or a huge house – It’s about relationships and people. I think that is something to cherish and take with you – That is something often forgotten by many people. They are able to really enjoy life and cherish what they have and realize what matters most in life. If you take that in, anyone could have a life changing “ah ha” moment – and it actually sticks with you for the rest of your life….that’s the best part about it.

    146. Jeff says:

      Kirsten, Hawaii is the place I have heard you talk about the most of anywhere you have traveled to. We are thinking of doing a family vacation for Christmas this coming year. This may very well be the ticket. You could be our tour guide, and introduce us to some of the people you met there and continue to keep in touch with. The pictures you took makes me want to head there right now. Good luck with the contest.

    147. Kirsten says:

      Thanks Kristin! I think everyone should be able to experience the “beyond tourist spots”!! I loved the music over there too! If your looking for some hawaiian tunes, check out a great radio station, Kahufm.com (91.7 Kahu). One of the hawaiians I met over there is on here once in awhile! The Hawaiian music always seems to lighten the mood when you’re stressed or if you just need to feel happy!

    148. Susan Grefsheim says:

      You’ve got my vote!!!! Good luck!

    149. Jess Bauer says:

      Hope you get to enjoy Hawaii again! When we were living in Vegas, I got to play softball with and become great friends with a bunch of guys from Hawaii. They were awesome to me and treated me like their Ohana (family). The Hawaiian culture is truly amazing and I hope I can go someday. Pomaika`i

    150. Justin says:

      Great story. Thanks for sharing. I hope you feel that way forever; every time you go back.

    151. Steph says:

      I love this story!! It’s always an awesome thing to get to see what most others don’t.

    152. Brady O'Rourke says:

      Good luck!

    153. George Pryor says:

      I would travel to Hawaii based on Kirsten’s recommendation and personality. Something was very different about her when she returned and I know the culture and the people changed her for the better.

    154. Makaria says:

      That Intercultural Communications trip has always sounded like such a blast! I’ve had a few friends who have gone w/ UMD and they can’t stop raving about what an experience it was! I went to Hawaii with Josh for our honeymoon but we did the typical tourist thing, and I’m sure we sorely missed out on what Hawaii has to offer. We hope to go back and have a more meaningful experience; if and when we do I will be sure to pick your brain ;-)! Good luck with the contest!

    155. Andy Boyd says:

      Kirs – You’ve inspired me to place Hawaii on my ‘pre-30 bucket list’, thank you =)

    156. Kelsey says:

      I want to hop on a plane right now and go to Hawaii! What an amazing experience 🙂

    157. Kristin L says:

      My mom passed this contest info on to me – such a cool idea and a great story from you! I had a very similar experience when I spent a summer in Hawaii during college – it truly is an amazing place, especially when you can go beyond the typical tourist spots! Good luck with the contest!!!

    158. Kirsten says:

      Cathy – Make sure to add Hawaii on your bucket list. Ask my husband, I would talk about it for hours! 🙂

    159. Kirsten says:

      Amber – That would be great. It would be great to get more insight on new things I have yet to discover over there!

    160. Kirsten says:

      Caroline – You have that exactly right – The pace of life over in Hawaii is just about right, and almost perfect. For any traveler looking for time away, it is a place where you can feel “away” from the craziness of life and always find a way to immerse yourself in their culture – If you get away from “touristy” things, it just happens. Hawaii is truly an Island of beauty, in more ways than one.

    161. Christina F says:

      I too went on this experience to Hawaii. It TRULY was a life-changing experience for most who were able to attend. Learning about Hawaiian culture straight from the source is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We were able to tour places in Hawaii that tourists are not aloud. We were able to hear stories about what the Hawaiian people have been through and what the future looks like. Tears come to my eyes when I think about that experience. Kirs and I get a bit emotional whenever we talk about it! Happy to hear you are spreading the word about the “true” Hawaii 🙂

    162. Sylvia says:

      Hawaii is truly one of those paradise locations. To have had the opportunity to experience the authentic cultural Hawaii must have been awesome.

    163. Brent says:

      I can’t wait to travel to Hawaii because of the things Kirsten says about it. She makes it sound like the most beautiful place on earth in addition to having a strong personal connection with the people/culture there. Learning how it still impacts her life even after her vacation is long over makes me want to have these similar experiences and learn how it could impact my life. Thanks for sharing Kirsten! 🙂 When’s the next flight from Minneapolis!?

    164. Kari says:

      Wow, this sounds awesome! I have visited Hawaii as a tourist and had a fantastic time! It sounds like it is even more amazing when given the opportunity to experience the true Hawaiian culture. I think I have an idea for my next vacation!

    165. Amber says:

      Wow, a truly inspirational story! I have a Hawaiian friend here in MN (who goes back at least once a year to visit family) and I am sure you would get along fabulously! We should all meet up for HH sometime. xo

    166. Amy Joseph says:

      Hawaii is usually only heard of as a beautiful, relaxing getaway or a honeymoon hotspot. It’s nice to hear that you did so much more with your time while you were there and have walked away with more than just a nice tan. Love the story and love the enthusiasm that you have when talking about your experiences there. 🙂 crossing my fingers for you Kirsten.

    167. Cathy K says:

      I have always wanted to visit HI, after hearing your experience with the true culture, this has made me add it from a want to “my bucket lis”! I would love to hear more about your experience and feel blessed to know you. You are an amazing young lady!

    168. Caroline says:

      Hawaii is a place that if you let it can change your outlook on life. I am thankful to have been able to experience both of my Hawaii trips with you and to travel off the beaten path and be submerged in the Hawaiian culture. The pace of life may seem “slow” to some but to me it seems just about right 😉 Take time to truly enjoy your surroundings including your ohana and sure, stop and smell the flowers, life is beautiful!! Good luck Kirs, you deserve it!

    169. Matt Wilson says:

      Sounds like an incredible place. I have the itch to get to Hawaii after reading your story!

    170. Cori Johnson says:

      You could not have said it any better Kirsten! That trip in 2007 to Hawaii was one for the books. Truly Inspirationaly. Best of luck. : )

    171. Alice Pryor says:


      How rewarding and amazing your time in Hawaii must have been. To be able to experience the richness of a culture so different from your own, is a treasure of a lifetime.

    172. Kirsten says:

      Jan – I would love to give you some insight and help you plan! I also have some wonderful friends over there who are very dear to me that im sure would love to share some things as well. The “true” hawaii is nothing like the tourist hawaii!!!

    173. Colin says:

      Well said Kirs! Hawaii is special place for sure!

    174. Jan L says:

      I want to go there!!! Thanks for sharing your insight on that trip – you & our daughter Kristin will have to help us plan our trip (hoping to travel there when it’s time to celebrate Don’s retirement).

    175. ty says:

      Sounds like an amazing experience!

    176. Jess says:

      Kirsten has an great passion for travel. Kirsten always talks about Hawaii and how it was one of the most incredible experiences she has ever had. I have known Kirsten for a long time and she is always looking for the next place to visit and a new culture to explore. She enjoys exploring new locations whether in the United States or abroad.

    177. Rob Johnson says:

      For sure, I’m a different and better person after a trip like that. Absolutely life-changing

    178. Joezi Xe says:

      Kirsten, when you speak of your visit to Hawaii whether it is about the sceneries or the authentic foods, you are very passionate about it. With all the great stories and photos that you’ve shared, it has really inspired me to visit there one day.

    179. Kirsten says:

      Luda – I have been to Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. The Big Island (for me personally) is truly where the heart of the culture is. The people there are amazing and will forever be part of my family (ohana!)

    180. Kirsten says:

      I am so thankful to The Ambler for choosing my submission! I am excited for the next few weeks! 🙂

    181. Brad says:

      Kirsten is a travel junkie, but in the 6+ years i have known her…this Hawaii trip always seems to be her highlight. Those of us that know her during the MN winters know how often we hear…”I want to go back to Hawaii” She truly has a love for the Hawaiian culture.

    182. Luda says:

      Hey Kirsten! I loved your story! I think it is awesome to learn about a culture and enjoy the beauty of a place at the same time. When I visited Hawaii, my experience was very “touristy”. I thought I would never go back again. Can you tell me which places you have visited during your trips? Your story makes me want to give Hawaii another try.


    183. LYDIA says:

      Love it and love you 🙂

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