Journey to Hawaii with @zhenyaswan
Our friend and talented wedding and travel photographer and journalist Zhenya Savina told us about her trip to Hawaii, local lifestyle, her favorite amulets, and life as a photographer ✨
Aloha, Zhenya! You have recently visited Hawaii. Each journey teaches us something new. What did you learn while your trip to Hawaii?
The Hawaiian islands, above all, taught me how to love myself, in a new and special way to love others, to love nature, to respect customs of others. And I learned how to cure myself with the powers of nature. It seems that I knew how to do it before, but the Hawaiian nature is so unique and unexplored that you unintentionally feel the close connection with it. It cures the soul and relieves all bad things accumulated life in the city. And all the mental disease of our century disappear by themselves.
Which is the song associated with your travels?
As soon as we arrived at our first island of Kauai and checked in our hostel that was located right on the shore of the ocean, we heard a song playing from the cafe next door. It is Israel “IR” Ka'ano'i Kamakawiwo'ole “Over the Rainbow”. I believe you've heard it many times. Now imagine how during the night on the island these sounds are mixed with wind and sound of the waves. That is why the song is perceived as an integral part of this place, as the national anthem, and the guiding melody that travels with us wherever we go.
Often we may have some stereotypes about the place. What surprised you in Hawaii and which stereotypes were gone eventually?
The main stereotype that I've managed to get rid of is the fact that Hawaii is an overpopulated resort with a huge number of Americans, traditional dances for tourists, braided wreaths of flowers, and lookalike expensive hotels for spending the honeymoon. Of course, you can also find all these, but only in Waikiki in Honolulu, that is on the island of Oahu. This place gathers all the stereotypes about these islands.
In other places, you can find empty beaches, incredible national parks, waterfalls, and mountains. Add the kindest people, especially locals who lead the simple life. Native Hawaiians who play ukulele somewhere on a bench under a wide Banyan and cozy bonfires on the beach when on Wednesdays and Saturdays a few dozens of people gather. People sing, run barefoot on the sand, and just enjoy this incredible and amazing life, tell each other stories of their travels.
Tell us about the national parks that you have been to?
The main parks we managed to visit are Napali Coast State Wilderness Park on the island of Kauai. It was there when we made the famous Kalalau Trail which is 50 kilometers long. And also, we were impressed by Waimea Canyon State Park. It is on Kauai and called a small canyon of the US, although I would argue about its size.
On Big Island, we visited the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where real lava flows flow right into the ocean. And on Maui, the main park was Haleakala National Park, which means "House of the Sun". It was here that we saw the dawn on top of Haleakala volcano.
When did you decide to choose photography for your professional field? What was your first camera?
I started shooting when I was 15. And my first camera was… I don’t remember exactly but it was a digital Sony, which managed to take bright, contrast picture, which then seemed to be my own small masterpieces. Now I cannot look at them without shame. I started shooting when I was on the journey. Later, I was doing it more seriously in my university. Thus, my first commercial shooting happened about five years ago, and now I even cannot imagine myself without my camera in hands.
Have you ever had shootings in extreme conditions?
On the Kamchatka Peninsula, during altitude changes the weather was often merciless. Ice storms, gloomy fog, snow, and incredible wind. In such moments, all I wanted was to be somewhere in a warm place. However, my desire helped me to stay. I would even say that in extreme conditions your courage increases, and I always wanted to take interesting shots, and then, looking at them, to remember, in which conditions this shot was taken.
We have recently presented a collection Axis. Axis mundi means "world axis" – the place where earth and sky meet. Such places keep special energy. Tell us, what is a place of power for you?
My place of power is always wild nature. For example, in regions with mountains or volcanos where the new soil is formed, and these processes generate amazing energy streams that physically nourish you from the inside.
On the Big Island, I felt all four elements that were united in a single moment. We met the sunrise at the lava field, where lava – Fire, flowed into the ocean and merged with Water. Thus, the formed steam of Air was carried away by the wind and then settled on Earth. The feeling of transience and reality of what was happening forced the whole body to shiver and to feel the immediacy of being on this planet.
What is the most complicated part of travelling for you? Maybe it is fear of something unknown and distant in cultures that are different from what we are used to?
Actually, I'm not afraid of it. This is exactly what I'm looking for while travelling. The feeling of the unknown, unusual surroundings, a complete change of scenery, new people, previously unseen landscapes, and unexplored culture.
Sometimes I think, "Well, how is it that we all live on the same planet, but we are so different, amazing, interesting… Why do we have so little time to explore it all?".
You said correctly that travelling teaches us. Every time I come back with wealth of knowledge, which is then naturally used in daily life, at work and even in search of ourselves. And the most difficult is, perhaps, returning home when you know that tickets for the next trip are still not purchased.
Aloha is a way of life. How do you define Aloha?
Aloha is the attitude towards life. It is love, peace, and compassion. The man whose soul is filled with what the Hawaiians call "Aloha" lives with sincerity in the heart. The spirit of Aloha is easily spread to others: it is contagious once you spend some time with others.
There are three words you need to know in Hawaiian: Aloha, Ohana, and Mahalo. Ohana is family, but not only relatives – the family in its global sense. It's the people – friends, relatives or even strangers. But when we are with each other and filled with the spirit of Aloha, we become "Ohana". And then "Mahalo", which is gratitude, is born.
Do you have any talismans? Or something you always take with you while going on a journey?
Actually, for two years I have taken at least two Aloha Gaia rings with moonstone. And I always wear a small plastic pendant with mantras inside. This pendant is from Nepal, where I was given it by the monks from the monastery in Pokhara after the ceremony.
Which Aloha Gaia jewelry you already have and which jewelry pieces are your favorite?
I have quite a lot of rings, because I'm a big fan of this attribute. My favorite ones are Falcon and Iris with moonstone. When I wear them, I feel very comfortable, get used to them and even forget to take them off. I also have Aurora earrings and wear them with great pleasure.
In Hawaii, there are quite a few hiking trails. One of your photos was taken at sunrise on a hike called "Stairway to Heaven". Tell us, which dawn was the most beautiful in your life and where you watched it?
I think this was the sunrise on mount Haleakala on Maui. I remember every moment. We woke up while it was still dark, and the sky was full of stars. Then it was an hour and a half driving to the top. The wind was cold, and we could see light on the horizon.
It is surprising that such phenomenon as dawn makes people come together, and capture moments of ascending the sun above the horizon to celebrate the new day. Once you climb to the highest point and visit the most beautiful places, you know this incredible, exciting and awesome feeling of being a witness of the true miracle of life.
We often talk about our true “home”. Maybe this is the place where we spent our childhood, or the place every time coming to which, we feel harmony and happiness. But home is not exactly a specific place. For example, the name of the “Shantaram” book character translates as “man of peace”. And what does “home” mean for you and where is it?
I believe that such place there is somewhere, but I haven't found it yet. I just know that each of us has something they call home. For me, this is the place where my heart is happy and calm. But currently, I am still on my way with a search of it. Apparently, I've never felt that Russia is my home or the place where I was supposed to stay and start a family. I feel comfortable when I am on my way, especially if there is someone I love nearby. Of course, it cannot last forever, but I know that the moment when I find such a place and decide to stay there will come one day.
In Hawaii, surfing is much more than just a hobby. Have you tried to catch a wave?
The first time I tried surfing happened in Kamchatka. However, I was not brave enough in Hawaii as waves were big enough. Winter is always like this, especially on Maui. It is perfect for lovers of extreme sports and thrilling adventures, but not for beginners as I am.
In Hawaii, you can see a lot of rescuers on all public beaches, and they always have things to do. Ocean currents are extremely dangerous, and even experienced surfers and swimmers sometimes fall into these hidden traps. So, I decided to postpone my surfing activity until better times when I get the opportunity to try it one more time in a more peaceful place.
Imagine you can choose any destination in the world. Where would you like to go right now and why?
I would go to Patagonia. I would take a horse there and would drive for three weeks through the most beautiful mountain ranges, welcoming each mountain top and enjoying each new turn. Actually, after I have watched the movie called “The Motorcycle Diaries”, I could not get rid of my thoughts about South America. And now I dream of coming there to work on a significant project for a couple of months.