My family and I spent last week on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, two of the Cook Islands – the Cook Islands is a small nation made up of 15 tiny islands in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. It’s a geographical fact that there are few places on earth more remote. And while it’s more opinion than fact, I can’t imagine many (perhaps, any) places on the planet are more beautiful.
Yan and I love to travel and though we’ve been to so many places we’ve adored, when given the opportunity to go back to someplace we’ve already been or to go to someplace new, we almost always choose the latter. And now that Cade and Ella are old enough to appreciate the more exotic locales, we want to take them to as many new places as we can. So when Yan found $400 round trip, direct flights to the Cook Islands, we booked the trip without a second thought!
“Kia Orana” is the Maori (the language of the original Cook Islanders) greeting on the islands. Its literal translation is “May you live long.” In my conversations with the Cook Islanders I asked a lot of questions about this greeting and really dug in deep. I was told that is both a blessing and a wish. I saw Cook Islanders passing this on to everyone they met from tourists, to friends, to family. I was told it communicates the essence of the islands’ spirit and goes far beyond a simple greeting. It directly ties into the core cultural value of mana – which literally means power and influence, but constructively means so much more – which is a family’s sacred duty to collect and pass down to the next generations.
Wow. That sounds a lot like legacy to me. And it has nothing to do with material wealth. It’s all about spirit and family and values and stories and experiences. And the power of legacy lives strong in the people of the Cook Islands. It’s all about empowering families. Not necessarily political power or other forms of power over others, but rather, the power within. It’s the kind of power which connects one generation to the next and makes each successive generation stronger.
Our experience in the Cook Islands helped expose our kids to travel in general and two of the most amazing locales our world has to offer. Part of it is about introducing them to new cultures and people, different from us yet so similar on a basic human level. In the Cook Islands we met many native islanders, scores of Kiwis, some Aussies, and a smattering of Asians and Europeans. We saw almost no other Americans. Our kids played and made friends with other kids from all over the world and gained in their appreciation of the big, diverse planet they live on.
We made memories as a family in one of the earth’s truly special areas. Those memories and that shared experience have now become part of the legacy Yan and I will pass on to Cade and Ella. But what an unexpected treat to learn so much about how another amazing culture views legacy. It is proof that legacy really matters to all of us as human beings, no matter our ethnicity or national origin. That’s pretty cool.