Jewish Journal

Picking Ourselves in Honolulu: You Can Too!

By George Rajna and Lisa Niver Rajna

February 9, 2014 | 5:32 am

Peering across the splendid banquet room of the Lotus Honolulu at over forty interested travelers, I read an excerpt from the beginning of our memoir, Traveling in Sin. It felt more daunting to read my written words than I had expected. In contrast, when I read George’s written section of our dual-voiced memoir in Kathmandu, Nepal a few months ago, it was enjoyable. However, hearing myself read my words about our struggles and listening to the absolute silence around me, I hesitated with anxiety. Was everyone hushed because it was dull or were they hanging on every word? The loud applause answered my question and I sat back and relished every moment. We had created our own event called “The Festival of the Pacific” where eager travelers showed up in Kuala Lumpur, Oahu and eventually Los Angeles. As Seth Godin would say, “We picked ourselves.”



Months before this event in Honolulu, we had committed to a trip to Palau in September and subsequently arrived in Los Angeles by early October for a family function. Surrounding these two set dates, we planned several events and diligently worked to make them a reality. Years earlier planning our first talk on Uncovering Jewish Morocco in March 2011, I ignored those around me who said, “It will never work.” Each success encouraged my confidence, so I continued to renounce the nay-sayers and fixated on my master plan.

Every happening has eventually brought We Said Go Travel (WSGT), our online inspirational website, so much in many ways I could never have foreseen. We never knew what fruit our events would bring forth but we always seem to meet interesting people, many who have become friends, business related connections, all who have facilitated making our dreams come true.

During the Oahu event, we worked with Yen Phan from Gogobot. We came in contact with her during the Meet Plan Go event we hosted in 2011 and now in 2013 Yen both moderated and organized the occasion. A Seth Godin email made me aware of Uber, a luxury high-end car service. I originally connected with them to participate in our Los Angeles event. When Uber opened a subsidiary in Oahu, Tommy Pieruck, Community Manager Uber Honolulu was onboard to improve our event and share ideas.

In addition to attaining synergy from working with Gogobot and Uber, Elizabeth Hough-Guthrie and Joshua M Gray, general manager from the Lotus Honolulu, were also extremely important in having this event come to fruition; even better than the success of the event, we feel we made new amazing friends. They arranged the space at Lotus Honolulu for our event and hosted the food and drinks from the Park Restaurant. We also had the honor of lodging in the penthouse of their luxury hotel. Inhabiting the entire top floor with 360-degree views of Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and downtown Honolulu in the distance was mind-boggling. We later learned that the Black Eyed Peas stayed in the same suite when they performed in Honolulu. The suite includes a giant master bedroom, a guest room, a kitchen and a spacious lanai that wrapped around the entire floor. All this transpired simply because we decided, “Let’s share our story in Hawaii.”



In Promote Yourself, Dan Schawbel discusses the new social economy and how different generations need to work together to share strengths. Schawbel writes, “If you work really hard, make yourself an expert on something, and pursue your passions, you will be able to achieve what you want.” Each individual must commit to make something happen for which they feel fervent about. No one handed us the Festival of the Pacific; we networked until it came together.

Schawbel’s “Rule of One” has definitely been true for us on both personal and professional levels. He adds, “When it comes to getting a job, starting a business, finding someone to marry, or just about anything else, all it takes is one person to change your life for the better. People may be saying no all around you. But as long as one person says yes, you’re on your way.” I typically continue searching until I locate the one person that I can work together with on a given project that will be mutually beneficial; then I often ask that person to join us to collaborate in the future.

Many hotel marketers request specific ROI (return on investment) to determine if they will work with WSGT. Contrasting this mode of thought, Kim Chandler McDonald, author of !nnovation, writes about “Return on Involvement,” which is what WSGT could offer with our extensive social media presence. However, not every hotel is ready to jump on board with this new definition of ROI. Rather than convince managers to accept this paradigm shift, I simply search until I find someone who is a right match for our team.

In Packing Light, author Allison Vesterfelt, shares her musical road-trip across the United States. Her comments on expectations shed light on how we made our festival become a reality:

“Maybe if we mastered the art of expecting the unusual, we would start experiencing the unusual. Maybe we have more control over the direction of our lives than we think. Maybe we should live our lives in a constant state of expectation, always curious and excited about the possibilities that could unfold in front of us. Maybe it is our sense of vision that colors our reality.”

At first many people who I approach to work with claim, “It is impossible to get forty people together for an event in Oahu.” Then when the numbers of attendees exceed the estimates, they say, “That was unusual.” My expectation is that it will come together and be a success. Our event in Los Angeles had over fifty attendees and our online webinar about Myanmar rapidly filled up with over sixty reservations. As WSGT continues to expand and grow, we continue to develop innovative plans. We are excited about what 2014 will bring! We hope you will join our growing global community of writers and travelers at We Said Go Travel.

About the AuthorsLisa Niver Rajna and George Rajna are co-authors of Traveling in Sin and co-founders of We Said Go Travel. They are accomplished writers, speakers and travelers who are members of the Traveler’s Century Club, a unique travel club limited to travelers who have visited one hundred or more countries.

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Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a passionate writer, educator, social media ninja, speaker and global citizen, who has traveled to over one hundred countries and six...

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