If you are an admirer of beautiful things, of well-written stories, good taste, or the finest things in life, then you almost certainly have read, at least once, Diana-Florina Cosmin’ blog – Fine Society. It’s a place where Diana has gathered lots of articles about the “society’s finesses”, as she likes to describe it.
Diana doesn’t just write on her blog, but is also the Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Life and Up by Forbes. She also had a collaboration with Cosmopolitan Magazine: the articles published there are now gathered in a book – Povestile unei inimi –, appeared at Curtea Veche Publishing House.
When you talk with someone who has traveled in more than 50 countries, it’s hard to choose a single destination as a topic of discussion. However, in the end, Diana-Florina Cosmin told us about the Hawaiian Islands – and about how a destination that she didn’t necessarily wanted to visit, became one of her favorites.
When I asked you about the destination you would like to recount in this interview, you said Hawaii. Why?
Hawaii has definitely been the most beautiful ” accident” of my life, a proof of the fact that one must allow destiny to work its magic and surprise us. I’m typically a very disciplined and well-organized person, even more when it comes to traveling. I’d say I’m even a bit of a control-freak, so this was an unexpected lesson of letting go. In 2008 I finished a Master’s Programme in an American university and the official graduation ceremony was scheduled for the following year, the summer of 2009. I was supposed to walk at graduation, enacting the full “American-movie-scene”, with caps and gowns and all. Since I was already crossing the ocean with my parents along with me, we decided to embark on a tour of the United States, finishing gloriously in Ciudad de Mexico, which had always been a dream destination of mine.
Oh well, precisely one month before our long-awaited trip, the swine flu broke out in Mexico. We had scheduled our trip through a travel agency and the lady who had helped us with the booking was very clear: ”It’s impossible to send you to Mexico, you wouldn’t even be able to get out of the hotel, it’s a pandemic there. However, I can reroute you to Hawaii”.
I now remember it with a laugh, but as strange as it may seem, at that moment the mere concept of going to Hawaii proved to be… a full-blown drama for me. I had dreamt of Latin America all my life, exotic islands had never been my cup of tea, they seemed rather boring, so I kept thinking ”Oh my God, what would I do for a full week stuck on an island, with palm trees and people with flower wreaths around their necks, instead of being in Mexico, exploring the pyramids, using my Spanish, talking to locals?”.
I ”grieved” for Mexico for a while, then I just settled for Hawaii. I know it sounds weird… settling for Hawaii, but at that moment that’s how it felt. And it proved to be the most beautiful accident, surprise or any other word that I can use to describe the most beautiful place I have ever seen on Earth. I’ve been to over 50 countries so far, but Hawaii will always have a special place in my heart.
What did you know about the Hawaii Islands before going there?
My first image was the classic postcard one, of people with orchid garlands around their necks, and of course I had seen some picture-perfect shots of breathtaking landscapes. A lot of Hollywood movie stars vacation there, so my view of that place was a puzzle made out of all the ideas, bits and pieces gathered from books, magazines, documentaries, pop culture… My father, who is a living encyclopedia, had already told me stories about the polynesian culture, so when I got there I already had an idea of the place, but it was a rather abstract image, purely theoretical.
What plans did you make before going to Hawaii?
Hawaii exceeded all my expectations. I don’t think I had actually made a lot of plans, since it was bound to be the final leg of a tightly-planned itinerary through the United States (designed by yours truly). I figured I’d just enjoy the place and the landscape. Even though I was coming from a roadtrip that entailed some of the most beautiful sights of Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, I remember it took me a few hours just to adjust my retina to the beauty of the Hawaiian landscapes. I had never seen as many colors in the same place, a nature so raw, so crude and pure. It was dreamy. On the balcony of my hotel in Hawaii I first grasped, with all my heart, the meaning of that famous line in ”American Beauty”: ”How can you stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world? Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in”.
What were the places you enjoyed most and which would you recommend to your friends planning a trip to Hawaii Islands?
Pearl Harbor, a place where so many movies were filmed on this theme. It makes you go silent for a while, it has a certain vibe that puts life into perspective. The day we went there, there was a veterans’ reunion, so there were a lot of seniors, with garlands and military decorations. Their eyes were so young, so full of life. That image stayed with me.
The Dole Plantation. Every Romanian child of the 80s-90s remembers the magic of the green bananas carefully let to ripe and the stickers they had on, which read ”Dole”. It’s a wonderful colorful place, with luxurious vegetation and it even has a little tram that takes you everywhere. You’ll feel like a child all over again.
Honolulu city centre. A combination of colonial-looking buildings, in pastel colors, old Banyan trees and rich vegetation, with their royal palace, Iolani Palace, in the middle. It’s where the rulers of the island used to live in the times when Hawaii was a kingdom. There are a lot of beautiful legends and stories to discover there, because the history of the place is anything but ordinary.
… And the places you didn’t like?
I think Hawaii and Iceland are the only two places on Earth where I just couldn’t find something that would give me a negative vibe. I didn’t see squalor, decreptitude, I didn’t run into angry or mean people. And I did quite a lot of walking and discovering! Of course, there are no perfect places out there, but even if you would embark on an experiment, consciously trying to find the ugly side, it would be very difficult to find it in Hawaii. If I were to choose the only thing that struck me as a little weird, that would be the ”traditional snacks” rack in the supermarket, where you could find roasted bugs, salt and vinegar larvettes and other ”delicacies”. They were the hawaiian equivalent of salted nuts or roasted almonds 🙂
Which are the reasons you would return to Hawaii?
I’d go back yesterday, if possible. Leaving the natural environment aside, I would go back to find that tranquility and peacefulness that I found nowhere else but there. Also, I’d return for the positive energy that seeemed to magically surround that island, like an aura.
How are the people in Hawaii?
Well, this is actually one of the most important features of Hawaii and a key ingredient to the magic of the place itself. The Hawaiian people are incredible. They radiate a special energy, a zen-feeling, and seem to make all the cumbersome processes of self-discovery, inner-balance and mindfulness, that us Europeans pour so much effort into mastering, seem absolutely effortless. Their happiness truly seems to stem from within.
Also, as opposed to many other exotic islands, where locals live in poverty, while tourists thrive in luxury, in Hawaii the local population leads a happy, harmonious and fulfilling life. They’re not exploited and don’t feel as such. It’s a fair-trade between the tourist and the local and when they’re being hospitable and affable with you, it’s obvious they do it because they’re wired this way, not because they’re desperate to make tourism happen. In other exotic places you run the risk of leaving slightly heartbroken, knowing you felt like royalty, while 90% of the people who actually live there can barely afford to put food on the table. It’s not the case in Hawaii.
How about the food?
Frankly, I don’t remember something very specific. I know there was a fusion cuisine and that I ate a lot of seafood, but there’s no particular traditional dish that stayed in my mind. However, being an archipelago, you’ll always find wonderfully fresh fruit and fish.
What did you buy from Hawaii?
Oh, the typical souvenirs: magnets, small objects decorated with the symbol of the orchid, wooden handmade wind-chimes, a lot of tiny stuff, because they were all very beautiful and truly looked traditional. They didn’t give me that ,,made in China” vibe. And, even if it’s not a question of shopping, but rather an experience, I remember going to a very special exhibition that was on display in the Chanel store in Honolulu at that time: a series of never-seen-before photos of Coco Chanel. Beautiful.
Tell us a story, a conversation or even a place you’ve just never been able to forget from your holidays there.
One evening, the hotel we were staying in had a special hula event, hula being the traditional Hawaiian dance. It’s more a series of graceful hand gestures, very delicate and feminine, even poetic. In the end, after a lot of beautiful young girls came on stage to perform, the presenter announced a very important moment of the evening. He then invited on stage a beautiful lady who had once been Miss Hawaii and champion at hula-dance and who was well in her 60s. She was so elegant, so beautiful, she made a lovely hula demonstration, with an amazing grace, and finished in rounds of applause.
I remember it was a perfect Hawaiian sunset, painted in a thousand colors, there were palm trees in the background, Hawaiian music (that’s where I first discovered the amazing tunes of Israel Kamakawiwole and his rendition of ,,Over the Rainbow”) and I was just looking at that woman, who would theoretically be in her ,,third age”, as we Europeans call it, but had just as much femininity and beauty as all the 20 year olds who preceeded her on stage. It was one of those blessed moments when you realize that age truly is just a number and that we can feel beautiful even in our 90s, given that we stay young at heart and true to ourselves.
Sadly, this is very much dependent on the environment we live in. The people in that part of the world celebrate age, authenticity, wisdom. It’s maybe a little easier growing old in Hawaii than it is in a country where, once you turn the 50 threshold, you are deemed obsolete, gone, old-fashioned.
We know you love fashion and, no matter where you go, your outfits are so stylish. If you would pack tomorrow for Hawaii, what would you put in your luggage?
Thank you. I’d pack my favorite bathing suits from Flagpole Swim and Lavish Alice, my favorite Chanel espadrilles, a cobalt-blue pleated dress from Halston Heritage and a white lace two-piece outfit from PNK Casual, for which I developed an unadulterated crush this summer. Also, lots of white t-shirts, the ,,white vacation shirt” made by Pineberry x Noemi Meilman, a pair of white Stella McCartney jeans, my Abercrombie & Fitch jeans shorts. My white and red striped jacket from Chanel, that has been my travel companion in most of my adventures, including the first Hawaii trip, a pair of white Bensimon sneakers, a bottle of Tom Ford – Noir perfume and my white lace parasol. Oh, and a few hats. I adore hats. That’s pretty much it. Keeping it simple.