We all know how hard it is for translators to maintain a good work-life balance, to switch off that “working mode” that tends to be always running in the background of our minds. Just like the apps on our phones sneakily but steadily eroding all of our monthly data, one kilobyte at the time, our working mode erodes our mental well-being and, before we even realize it, we find ourselves super stressed out and energy-deprived.

Last week, after months of no real rest, I packed my bags for 6 days in Waikiki, Hawaii. I left with my working mode still switched on in the background, planning on getting some work done anyway and being available, to a certain extent, to take on short projects. But the Great Spirit of Hawaii had other plans for me. After the first night, the condo’s wifi had the brilliant idea of becoming painfully slow (pretty much useless, actually), officially declaring my 6 days of VACATION open. As it turns out, it was exactly what I needed. Being in vacation mode was really liberating and I finally proved myself that a week off is not the end of the world, but beneficial and necessary. I had time to relax, try new activities and let go of my stress, and I feel like I’ve learnt some important lessons that will help me grow as a translator as well as a human being.

  1. Translation is like a touristy hike: (Almost) anyone can do it, only a few can do it well
    The Diamond Head Crater hike is probably the most popular one in Waikiki: less than 2 hours long, not too steep and with a breathtaking view from the top. It’s the kind of hike accessible pretty much to everyone. I have seen people trying to go up with strollers, wearing flip-flops, without water at 12 pm under 30°C, people complaining, bleeding, panting, children crying. And I have seen fit people running all their way up, dosing energies, equipped with water, proper shoes and all the necessary. Maybe everyone made it to the top in the end, but only a few managed to do it efficiently, enjoying it and making the most out of it. The whole situation reminded me of the common misconception according to which anyone knowing two languages can translate. Maybe they can get the general message across, just like the people wearing high-heels or flip flops could somehow get to the top of the Diamond Head, but only a few have the right tools, knowledge and expertise to do it professionally, efficiently and guaranteeing certain quality standards.

    Diamond Head
    Diamond Head Crater Hike – Way up and view from the top
  2. Broaden your horizons and get out of your comfort zone
    Hanauma Bay Snorkeling. I come from a maritime city, therefore exploring the seabed with mask and snorkel wasn’t anything new to me. However, the ocean with its corals and thousands of different kinds of fish is not exactly comparable to my modest Adriatic Sea with its crabs and small grey fish. Despite its challenges (the waves, mainly),  snorkeling in the Pacific turned out to be a magnificent experience and every single minute in the water was worth it. A good reminder of how, in life and in our profession, broadening our horizons and getting out of our comfort zone is vital in order to discover what we are capable of and overcome our limits.

    Snorkel and fins
    Ready for some snorkeling
  3. Never let routine and laziness kill your enthusiasm and creativity
    I have a bit of a Peter Pan Syndrome, so I tend to love kids’ activities; however, I hadn’t built a sand castle in more than 10 years. Not for a matter of pride or reputation, I just grew lazy. Digging holes in the sand, getting my hands dirty, thinking about the layout of my island was too much work. Over the years, taking a nap on a beach chair listening to some music had gradually become much more appealing. Playing with the sand again was like a breath of fresh air, I felt that spark of creativity and enthusiasm I had in me as a kid and I promised myself to nurture this very same joy and sense of wonder and apply it to my business, without getting lazy or too entitled because “I’ve done this so many times already”. Never stop looking at things from different perspectives and with the eyes of a child.

    Sand star translator
    Sand star… with a special touch!
  4. Never stop learning new words and languages and discovering different cultures
    As a language lover, I had to save a few lines for the fascinating Hawaiian language and culture. When I landed in Honolulu, my knowledge of Hawaiian was limited to three words: Aloha, Mahalo and Ohana (thanks Lilo and Stitch!).
    Unfortunately, the chances of spotting signs or full sentences in Hawaiian on the streets or public places are close to zero (at least where I’ve been), but I was lucky enough to have some locals explain to me the nuances of a few words: the language really struck me for its subtle complexity and the harmony of its sounds. A word as simple as Aloha, for example, is used for greetings and farewells, but also to express love and to refer to a way of life deeply intertwined with nature. Among the new words I learnt, my favourite is “Keiki”, which means children. I can’t quite explain why, but to my ears it conveys a deep feeling of kindness and affection. As for the Hawaiian culture, I got to attend an Ukulele class and a Lei making one, I visited the Polynesian Cultural Center, watching many shows and cultural presentations, I attended a Luau (and embarrassed myself for about a minute when, called on stage to learn some dance moves, I miserably failed “thanks” to my extremely inflexible and uncoordinated body) and I tried a wide variety of traditional Hawaiian food. Despite the place being very touristy, if you take some time to go beyond the surface, every aspect of this mysterious culture speaks harmony, peace and deep gratitude for the world and nature that surround us.
    hawaii mix
  5. Last but not least, spending 6 days of quality time with my Canadian family reminded me of the importance of choosing people over work. Our careers are undoubtedly important and success and self-fulfillment can only be achieved with hard work and determination, but at the end of the day, what really matters and makes all the efforts worth are the people who support and love us and they deserve some of our time as well.

Ohana

Mahalo for reading 🙂

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