When she steps off a long flight, Christine Ka’aloa always feels a sense of excitement about the adventures that lie ahead.
Sometimes, this feeling is accompanied by a drop of sweat on the forehead caused by the dense layers of heat of a tropical climate. Other times, she is met by a wall of frigid air, sending chills from head to toe, reminding her that packing a warm coat and scarf was a good idea. Whether she is stepping into a scorching hot Thailand summer or a snowy Canadian winter, the second that Ka’aloa’s foot leaves the airplane and she pulls out her vlogging camera, an entire new series of experiences begins unfold on film, with every shot framed to tell a story, and every episode with its own purpose.
Christine Ka’aloa, Hawaii Baptist Academy alumni (‘89), is the face of GRRRLTRAVELER, a successful YouTube channel where she encourages others to find their “GRRR” in travel by documenting her own travel experiences. With more than 154,000 subscribers (and counting) on YouTube, Ka’aloa makes a living as a solo travel blogger. She is also a social media influencer on Instagram, Facebook, and Patreon, taking her worldwide audience to see and experience new places and cultures.
The local girl from Aiea began her journey at HBA with the class of 1989 in the seventh grade. She recalls being excited to become a part of a strong community of faith. Excelling in art class and on the volleyball court, she said the small size of the school helped her easily find a place to belong. Ka’aloa reflected, “I feel like HBA just gave me a very stable and nurturing kind of environment for me to feel grounded in my education.” After high school, she went on to attend Washington University in St. Louis after being recruited to play for a championship volleyball team there. It was there that Ka’aloa decided she wanted to pursue her artistic interests more seriously and so she applied for a transfer to USC, her dream school, where she followed her interests in visual and performing arts, eventually graduating with a bachelor’s degree in art.
So begins what Ka’aloa calls the “hero to zero to hero” chapter of her life. She explained, “I went in so many different directions and I feel like each of these directions were stepping stones towards a greater plan.” After graduating from USC, she made her way across the country to the East Coast, in search of job opportunities in New York City. It was there that Ka’aloa says her first “hero” moment took place. She got her Masters there in video and interactivity, which opened the doors to the television industry. She became a camera operator and producer for reality TV series like My Super Sweet Sixteen and Engaged and Underage. Then in 2008, Ka’aloa decided to take a break from the television industry and diversify her work experience by teaching abroad in South Korea. During her year there, she began her solo travel video blog, GRRRLTRAVELER. Ka’aloa then returned home to Oahu to find work in the television industry. However, her return did not initially work out as she had hoped and this period of her life became what she calls “zero” moments.
Ka’aloa was met with cold responses as she set out to find work in Hawai’i. Many of her days were spent introducing herself to companies with the hopes that her experience in New York would attract them. Over time, she realized that even though Oahu was a familiar place to her, finding employment in her line of work was a lot tougher than in New York. However, Ka’aloa did not give up and her persistence kick-started a new “hero” moment in her life. “When you’re left with nothing and you’re struggling to survive, you have to find or create your own opportunity. And for me that was YouTube,” Ka’aloa stated. She thought of the joy she got from producing her travel blog while she was in Korea and decided that it was something she should continue to do. Ka’aloa said, “Why don’t I go ahead and sell myself as a female solo traveler, taking people through the journey that I took on my own and show them that, you know, I don’t have it all together.”
As GRRRLTRAVELER gained an international following—currently with fans from 127 different countries—she was approached by corporate sponsors (Mazda, SanDisk, and Airbnb) and she expanded her travels all over the world. Ka’aloa said, “It was hard work but it was growing my arms far beyond the island into the international borders and reaching people out there. In my mind, I kind of have my own TV show…I have to find the story in the process.” From reviewing Japan’s capsule hotels to diving deep into a culture by spending the day with a local host, every episode on Ka’aloa’s channel adds a new dynamic to the GRRRLTRAVELER brand. Ka’aloa’s past experience in the television industry taught her what makes a good story and how to capture that story so that it appeals to and inspires her audience.
Life as a social media influencer is hectic.
For one, Ka’aloa has to stay up-to-date with social media trends, such as Tik Tok, IGTV, or reels. Another difficult part of the job is navigating what should be kept private and what should be shared with the public. At the end of the day, Ka’aloa sums up her business philosophy this way: “…you are your ‘brand’ and your brand is ultimately a ‘business’…a belief, a message of inspiration or hope to your community…it’s a personal story that’s grown bigger than you.”
This has guided her on and off camera, and is her motivation for making videos around the world, showcasing different cultures in “unfiltered” ways. Sometimes, memorable moments take place behind the scenes with the people that she meets. “It’s just nothing really significant other than that we shared a chuckle, or we shared a snack on a bus…There are a lot of good people out there and they’re curious just like I am….there’s nothing to be afraid of in the world when you get down to it. We’re all the same sort of people,” she said.
Ka’aloa believes that her videos are more than just informative; by showcasing her adventures as a solo female traveler, Ka’aloa hopes to motivate people to face their fears and plan their own solo trips. Her life, she said, has been a series of “pivots” because it took her awhile to arrive at her current vocation. However, she added, “I don’t regret my choices because I made the best possible choices that I could with the amount of information that I had at the time.” For now, Ka’aloa is happy to reach thousands of lives through GRRRLTRAVELER by sharing her travel adventures on camera, with the goal of inspiring others to find their own adventures.
“I believe that God kind of gives you your kit, your life kit right here and you work from there until you don’t know what to do. And then another piece falls into your basket…The objective is to just keep pivoting and pivoting and pivoting or keep responding or following your instinct towards the path that you’re supposed to be on,” she said.