Let me tell you, there is something magical about being on an island. I love it, and I always have. Knowing that I am surrounded by the beautiful ocean and everything magnificent that it’s home to….it’s a feeling that is hard to beat. At least for me. I boarded my flight on the afternoon of December 30th and boy, was I pumped. This trip – this solo adventure that I was embarking on – was finally here. It was a big moment for me and I had a lot of emotions running through my head as I waited in the airport terminal, as I boarded the flight, as we took off from LAX. It was a bittersweet moment. I was leaving my home, my family, and my friends. I was saying farewell to my support system and to everything familiar to me. But I needed to go. And while I was a little sad to be saying goodbye, I was overwhelmingly excited and nervous for what was waiting for me. It’s a feeling that I’m starting to get used to in the pit of my stomach: fear of the unknown, but pure joy knowing I get to discover it soon.
It was dark by the time the plane neared O’ahu and I could see the small cluster of city lights that told me where Honolulu was. A sharp cutoff to pitch black delineated where the island ended and the ocean began. All the nervousness and the small twinge of sadness I had when leaving LAX was completely gone. THIS. WAS. HAPPENING! The joy I felt as I got off the plane and made my way through the airport was a special kind of joy I hadn’t felt very often. It reminded me of going to St. Croix, or getting dropped off at UCLA as a freshman….a new chapter was beginning. And I was happy the chapter of my life in Los Angeles was ending – for now at least. I fully intend on making Southern California my permanent place in the future, but at this moment in my life I needed to say goodbye. I was in a really bad place, mentally and emotionally, as 2018 came to a close and I needed to get out of there. Though this solo travel adventure was planned in response to a single event, the notion of traveling was something that had been building up inside of me since high school. I wanted to get out of Southern California and go to Boston University for undergrad, but money put a stop to that dream (BU is expensive y’all). When I graduated from UCLA, I wanted to book a one way ticket to Puerto Rico. I wanted to do a work exchange so I could get out of California, learn Spanish, and be on an island! But I was offered a field technician job and I felt that I couldn’t say no, couldn’t pass up the opportunity when so many people I knew who had graduated before me were struggling to find work. The next two years, I worked in LA but I was constantly applying for field positions in cool places, kind of as a “what if”. That need to venture out was always in the back of my mind, but I was constantly making excuses for why I couldn’t do it. It was either because of money or people that I justified staying put. All of that changed when I was offered a position to work in St. Croix during the summer of 2018.
It was not a financially responsible decision to go to St. Croix. I was leaving a job that paid really well and even paid into a retirement, for a temporary position that paid $100 a week. But it was a job that I had applied for multiple times because I wanted it that bad. It was a job with a species that I am obsessed with (how can you not say sea turtles are awesome)! It was a job on a beautiful island with a federal agency that I would love to work for in the future. And it ended up being one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. Sitting in my seat on my flight back home, I looked out the window as we took off and I cried for a minute. Three months on St. Croix was not enough, or maybe it was the fact that I was going back to the same old, same old in LA. It was probably a bit of both. I missed the people that I had left in LA soooooo much and was happy to be seeing them again, but it was still hard seeing the many shades of light blue water turn darker as St. Croix got further away.
Even now as I sit alone on the couch in Waikiki writing this, I miss my friends and my family, but I would not change what I’m doing for the world. By the end of my first week in Hawaii, I felt so different than my last two months in LA. I felt happier and at peace, and just ready to take on what the world was gearing up to throw my way. I know things won’t go according to plan – they already aren’t – but I never expected them to. And I’m having a great time reflecting, meeting new people, seeing new things, having amazing phone conversation with my friends. The universe gave me an abrupt push in the right direction, but I’ve got my footing now and the view is incredible.