When I was first planning this trip, a lot of different factors influenced why I chose each place. For me, O’ahu was going to be a test run. I was looking into grad school at University of Hawaii Manoa, one of my close friends from college lived there, I still had the conveniences of the US dollar and I wouldn’t have to worry about my cell phone service. All of these things led me to booking a flight.

The ultimate reason I chose to go to O’ahu was because my friend Alex was there. If you went to college and worked Catering with me, you know Alex as Alejandro. Heck I know Alex as Alejandro! He never corrected anyone at Catering, but after meeting some of his friends on island and hearing that EVERYONE called him Alex I finally got him to admit that he usually goes by Alex. I’ve been calling this fool Alejandro for 4+ years….it’s like our whole friendship has been a lie! I’m being dramatic, but in an attempt to call him his preferred name, he is Alex. Well, Alex has a condo in Waikiki and when I got the idea to do this trip, I text him and asked if I could stay at his place…..for the entire month of January. He agreed without missing a beat and to say I am grateful is an understatement. Downtown Waikiki in a location that is walking distance to a ton of shops, restaurants, and bus stops – I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Hawaii is expensive and having the option to stay with him pretty much made my visit possible. Plus, I was getting to hang out with one of my favorite people who I hadn’t seen for more than a couple hours at a time, a handful of times in the last two years. Winning all around.

Alex and I looking like babies at the UCLA commencement ceremony 2016.

I ended up not pursuing the graduate program at UH Manoa, I wasn’t 100% sold on the research lab I was looking into, but when I bought my flight there was still the intention to apply and meet the professor. I also knew I would need to have my computer with me this month. Even though I wasn’t applying to UH Manoa, I still had other grad school applications to submit. My group of research assistants that I was a part of summer 2018 with NPS in St. Croix, USVI also had a poster to make. We were accepted to present at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in Charleston, South Carolina and I had GIS data I needed to work with for that poster. I also applied for a ton of seasonal sea turtle jobs for the summer to fill the time between ending travels and starting grad school. Basically, I knew this month wouldn’t be snorkeling and tanning all day everyday. Having a place to be my home base where I could work all day if I needed and not having to worry about something happening to my computer while I was gone was super important to me.

BISTRP 2018 interns – Alli, myself, Jess, and Nat (left to right) on one of our last excavation days on Buck Island.

O’ahu was also a test run for myself. Planning to only take a single backpack on my international travels – no way am I paying to check bags on all of my flights – this was an opportunity to see what I actually needed and what I could leave behind when I go abroad. I’m writing this as I’m flying back to LA so here is what I learned about what is essential and what I can scrap from my packing list:

I simplified my skincare routing and for the most part it was fine, but I did mess up in two areas. First, I tried to go without body lotion to save weight and space in my bag. I have dry skin and religiously put lotion on after I shower. I don’t think I lasted three days without it. My skin just felt terrible and this was a warmer place than most of my other locations so I now know that I need to pack lotion to avoid an epidermal revolt. Second, I didn’t pack a facial scrub. Again, I thought this was something I could get by without. Again, I was wrong. I struggle with acne, but for the most part have it well managed now. My skin flipped out and looked like shit about a week and a half in. Luckily there was a Sephora not to far from the condo and within a week of reincorporating exfoliation back into my routing, my face looked and felt so much better. For everything else I did bring and know I will need for the rest of my trip, I was able to get a sense of how long all my travel containers will last me. Very helpful for planning purposes when space is limited.

I bought a handful of zero-waste personal products prior to leaving as well. It’s something I’ve been slowly incorporating into my everyday routine. After rooming with an awesome gal who lives the zero-waste lifestyle, I was more aware of additional steps I could take to reduce my plastic waste. If the products I bought didn’t hold up, I still had the chance to switch them out after Hawaii. Well I can happily say I am very pleased with what I’ve got. My bamboo toothbrush is going strong after two months of use. No shedding, no splintering and my teeth look great. My metal/silicone straw was delightful to use. The item that I cannot rave about enough is the biodegradable floss I got. It. Is. Amazing!!!! I feel like that’s how you know you’re an adult, you get way more excited than you should about dental floss. Is this what life and happiness comes down to? Well it’s called Dental Lace, comes in a super cute and compact glass container and the quality of the floss is outstanding. I actually floss everyday now that I use this brand and I feel great about limiting my exposure to plastic chemicals in my mouth. Is this how you know you’re old? You rave about floss?

New favorite zero-waste dental products.

Not every zero-waste product was used without a hitch though. Prior to leaving on this trip, I switched up my birth control method. I went from having a Mirena IUD – which basically stopped my period for the 4 years I had it – to having a Paragard IUD. I wanted to keep my long acting birth control, just wanted to try a non-hormonal method. The Paragard has been great so far, but let me tell you…..it is weird getting a period again for the first time in years. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I got a menstrual cup, the holy grail if you are a person who has a period and wants a sustainable period product. Well. There is a learning curve with menstrual cups and as someone who hasn’t had to use any period products for 4 years…..I quickly learned that I am way below the curve. I tried, oh how I tried, and it was just not working for me. Does that mean I will never use a cup? No. I will definitely try again, but since I’m going to be in a different place every time I get my period on this trip….. for the time being I’ve got to use other products. Along the lines of personal care, I also decided that my epilator is just more space and weight than it’s worth. Tweezers and a razor will be just fine. Or I can join the Januhairy movement a little late – apparently that’s a new month thing. Who knows what I’ll do, I don’t even know. 

Beyond logistics and testing out the travel waters. I wanted to be on an island. The ocean has always been a happy for me and when I was in the planning stages, I needed a happy place. Alex was only going to be on island for the first week I was there as well. I would have loved to hang out with him more, but having the alone time was super important to me and ended up being extremely vital in allowing me to reflect on myself, what I wanted in the future, and how to get there. Prior to Hawaii, I was nervous about being alone for this trip. But I never felt alone while I was there. My friends were just a call or message away. My parents always loved hearing about what I did that day or week. And I met new people. Some of them I will never see or speak to again, but it was still so satisfying to have a random engaging conversation. And that makes me feel so excited for the rest of this trip. 

Hawaii was about dipping my toes into the water. Now I know I’m ready to take the plunge. 

Hiking along the Kaiwi Shoreline Trail, Honolulu, HI

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