Travel Series: Wanderlust takes Hawaii!

Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.
-Paul Theroux

Constant sunshine. Breezy summers. Low humidity. Green, lush plants that surround all around you. Stretches of honey sand with crystal, clear turquoise waters. You step off the plane and are immediately greeted by mountains. It was the first time my fiance and I have ever seen mountains in person. Of course, we took a few minutes to document it like the millennials we are. But in that initial moment, we were filled with excitement. After a layover in Houston and 7 hours on a plane, we were ready to explore the beautiful island of Oahu…

Or were we?? lol I have to admit, with the time change and by the time we checked into our room, we were both exhausted. That first evening, we decided to stay low-key and hang around the hotel area. We stayed at the Hilton Waikiki Beach and the area is busy and filled with tourists. Upon our arrival, they were shooting a TV show (I’m not sure which one) and the hotel was crawling with extras. We made it to our room and was pleasantly surprised with the views. High in the skies, our room overlooked the city with a backdrop of mountains.

I quickly changed my clothes and anticipated a quick bite we could grab around the hotel. We opted for a poke bowl. I know, we’re in Hawaii and you expect a food item that is more exotic? Well, sushi and poke bowls are widely eaten in Hawaii. It was quick and good, and mine had fresh ahi tuna which is local to the island. After grabbing food, we walked around and explored Waikiki Beach. I have to admit, the beach is beautiful but way too overcrowded.

After taking a walk along the beach, I decided I wanted to grab a Dole Whip and it was amazing! Trust me, pineapples hit different in Hawaii. After doing some more sightseeing, we decided to head back to the hotel and rest. We were asleep by like 8 PM. Pretty uneventful first night lol but traveling can take a toll, especially international ones. And the jet lag is insane! I was up at 3 AM ready to start my day, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Luckily, I was able to fall back asleep and wake up at 7 AM.

Our first full day in Hawaii had a whole itinerary. First we would eat breakfast at a local restaurant call Shorefyre. It’s a short walk from the beach and my fiance and I witnessed many of the locals coming straight from the beach to go there, barefoot and surfboards attached to their hips. We figured if locals trusted the place, it must be good. And we were right! The breakfast was beyond satisfying and delicious. Definitely large portions as well. I ordered upside pineapple pancakes. They were made with locally grown pineapples and were as large as my plate. Price wise, it wasn’t too bad. Prices ranged from $15 to $20. A little tip- food in Hawaii can get very costly, especially in a tourist area. Just be mindful of that if you ever visit.

After breakfast, we headed to the Royal Hawaiian Center, an outside mall filled with high fashion stores. A fun fact about the tourist area in Hawaii: The Japanese has heavily invested into the area and placed attractions that would generate revenue and/or fulfill their shopping wants and needs. A lot of high end brand labels are extremely expensive in Japan, but in Hawaii, it is a lot more affordable than what they are accustomed to paying. We didn’t come to the Royal Hawaiian Center to shop though- they offer many complimentary classes focused on Hawaiian traditions such as lei making, hula dance lessons, and ukulele. When researching things to do in Hawaii, this was at top of the list. Traveling and staying in Hawaii can get expensive, so I was very adamant about find free or affordable activities to pass the time. We opted for ukulele lessons that was taught by a Hawaiian native born and raised in the island. I point out that she is a Hawaiian native because believe it or not, there’s not many left on the island. The majority of Hawaii’s population is Asian and White. Only about 11% of the population is Hawaiian native. The instructor has been working with the center since 1994 and was filled with knowledge about the island and great energy. Ukulele was a lot harder to learn than expected! We even had to sing the song in Hawaiian! We learned that Kaimana Hila means Diamond Head which is the mountain trail we climbed during the vacation. The reason this mountain is called Diamond Head is because during the 19th century, it was believed by British settlers that they have discovered diamonds within the land. However, it was not diamonds. They were actually calcite crystals that resemble diamonds but instead are a semi precious stone.

After the ukulele lessons, we had a long conversation with the instructor. We noticed how commercialized the tourist area was and wanted to get to know about the real Hawaii. The instructor was more than willing to offer some knowledge. Although Hawaii is considered one of the 50 states, Hawaiians rather not be associated as such. Queen Liliuokalani, the first and only reigning Hawaiian queen, was overthrown by the United States. Locals refer to us as the mainland but they rather keep the island separate in association. The instructor also informed us that many locals prefer to stay away from the Waikiki Beach area. As expected, this area is not the real Hawaii. But what I didn’t know is that many of the locals cannot even stay in the hotels in the area. Overall, they feel invaded and unwelcome.

The instructor also gave us some pointers on where we can find inexpensive food that locals enjoy. The popular spot mentioned was Rainbow Inn, a fast food restaurant that serves big portions for under 8 dollars. About a 20 min walk from our hotel, we decided to foot it and see what the hype was all about. It was definitely busy within multiple lines curling around the corners of the pole outside. I didn’t take a picture of this meal because honestly it didn’t look visually appealing lol but it was tasty. I opted for the mixed plate which served fried battered ahi tuna, chicken, and steak, with white rice and macaroni salad as sides. Another local menu favorite is the Loco Moco, which is two beef patties that sit on top of a bed of fried rice, topped with a fried egg. The Hawaiians eat A LOT of rice, beef, and pork for any meal of the day.

Later that evening, we went to a hula show at the Kuhio Beach Mound. This is a free event that takes place at 6:30 PM, right before the sunset. It does get packed quickly and seating is first come, first serve. Because of this we were at the location by 5:45 PM to grab a front row seat. It was enjoyable and the scenery was beautiful on the beach as the sun began to set. They opened the show with conch blowing followed by singing and playing instruments, along with displaying several different styles of hula dancing.

Because we were being extremely budget friendly, especially with the circumstances of myself being unemployed during this trip, we opted to buy a bottle and enjoy drinks outside of the typical bars and lounges. So long story short, it was a wrap for nightlife… you know I like to keep it honest! Plus we had an early morning and long day ahead of us. We would start our next day by hiking Diamond Head 🙂

Our morning started at 7 AM. We completely skipped breakfast, although I opted for a coffee and a banana at least for energy. We checked out the bus routes and decided to get an all day pass. The buses in Hawaii are very easy to maneuver and the drivers are friendly and helpful. Diamond Head was about a 15 min ride from our hotel. It was a hot, summer day… cliche. We started our journey up the entrance of the trail, which is a hike within itself! Once you get to the entrance, they only charge $1 per pedestrian, so very affordable. The time it takes to go up the mountain varies on your physical endurance and depends on how many breaks you take. I’m not the most active so I did take a few breaks when I felt like my lungs were going to collapse. The trail is very steep and there are many, many stairs. Also, there is a lot of steep pathways with uneven ground so it’s very easy to trip if you’re not careful. I definitely reevaluated my life throughout the whole way up 😀 and oddly enough, I figured out very quickly how claustrophobic I am when we went into the narrow cave. I have never sweated so much in my life! And by the end of the trail, when we made it to the top, I legitimately wanted to cry tears of joy. But when I tell you, the views were SO worth it. It’s like believing in magic for the very first time. You get so wrapped up in the technological advances we have in our world, that you forget such beauty exists in nature.

After the trail, we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up. We wanted to check out Downtown Honolulu. First stop was the Iolani Palace, which was the royal residence of the queen. They offer self guided audio tours for just $25. Also, very close in the area, is the Honolulu Museum of Art. Tickets range around the same price as the palace.

Next stop was the Aloha Tower. Originally a lighthouse, the Aloha Tower is one of the most recognized landmarks of Hawaii, second to Diamond Head. It was built in 1926 standing as the tallest building in the islands for nearly four decades! It also served as a welcoming beacon to the island for sea travelers. Present day, the Aloha Tower is now part of a marketplace and the Hawaiian Pacific University. On the 10th floor of the tower is an observatory that offers city views overlooking the harbor.

After visiting the Aloha Tower, we decided to grab lunch (finally!). Chinatown is about a 10 minute walk from the tower. We spoke to a local bartender when we first landed and her top suggestion for food in Chinatown was The Pig and the Lady, a Vietnamese fusion restaurant. It’s a pretty casual place with cool accents within the restaurant.

The food was delicious, of course, and fairly priced…

Chinatown isn’t much of a scene during the week/day. I heard it gets very lively at night on the weekends but unfortunately, it was Wednesday and our last full day in Hawaii we had left to explore. We kept it moving.

After lunch, I had a sweet tooth and I knew just the place to go for it. When researching about Hawaii, I came across several websites that listed must try foods in Hawaii. I saw Leonard’s Bakery pop up 5 times, so you know I had to try. They are famous for their malasadas, Portuguese donuts that are fried and filled with custard or chocolate. We hopped on the bus for a 45 minute ride towards to reach our destination. After all, I was on a mission and oh so determined. As we approached the bakery, we realized very quickly that it was definitely a popular destination. The line extended all the way outside (very good sign 🙂 ).

…they didn’t disappoint. AT ALL!

After enjoying the malasadas, we went back to the hotel to rest a bit before getting ready again to head out at night. We decided to check out Wang Chung’s Karaoke Bar, another local suggestion and not too far from our hotel. It was a cool vibe with dope lighting. Lots of drunk people singing for your entertainment 😀

After having a couple of drinks, we decided to call it a night. Spending the majority of the day outside, in the heat, exploring from 8 AM to midnight, we were barely hanging on. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so hard than I did that night.

On our last day, I woke up at 6:30 AM and decided to watch the sunrise on the balcony of our room. I wanted to soak up as much of this place as I could before we left. Honestly, I didn’t want to go back to reality. The harsh realization always hits the hardest on the day you depart. And our trip felt incredibly quick! Back to responsibilities…ew. My fiance and I took one last walk to the beach. Our flight didn’t depart until 1 PM, so time was of the essence. We sat on the beach. People watched. Admired the slow pace of everyone as they lounged around enjoying their surroundings. Jumping off the high ledges and splashing into the ocean. It’s moments like that when you realize this is what life should really be about. The slow moments that allow you to fully express gratitude. To absorb it all. We often take nature’s beauty for granted. So preoccupied with the busyness in our lives to appreciate our surroundings. Besides the beautiful beaches, Hawaii has some of the most beautiful flowers and trees. I wanted to spend some intentional time appreciating it all.

My final consensus of Hawaii? It’s beautiful. But I do think it receives A LOT of hype. It is very expensive to have an ‘amazing’ time there. If you ever plan to take a trip out there, my suggestion would be to get a car and get out of the tourist area. Anticipate on having at least 500 dollars for just spending money…and this does not include flight and hotel. I would love to come back and check out Northshore, which was about 45 minutes away from where we were staying, driving time. I would also love to check out the Dole Plantation. I think I would visit another island besides Oahu, as well. I hear Maui is breathtaking. We made the best out of our trip considering we had limited time and funds. I have some must do things in mind for the next time we visit. But I definitely cherished every moment of this trip. Anytime I am able to get on a plane and just go somewhere, I am grateful. So until next time Hawaii, Mahaulo! Thank you for sharing your beauty ❤

Extroverted Introvert: Ambiversion at its Best.

I regret the plans I’ve made while I was in a 5 minute extroverted mood. – Unknown

For a very long time, I have always realized that my energy could be affected by my environment. I used to refer to myself as a chameleon, where I would blend into my environment and adjust my temperament based on how those around me acted. But I could never understand why some days I would want to hide in solitude, while other days I craved interaction with the outside world. It’s like this constant internal battle- you don’t know what to label yourself as, nor do you understand why you can’t fit in a particular box. This past weekend, my fiance had an amazing event for the city of Tampa. It was an artist showcase that was filled with talented vendors that made up for a great networking opportunity. There was A LOT of people in attendance. My anxiety was at an ultimate high and for the first few moments, and it could be read all over my face…even though I was wearing a mask…lol I’ll explain some other time. Ultimately, I shook out the shell of shock and was bouncing around from wall to wall greeting different people I recognized. So how exactly does that happen? And why did I feel the need to isolate myself from everyone for the next few days to follow? One word- Ambiversion.

So, what is Ambiversion? Simply put, it’s a combination of introversion and extroversion. Sometimes this can be confusing to other people. I’m sure there are some people who feel that you can’t be both, but you can. There’s a spectrum that you can fall within. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that interacting with others is inevitable, especially in my type of lifestyle. Perhaps, I’ve been forced to become more extroverted. After doing some research on this topic, turns out there are several signs that might reveal you are indeed, an extroverted introvert. See if any of these apply to you:

  1. One on one interactions are a lot more enjoyable than group settings. I get anxiety in a group of people, especially people I don’t know. However, put me in a one on one interaction and I will kill you with conversation. Like I won’t shut up. And I’m pretty sure that this is because an intimate setting feels less overwhelming and allows me to feel more comfortable.
  2. You’re open to meeting new people but prefer an advance warning to mentally prepare for a social interaction. This is me to the core! It’s not that I don’t want to meet new people. It’s just that I get freaked out by the idea of it. I like to mentally prepare myself. I like to know what I’m about to get myself into. When I have the time to process meeting new people, I am in a much better mood when it actually happens.
  3. You need a lot of alone time, but still get lonely when you have too much alone time. Yes, it’s possible lol. I like my alone time because it gives me an opportunity to recharge. But then once I’m recharged, I’m ready to get back out there again!
  4. Speaking of recharging, the need to recharge happens because too much social interaction can be exhausting. I don’t understand the science behind it. All I know is that after a few days of intense social interaction, I get irritable and all I want to do is bury myself in my couch at home with Netflix. Phone off. Solitude where there’s no expectations to talk, mingle, dress up, anything!
  5. It’s hard to get you out of the house but once you are, you usually have a great time. Um, yeah. More often than not, I usually have a blast. My fiance loves to rub it in my face whenever he realizes this happens…only because I give him such a hard time to go out that he practically has to fight with me and drag me out of the house. I wish I was exaggerating.

There are so many other signs that I have not touched on, but as you can see, these are not ‘all or nothing’ traits. I can be outgoing and shy. Talkative and introspective. And sometimes, my introversion hits me like a pile of bricks in a social setting. It sneaks up on me and then I am out of commission for the rest of the night. I have to nurture both sides of me and it’s definitely a learning process. If any of you relate to this, I would love to hear your input. Do you feel like you’re an extroverted introvert? Do you feel that all of this is bullshit? Whatever your stance, I would love to hear! Hope you all have an amazing day!

Keeping Calm with ASMR

Any time I mention ASMR, I either get a puzzled or a disturbed look from others. Many people either do not know about ASMR or they have major misconceptions about the current fad that is becoming more mainstream, especially in commercials- just think of the 2019 Super Bowl commercial featuring Zoe Kravitz and a Michelob beer. Before a few months ago, I was one of those people who had absolutely no clue what it was. Initially mentioned to me by a close friend, I shrugged it off until I discovered that one of my Instagram followers had a YouTube channel for ASMR. Full of curiosity, I decided to check it out. Dougha ASMR was my first experience and I absolutely loved it! Btw, check out her channel (pic below) 😊 Haven’t looked back since. I can honestly say I watch at least one ASMR video per day. It has done wonders for my mental health.  

What is ASMR? ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response which provides tingling sensations in the scalp and down the back of the neck, as experienced by some people in response to a specific gentle stimulus, often a particular sound. Please note that these ‘tingles’ are not usually sexual, although some forms of ASMR has been extremely sexualized. These sounds are labeled as triggers and often promote relaxation, and has been known to help with anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Those who have gone down the ASMR rabbit hole, continue to rave about the benefits. So much, that these claims have caught the attention of several psychologists interested in conducting scientific research about the benefits of ASMR. Dr. Giulia Poerio of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology conducted a study and found that those who engaged in ASMR reported feeling relaxed, as well as feeling more positive and socially connected. There were also reports of decreased heart rates and increased endorphins in brain activity. These findings are comparable to findings of stress reduction techniques such as meditation. However, not everyone experiences the phenomenon of ASMR.  Scientists believe this is due to neurological nuances between different people, as well as some personality parameters. Stephen Smith, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Winnipeg, conducted a study in which 290 individuals with ASMR and 290 matched controls completed the Big Five Personality Inventory. Research showed that people who experience ASMR demonstrated significantly higher scores on Openness and Neuroticism, and significantly lower levels of Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness compared to matched controls. What this means is that if you experience ASMR, you tend to be more creative and have a broad range of interests, along with being more likely to experience sadness and anxiety. On the flipside, you are more likely to despise set schedules and often feel exhausted after socializing. There’s a whole science to it!

Speaking of triggers, I have a few I am found of. I really enjoy personal attention ASMR, the kind that tells you positive affirmations and how much you are appreciated. There are even some videos that do reiki cleansing and alleviate headaches; LOVE them. I also enjoy scratching sounds, especially when it is mic scratching- it literally sounds like howls of wind. And then there are some triggers I DO NOT like, like the videos of people eating excessive food, formally known as Mukbang. This was originated in South Korea and has grown popularity in the states. I noticed that when you search tags on IG for ASMR, Mukbang is what usually comes up. I can tolerate a video or two of it, but after a while, all of the mouth and chewing sounds makes my stomach turn. There is so much more than Mukbang, trust me! Some suggestions I have for ‘ASMRtists’ is Gibi ASMR- the queen of mic scratching; Karuna Satori ASMR- I love her reiki cleansing and fixes for insomnia; Batalas ASMR- she does a lot of fast and aggressive triggers which helps me concentrate hardcore; and of course Dougha ASMR- who opened my awareness with ASMR and has a really dope roleplay video for Cranial Eye Exam. For kicks and giggles, you can also find a video of Cardi B doing ASMR; I have to admit, I’m pleasantly surprised at how good she did.

ASMR is not for everyone, but I hope I have been able to shed some positive light on it. I have nothing but positive things to say about it, even when my own friends shun me and say I’m weird for enjoying it lol. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask away! I am not expert, but I am interested enough to dig around and find some research on it. Thank you for reading and happy Hump Day!