I Felt Stuck In A Rut So I Took A Solo Trip To Hawaii For A Week

My life was buffering, so I hit reset.


I suffer from SAD—social anxiety disorder. And while I'm self-diagnosed (I have anxiety about seeking medical help, because that would mean actually having to talk to someone about this. Not my strong suit), I've read up on SAD and I totally fit the profile: "Everyday social interactions cause irrational anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment."

I can go to a crowded club and be the life of the party if I really wanted to. But I will be the most socially awkward person at a game night of fifteen guests, some of which I know because, well, I'm not quite sure (see previous note about therapy above). My SAD manifests at different levels. Sometimes it's me stuttering to get out one simple sentence and, at my very worst, I've become paralyzed with fear sitting in someone's living room as if I were on stage at Madison Square Garden with no words at all.

This is a particularly debilitating diagnosis for me, not just because I spend most weekends in solitude or haven't been on a date in years, but because my career as a lifestyle/entertainment journalist requires me to mix and mingle, network and basically talk to people and get them to open up to me. Although I often put my big girl pants on and get the job done, I feel my work has definitely not lived up to its full potential due to my lack of ability to be more social. Recently, I've felt stuck in a rut and while going to therapy is on my long-term to-do list, in a jolt of inspiration, I decided to take more immediate action and booked my very first solo trip before I turn the big 3-0.

It would be my own little version of an Eat, Pray, Love journey, except I'm not a white, middle-aged woman leaving behind dreamy James Franco to eat pasta in Italy. I'm a millennial Nuyorican with no James Franco, looking to get my social mojo back. Now folks take solo trips for all sorts of reasons, but a solo trip to combat a phobia of socializing? How does that work? To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure either. But I flew out to Waikiki Beach, Hawaii on the morning of my 29th birthday by my lonesome for an entire week and from the very moment I landed, the mysteries behind my inner psyche began to unravel.

Here's how a solo trip to Hawaii helped break me out of my shell and nudged me to meet and interact with people, break away from my workaholic ways and content-driven anxiety (another "issue" of mine that comes with the job) and stop to smell the roses… or in this case, the Hawaiian Hibiscus.

I had activities for days.

Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz

I had a list of activities and sight-seeing lined up that by society's conventions you'd normally do as a group or at least as a pair—hike Diamond Head Crater, visit the Honolulu Zoo, attend Germaine's Luau in Kapolei, spend the day at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, and hit Waikiki Beach. Then there were the more commonplace outings—dinners, bars and shopping trips. A lot of things felt forced at first and then they just flowed. For instance, while trying to plan out my itinerary I reached out for tips via Instagram to an old college classmate who had moved to Hawaii two years ago with her husband. I let her know that I'd be traveling solo and that it might be nice to see a familiar face. So, for my first full day in Waikiki, she and her husband took me to dinner at Tiki's Grill & Bar where we had the best time.

I forged a path and found my way on my own.

Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz

Then there was my morning at Diamond Head. I love hikes and decided that I would do Diamond Head long before I arrived on Oahu. I flew out from Los Angeles since I was already there for work, so I cut costs there, but Hawaii is as expensive as everyone says it is so besides my big-ticket excursions like Disney and the luau, I wanted to keep everything else budget-friendly. Upon looking at the official state park website I learned it was only a $1 entry fee and a 15-minute local bus ride from where I was staying. I thought, "I could totally do this on my own!" My mom, however, wasn't having it so I complied and booked a tour at the last minute. Big mistake...or biggest blessing depending on how you look at it.

Long story short, my tour guide never came to pick me up like he said, so at 5:30AM still standing outside in the dark before sunrise, I decided to go with my original plan to do it without a stinkin' guide. I hopped on the bus, paid my $1 entry and hiked up the edge of that 300,000-year-old crater all by myself. When I got to the top, did I discover the missing link to my social gene? No. But I did get a pretty amazing view of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu, and the way down I made friends.

I made new friends in unexpected places.

Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz

While on Diamond Head, I saw a couple taking in the view on the hike downward, and I think because I appreciated the people that asked if I wanted a picture when they saw I was by myself, I decided to spread the love and offer to take theirs. Before I knew it, we were a trio talking, laughing, spilling travel stories and little did we know, making a new one. I learned they were not a couple at all, just life-long friends from San Francisco who shared wanderlust and a fun tongue-and-cheek dynamic. When we got to the bottom they treated me to some Dole Whip, a frozen dessert native to Hawaii, then we grabbed lunch and exchanged more travel tales. Now, I have two friends in The Bay to see whenever I make my way over there!

I channeled my inner Moana with a haku lei.

Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz

Another highlight was a haku lei making class I took that was offered through my hotel, Shoreline Waikiki. A haku lei is what we on the mainland call a flower crown. I take arts and crafts very seriously and was on a mission to live out my Moana fantasies in an authentic haku. Little did I know the sweat and tears (on the inside) that went into making a perfectly crafted haku. Luckily, I had a tablemate who was on the same mission as me because as the rest of the tables cleared out, we wrapped, weaved and clipped away until roughly two hours later were Moana-fied. During our two hours in the struggle, being a native, she explained to me the even more complex process of making a traditional haku that had been passed down in her family. I cherish those two hours.

But perhaps, the most Julia Roberts-esque thing to happen to me during my solo travel was the very last day that I was there. I had stumbled upon a mostly deserted beach away from the swarms of tourists in Waikiki and was sitting atop a ledge that overlooked the sand when a James Earl Jones-looking character sporting dark shades and riding a trike motorcycle pulled up beside me to see if I was in need of any assistance. And I guess I was, but not in the conventional sense.

We got to talking and before I knew it, I had another buddy in Hawaii. He ended up giving me a ride on his trike to another part of the beach further down. If you're a Disney fan like me, this is where you cue "How Far I'll Go" off the Moana soundtrack. If you're my mom, this is where you cue the theme song to Law & Order: SVU. Thankfully, I lived to tell this tale and I'm able to share the words of wisdom he shared with me. Just as I hopped off his bike and thanked him for the ride, out of the clear blue he asked me, "What's your dream?"

Now this is a question that would normally make me freeze up and retreat into my SAD bubble but after seven days on island by myself, I had done a lot of thinking and knew the answer: "I don't have one."

Storytelling has always been my passion. I winded up going to school to become a journalist and was blessed enough to snag an internship which landed me my dream job. I'm currently living the dream I had, but never bothered to make a new one. I started explaining to him that I'm indecisive by nature and that eventually I'll figure it out, but as the words left my mouth they sounded like nothing but a lengthy excuse. He called bullshit on me right away and simply said, "Just make a decision." That's it.

And as I waved good-bye and walked the sand onto the most beautiful beach that I've ever seen, I realized that's how I got here. I decided to come. It really was that simple. I got so uncomfortable with being uncomfortable in social situations that I just decided to come to Hawaii and be more social. And I did.

I'm not saying that this is the case for everyone with SAD, or anyone dealing with any type of psychological disorder but for me it was. I'm also not saying I'm cured either. Since my return to the mainland, I'm trying to apply what I learned from my trip and it's not so easy when you're not operating on vacation brain, but I've decided to try.

It's a very peculiar thing what we let hold us back from reaching our full potential as if we are not in control of own lives. For me, the first step was as simple as deciding and I did that before I even got on the plane.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Did you know that xoNecole has a podcast? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to join us for weekly convos over cocktails (without the early morning hangover.)

Originally published on July 23, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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