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View from Kawaii shoreline trail. Photo by Jagger Blaec

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An Aloha State of Mind: Hiking in Hawaii

How I found some peace on the trail.

Everyone has an image in their mind about what a paradise Hawaii will be, and I got a taste of it when we landed in sunny Oahu. And hiking was initially not on my mind.

I stopped drinking for 30 days—it wasn’t on purpose at first. This was after I completed a yoga teacher training program in the late November. I missed the feeling of operating on a higher vibration from practicing yoga on a consistent basis. Not drinking felt like a gateway to reclaiming that feeling. Less anxiety was an unexpected benefit of giving up the sweet nectar of spirits, and with my added yoga practice, I’d gained an unfamiliar feeling of generalized bliss.

At the time I couldn’t fathom being on vacation without being drunk. 

Many people observe “Dry January” or “No-Drink December,” but I had started my sober time in late November. But I didn’t want to restrict myself during the holidays in December—the pressure to not drink on New Year’s or Christmas was not an option. My husband and I had planned a trip to Hawaii over Christmas break. I wanted to time my booze fast to last for 30 days and end just in time with our trip. At the time I couldn’t fathom being on vacation without being drunk. 

Thirty days ended. And I quickly realized that I no longer craved or needed alcohol in the same way I thought I once did.

But it wasn’t long before I felt like Oahu was a tourist trap, full of massive crowds throughout the island. Large crowds in unknown spaces can trigger my anxiety, and I was uneasy about what to expect for the week of vacation. I was shook, and for the first time in 30 days felt like I needed a drink to calm my nerves.

So I set out to do that. The moment of truth had arrived, and I was breaking thirty days of sobriety at last. I was cautious and nervous and almost a little bit sad to end this period of discovering alternative methods of coping with life. I ordered an artisan Mai Thai at a hipstery bar called Bevy. It tasted delicious but I wasn’t any less anxious. I realized then that we needed to find other ways of self-care, and the beautiful nature of Oahu could offer a reprieve. After asking locals and knowledgeable Uber drivers, and a few quick Google searches, we found outdoorsy places that were good for body, mind, and soul.

The forrest of Manoa Falls.
photo courtesy of Jagger Blaec

Manoa Falls
This was my first-ever real hike, on a trail in northern Oahu. Hiking has always been a mind-boggling proposition to me. I had often heard urban legends about these people who go on vacation with the sole intention of walking. The thought of it always seemed like the worst thing, and once I set foot on this trail my suspicions were confirmed—and debunked. From what I have heard about hiking, this trail was on the easier side, with only a slight incline. The walkway itself was somewhat muddy, so legit footwear was a must. Getting lost and standing beneath all of the tropical wildlife will make you feel a renewed sense of perspective. Being a small part of endless nature creates this feeling that your problems and anxieties are not as big and hopeless as they seem in the grand scheme of existing on earth. There are views all throughout the trail and manmade steps for beginning hikers like myself. Once you get to the top, there is a gorgeous waterfall with a plunge pool. Despite signs that warn visitors to stay out of the water, people—myself included—feel like they’ve earned a dip at the top of the falls. There are warning signs that say there might be the risk of falling rocks and contracting a bacterial infection, so take a dip at your own risk. When you hop into the water, you’ll notice that the slippery rocks are definitely hazardous to those with tender feet. Being of African descent, I pride myself in enjoying the state of being barefoot, regardless of rocky surroundings. I made my way through the rocky pond and perched in the middle of the falls with the sun beaming down on me. 

Diamond Head State Monument
The climb up Diamond Head was presented to me as a brisk walk. In actuality, it’s a two-mile incline straight up the side of a crater. It felt like endless steps up a never-ending hill. The terrain is rocky and there were plenty of tourists making their way up and down the path. At the bottom of the volcanic cone, I almost turned around because I saw people the size of ants who were moving like lemmings and seemed to be running around on what looked like a small cliff at the top. When I asked my hiking partner/husband if they were in fact people, he said no, but as we ascended further, I realized that was a lie to get me to go up. At one point near the top, there is a pitch-black tunnel the width of a Keebler Elves doorway to get through. It took what felt like 10 minutes to travel through the tunnel of doom, and it’s completely dark, with just you and your thoughts. There is only enough room to walk through it single file, so I wouldn’t suggest it if you’re claustrophobic. On the other hand, it’s totally worth it to see the visual magic of the volcanic craters of Oahu once you get to the top.

Welcomed by an Adorable lil light house at the top of the trail.
photo courtesy of Jagger Blaec

Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline
I was still trying to understand why anyone would go hiking, and this was the hike that answered my question. The easiest trek of the bunch, it was as steep as a neighborhood driveway. As a beginner, I hike extremely slowly, and I watched as families and toddlers zoomed past me. But unlike the other hikes, this was not on mountainous terrain or in a rainforest. It was plain asphalt with views along the trail that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. Farther along the man-made asphalt trail are metal telescopes that allow the opportunity for whale watching. Suddenly it began to rain, and we were stuck in a downpour. There was nowhere to go, but for some reason it didn’t matter. It was the first time I felt at one with nature. I stared at the faraway lighthouse perched over the ripples in the water, waiting for a whale to appear, and I began to experience the feeling I imagine nature-lovers hike for.

I never thought I would do any of these things, but that’s exactly why I did them. Giving up alcohol led me to try hiking, and I’m super grateful for that—especially because I was able to discover uncharted territory in Hawaii and within myself.

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