Written by Tia Giles
Blog owner, magazine editor and travel enthusiast. Obtaining a ‘just do it’ attitude, Caitlyn Raymond, a third year Fashion Marketing student at The University of Winchester, reflects on her recent work stay trip at a coffee farm in Hawaii, that captured her heart and ignited her passion for exploring the unknown. Moving from Las Vegas to the UK for her degree, Caitlyn is no stranger to travelling solo. Speaking about her trip to Hawaii in Summer 2021, Caitlyn sheds light on the prospect of solo travel, breaking expectations and how travelling has come to be “the backbone of [her] mental health”, as she explains that when it comes to travel, “there is absolutely nothing stopping you”.
The set of twinkling fairy lights around the entrance of Rawberry café in Winchester, was a relief to see on a December morning that torrented with rain. The rustic café, adjacent to Winchester’s central high street, was decorated for Christmas – fake ivy piped around its perimeter. Shaking my umbrella from the rain, I was instantly hit with the smell of ground coffee beans and freshly baked treats. My eyes glanced up to boards offering an assortment of juices, immunity boost concoctions, barrister style coffee and herbal teas to choose from. I settled on a pot of green tea and made my way to the far end of the café, picking a table by the window. A print reading ‘bad bitches drink good coffee’, hung proudly in a wooden frame on the wall next to me, a vine of ivy dripping from its corner. While I waited for Caitlyn to arrive, I pulled out my notebook and pen and began people watching.
The café was relatively quiet. I watched as a woman sat down in a booth opposite with two paper bags: tea in one hand, phone in the other. A Christmas shopper, perhaps? An old man carrying a newspaper with a walking stick waited outside for his coffee. A regular? I turned my attention to the café window – watching as pedestrians over-extended their steps to avoid puddles. I then caught sight of Caitlyn, as she waited for the lights on the zebra crossing outside Rawberry to switch from green to red. Sporting a pink bomber jacket, a floral off-the-shoulder top, blue jeans, and a silk patterned overshirt, she ran into the café, sheltering her glasses from the rain. “I’m stressed but I’m managing!” she called, after noticing me from afar. She searched frantically for her credit card before walking towards the counter to order. Caitlyn radiated confidence and even before she had sat down with her chai hot chocolate towering with cream, I was already inspired.
Travelling, whether that be abroad or local, has always been an appealing prospect – growing in popularity through the growth of budget airlines and social media influencers.
However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, travelling has become difficult and restricted - but not impossible. “I was expecting to go to Paris, and I thought that I was going to have this big Europe trip,” Caitlyn admitted, “but because COVID happened, we [her family] ended up going to Hawaii” and it was from there that “I just kind of wanted to continue to go back”. Earlier this year, Caitlyn took a leap of faith in joining a work stay programme with Heavenly Hawaiian, a coffee farm near the Kona Coast – an area that she “fell in love with,” as she described it as a “little dream”. “We bring people from all over the world, they work 28 hours a week in exchange for housing and food,” the tour guide had told her. “My parents looked at me like that’s exactly something you would do, and I looked at them as in, you better let me do this,” Caitlyn laughed. Nicknamed ‘The Aloha State’, according to The National Geographic, Hawaii is ‘the world’s largest island chain’ and ‘the only U.S. state completely made up of islands’. Known for its magnificent hiking trails and variation of species, Honolulu is ‘referred to as the pulsing heart of the state’. With tourism being the state’s ‘leading source of income’, according to Caitlyn, “the most important thing when you visit, or if you move there, is to just be respectful” of the fact that it is the locals’s home too. Noticing the confidence in her decision to go to Hawaii, I asked her if the trip was what she expected – a definitive “no” quickly followed. “I tried to keep an open mind,” she said, but “it took me a second to adjust,” Caitlyn admitted. “I went in the house, and I was like, what is this […] this is a shack”. Despite the initial shock at her accommodation, I gathered that Caitlyn’s determination got her through.
From this, I took the opportunity to ask her what the highlight of her trip was. “Oh my goodness, no no you can’t do that!” she exclaimed, indicating that more than one memory came to mind. After some deliberation Caitlyn replied with “surfing. Which is interesting because I’m not that great’, she added. “I ended up stuck on the idea that I wanted to buy a surfboard, so I invested some of my money and I bought [one]”. One of the aspects of Caitlyn’s character that I found particularly inspiring was that when she has a goal in mind, she does not stop until she has achieved it, an idea shown by her new venture in surfing. “I was determined,” she announced, “I was like, I’m going to learn it, it was really hard but being out there in the ocean, it was really calming, and it was a little bit of a fear factor […], you know there’s so many dangers, but it was so peaceful seeing the island from an outsider’s point of view”. Relating back to her passion to be self-expressive, I could tell that surfing was something that had become ingrained into her personality. It could be interpreted that this was Caitlyn’s way of rebelling against her comfort zone as she found and learnt something new in this hobby.
Caitlyn then told me how on her last day, she was shown a sacred place in Hawaii – the name of which she decided to keep a secret. “You go through this path, a little bit of jungle, a little bit of rock climbing. It’s not too strenuous though and you just come out of this pathway to a stunning view of a giant waterfall, and it looks like it’s out of a movie […] I just couldn’t believe what I was surrounded by”. As I listened to her describe these memories, I could tell that she relished this sense of adventure - and the idea of a challenge. Travelling solo, for Caitlyn is her opportunity to enjoy a trip in her own style. “I’ve always loved travel but I know that I love solo travel,” she told me. “When you travel with somebody, you obviously have to take their opinions and what they want to do into consideration. And while compromise is obviously a good thing, sometimes I like to do my own thing”. Why? Because “I love my flow,” she explained, “I like to just be in the city and be in the town and just go wherever […] I have a very different style of travel compared to most people. It’s pretty play by ear and that might scare people,” she said.
Surfing wasn’t the only test that Caitlyn confronted whilst on her trip, as she admitted to facing “some hardships in the house”. “I had doubts of being there […] I didn’t feel welcome. I wasn’t happy. I really cut myself off from people and that took away from the experience,” said Caitlyn in full honesty. Despite struggling with this, Caitlyn found solace in two people whom she described as her “rocks”; Helen who interviewed Caitlyn before she was accepted onto the programme and Cole, who is now her boyfriend. “I didn’t realise that Cole was my rock for a long time, which was unfortunate but ultimately, I got there,” she said, “and I always knew that Helen was by my side, she was a solid person”.
Caitlyn also came to be hugely inspired by a woman who she met at a farmers’ market, called Nai’a Elle. Following her ‘journey from jewellery designer to shop owner’, as the editor of Details magazine, an independent editorial that publishes electronic issues every month, Caitlyn interviewed Nai’a about her new business and her life in Hawaii. So, who is Nai’a? “She makes jewellery and she’s very in touch with the culture,” Caitlyn said. “You could tell that she just wanted to spread love to everyone. That was inspiring to me,” she affirmed as she twisted one of Nai’a’s rings on her index finger, “because I want to be at the point that I’m looked up to the way that I look up to her”. It was Nai’a who told her about the Aloha Spirit, which Hawaiian locals embody. Caitlyn described it as a “sense of love wherever you go” and “just being willing to learn to appreciate and accept […] it’s so powerful”. Caitlyn explained further that the faith is “so universal” and that “it doesn’t matter where you come from, the kind of person you are, the person you have been or the faith that you have, because that kind of love can be branched out for everybody”. According to an article located in BBC Travel, ‘aloha is a concept that grew out of the necessity for Hawaiians to live in peace and work together’ – something that Caitlyn said becomes evident when you immerse yourself in the culture. “I don’t think I could say I don’t like anything about their lives. It’s so pure,” she told me.
Listening to how much Nai’a had inspired Caitlyn, I offered the question of whether she would support the statement that travelling can help improve one’s wellbeing/mental health. “Absolutely. 100%,” she confirmed, “I think whenever I get into a spot of feeling stuck, drained, down on myself, I just know that I need to travel”. With the pandemic resulting in many being confined to their homes, the need to travel and to experience something new has grown immensely, as more people are beginning to acquire the ‘travel bug’. “Travelling has so many things to offer you,” Caitlyn told me, “it can give you that peace of mind, it can give you that perspective, you know, the world is so big and it really is your oyster and every little inconvenience you’re going through, there is such a bigger picture when you go and explore”. Going through “mental strain” when she was younger, Caitlyn admits that she didn’t have the same luxury of travelling as she does now. “I was under my parents wing, I couldn’t just get on a train and go, I couldn’t just pack a bag,” she admitted. “Because my parents were a little bit on the stricter end, I didn’t get to do a lot of solo travelling.”
But, Caitlyn continued, it’s important to remember that travelling isn’t “about running away, it’s about finding a new atmosphere and finding that new energy and appreciating that energy.” “It’s an incredible feeling,’ she continued, “it really brightens your heart, to be honest”. I got the impression that this exhilarating feeling of being on your own and doing something for you is the whole idea of travelling solo. So, what would Caitlyn’s advice be to anyone considering the prospect of travelling abroad on their own? “100% do it. Because there is no experience like it”. “There’s no way that this world was created for us not to explore it,” she beamed. “If you’re thinking about travelling, the only thing stopping you, is you”.
When I asked her about her plans for the future, her eyes lit up with excitement. “Ok, now I’m excited”, she had said. “I’m building up the magazine, Details magazine. […] I’m working very hard on that and then over the Christmas break, I’m going to Hawaii – yay I get to go back!” she signalled in excitement. In Hawaii, Caitlyn plans to reunite with Cole and then travel to Chicago – which she has never been to before. “In terms of career, I do plan on moving back to Hawaii next year and I plan on opening a coffee shop in Kona,” she continued - and the travel plans do not stop there. “I will be travelling for the rest of my life, you can guarantee that,” she affirmed, and “[…] I do expect to do it all’.
Caitlyn said previously in the interview about how she wanted to become someone that was looked up to, in the same way that she admired Nai’a. After the interview, I came away feeling incredibly inspired myself, not only by Caitlyn’s incessant drive to achieve but also with how she rebelled against and pushed past her thoughts of self-doubt. Travelling to Hawaii, I felt, was Caitlyn’s way of breaking free of her comfort zone – something that I think we should all learn how to do.
Overall, the interview left me feeling incredibly motivated to achieve great things and as we said goodbye, I knew one thing to be true: that Caitlyn will, in fact, “do it all”.