Latest Brews

Personal Essay | Getting Off The Rock

I grew up in a small town called Wahiawā, on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. I know, many of you have never heard of it, but I spent most of my life in that little town, stuck in the middle of the island, dreaming of the day I could fly off to some unknown and exotic land. You know the scene in The Breakfast Club when Molly Ringwald mutters, “I wish I was on a plane. To France.” That’s me; only insert any location, anywhere in the world, for “France.”

 Get off your rock-- no matter what it looks like. (Photo Wendie Burbridge)

Get off your rock– no matter what it looks like. (Photo Wendie Burbridge)

When you live in Hawaii, or on any island, you have to get on a plane to go just about anywhere. I’ve been flying since I was three months old. My entire life has been a challenge to get “Off the Rock”—both literally and figuratively. I see travel as a way to get away from everything. When I travel, I’m forced to forget my 12-hour workdays, the worst traffic in the United States, inane emails, pointless meetings, and the constant clutter on my desk.

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “why would anyone want to leave beautiful Hawaii?” But I grew up in Hawaii, and sometimes my island gets a little too crowded and small for me—and I need to get away. Getting off my rock is the best way I can recoup my sanity, reconnect with my family, and myself.

Traveling is really a gift. It’s a gift for your senses, your mind, as well as a gift to your children. It’s been a huge gift to my son, who has been traveling pretty consistently since he was five years old. His entire worldview is based on seeing different cultures, history, art, hearing different languages, eating strange but delicious food, and by seeing how other people live and work and play.

Now, I’m in no way so fabulous and well-traveled that I can pack an overnighter for a two week trip or spend my next paycheck on a trip to Europe. My passport has a few stamps, but not so many that I need extra pages. I don’t work for any airline; I don’t get free tickets, nor am I a travel agent or work for one. I just love to travel and am lucky enough to do it fairly often.

So come with me on a virtual tour of the world and all the interesting places– far and near– that I’ve traveled. I’d love to hear where you have gone and share in your off the rock experiences. Perhaps we all can share our gifts with each other and learn more about who we are through other cultures and places. The world is our oyster, lovelies, and perhaps we’ll find some new pearls to share and enjoy


Facebook Comments


About Wendie Burbridge (15 Articles)
Wendie Burbridge is a Contributing Editor for Sweatpants & Coffee. She also writes the popular Hawaii Five-0 blog “The Five-0 Redux” for The Pulse, the online magazine for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Her fiction, poetry, and plays have been published several times in different literary journals and textbooks, most notably by Bamboo Ridge Press, ‘Ōiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal, Fat Ulu Productions, and Autumn House Press.

30 Comments on Personal Essay | Getting Off The Rock

  1. Hi Wendie, of course your sentence “I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “why would anyone want to leave beautiful Hawaii?” totally made me smile because Hawaii is one place I would love to visit.

    My “rock” is New York – another quite popular destination for many. I live thirty minutes north of New York City. Yet, this is a rock that I’ve often tried to get away from. After really traveling to a few places to get away (Scotland, England), I’ve changed gears and stayed “in State”.

    I stayed on my rock!!!! I just made it a bit larger. My most recent vacations have been way upstate New York more than 5 or 6 hours from where I live (by car) to visit the Finger Lakes Region.

    I laughed OUT LOUD when they called me a “Down Stater”. I had never heard that term – “they” were always upstate, but I didn’t know my type had a name. Those folks up there talk funny too — they say CAW-FEE. I say COFFEE. Though they would disagree because I talk just as funny to them.

    So it started with learning I was a “down Stater” – met with leery nods because I live so close to New York City (OMG – that can’t be good, right?). In reality, I consider myself a country kid because I don’t like the city really except for special events. I have horses, dogs, a barn and garden. But all of that took lots of explaining to my new “upstate friends”.

    There’s an amazing Menonite community — they all literally travel by horse and buggy on main highways. Where I see bike lanes, up there — the shoulder of the road is reserved for families and their horses. The farms are welcoming and stunningly maintained. Families join together for the most AMAZING farmside markets that are open to the public. Behind which, the horses are tethered with their wagons and buggies.

    To share just a bit more about the NY Finger Lakes Region — it is breathtakingly beautiful. The waters in the lakes are crystal clear and blue. Lake Keuka is my personal favorite lake; Seneca Lake is the deepest and was used by the Navy during WW2 to practice submarine maneuvers. YES, it is that deep and big! And yet, you can still see almost clear to its depths.

    The wineries are superb and are making a phenomenal impact internationally. New York State Finger Lakes wineries are rated extremely highly with an incredible history.

    So, before I talk “too much” – I found out something startling. Sometimes, you need to make your rock bigger and investigate all its special nooks and crannies. You might never know what you will find!!! 🙂

    ~ Mary Beth

    • Mary Beth- I love how you “made your rock a bit larger” 🙂 I’ve done the same! I love all your details about being a “down stater”- and where you live sounds wonderful. I am so looking forward to seeing more of our great country- and I definitely plan on getting near where you are. I have friends there and I’ve never been! 🙂 So thank you for the ideas and a glimpse into your special place. Thanks so much for sharing:) Aloha, Wendie

  2. Hi Wendie! As you know I pretty much try any way I can to get back on your rock, but I totally understand you feelings. People always talk about how beautiful the desert is and how lucky we are to live where it’s warm (yup, it’s warm–113 degrees one day this summer ). Sometimes Tucson seems like a little island in the desert and I can’t wait to go somewhere. Looking forward to reading about your new adventures.

    • HI Kathy! I know you had a great time when you visited the Big Island- and I look forward to seeing your beautiful desert! I’ve been to Phoenix- but I Tucson seems like a different kind of paradise:) Thank you for enticing me with yummy goodies. Can’t wait:) Thanks for reading and supporting! Aloha, Wendie

  3. Hi Wendie! As you already know, I’m a native NY’er, Brooklyn to to be exact! (Mary Beth welcome to the world of “downstaters” – first heard that expression when both my niece and nephew attended SUNY Albany!) NY offers a plethora of things to do and see from Broadway to Binghamton and everywhere in between. I work in the heart of Times Square and had a tourist tell me that he’d never, ever seen anyone eat and run the way we do! A businessman had just bought a “dirty water dog” – a hotdog to you non-natives, shovel it in his mouth and jump into a cab! Welcome to the City that Never Sleeps!

    I think it’s only natural to want to expand your horizons and travel and see and learn different things. The world is huge with lots of adventures and experiences calling! I’ve done some traveling, I’m far from a world-weary traveler but haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Hawaii. It is on my bucket list. The 1st time I heard the expression “off the rock” was when my career Navy nephew’s friend told me about her experiences about living on Hawaii at Hickham AFB and how she longed to get “off the rock” but couldn’t usually afford to. I would never have imagined anyone wanting to leave there! Then you came along and wow, I learned that there is life beyond Hawaii!! Whod’a thunk it! Every so often, I dream of retiring and moving to Hawaii (truthfully, the dream of moving to Hawaii is a probably a lot more realistic than my ever retiring, sigh.. :-)!)

    I love the idea of this page and am really looking forward to reading and sharing and learning about the travels of others!!

    • Well, Karen- I can’t wait until I get to experience NY through your eyes:) I’ve never been- and I’m sure you’ll show me the beauty that is Brooklyn! It’s true- getting off the rock has always been a goal of mine- to see things I never dreamed of- or only dreamed of- when I was on my island- but there are other islands I’m dying to see:) Thanks for reading and supporting me and my writing:) You rock! 😀 Aloha, Wendie

  4. I know you’ve heard the phrase, “the grass is always greener in somebody else’s yard.” Being a Jersey Girl all of my life, I never thought traveling anywhere outside of the tri-state area, was possible. Never say never.

    Since graduating from high school, I’ve traveled across the pond to London, been to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, traveled across America several times by car and been to O’ahu, Hawaii twice.

    Next on my bucket list of greener pastures, the National Parks of the U.S.
    Finding your green pasture doesn’t have to involve flying 10 hours on an airplane. It could be right in the next town or state. You just have to get out there and find it for yourself.

    • Oh Mads! The National Parks are on my list too! We’ll have to share our experiences for sure. And one day- I’ll get across the pond to London and Europe as I’ve never been. Thanks for your comment! Love hearing about your experiences- and so glad I got to meet you in Hawai’i:) Hope to see you soon! Aloha, Wendie

  5. Gina Fontillas // July 30, 2013 at 3:52 am // Reply

    Aloha Wendie! I love that – no matter where you are – you’re just a click away! Though I’m happy to be home in Hawai’i, I have wonderful memories of experiences that would not have happened if I’d never left. I’m looking forward to reading all about your adventures. Honi honi, Gina

    • Thanks so much Gina! Though I miss you and Benny and Kanoe- I’m getting to see a lot of new things, experience new places, and learn so much- I can only do all of this, of course, with the support of my friends- Like YOU!- and family. Thanks Gina for always being in my corner:) XO Aloha, Wendie

  6. I love to travel too! It is so great to get out of your comfort zone and explore.

    Travel also makes coming home so much sweeter 🙂

    • Hi Patricia! I agree- coming home is always sweet. I basically say that home is where my husband and son are– but traveling is always a wonderful experience. Thanks for reading and commenting:) Aloha, Wendie

  7. HI Wendie! I’m anxious to hear about your travels! We love a good roadtrip and try to stay off the interstates as much as possible. We’ve discovered a wonderful little town in Colorado called Ouray . It’s in a box canyon surrounded by towering peaks. It’s also known as the Jeep Capital of America. We rent a jeep there and hit the trails. There’s no road too steep or narrow for my husband to try driving on! Hair-Raising!

    • Deb- I saw your lovely pics- soooo cool! I told Chief about it (he was born in Manitou Springs at the base of Pike’s Peak) and he knew of it- but has never been. So now… we add that to the list! Thanks hon:) And thanks for sharing your adventure! Mahalo for reading and commenting! Aloha, Wendie

      • I love Manitou Springs too! Went there on our honeymoon and a few times since.

        • OH, it’s my dream place to live. We almost bought a house there- but there were no jobs:( we love it there- except Chief can’t do snow anymore. Maybe we could one day have a summer home there? LOL Chief grew up eating Patsy’s salt water taffy and playing games at the Penny Arcade. I should write about that place too! Thanks Deb:) XO

  8. I always enjoy reading your articles Wendy! I have been lucky enough to see a lot of the states (I’ve been to 38 out of the 50 and have been able to travel to Mexico and Bahamas). I have been lucky enough to be able to “get off my rock” and move a few times. Born and raised most of my life in different areas of Northern IL (I’ve experienced both the city life and country life there), I was lucky enough to be able to spend a few years living right outside our Nations capital and at a good age to be able to experience and appreciate D.C and surrounding area (my favorite is Annapolis). Through friends have been able to spend time in the Southern states, enough time to appreciate the southern lifestyle and how different things are from the Northern states and the Eastern states. I fell in love with AZ about 10 years ago and 3 years ago made the move across country. I absolutely love it here. I think we have the best of all areas here in AZ. Desert in the Phoenix area, forests full of trees and snow up in the Northern areas like Flagstaff. In between the desert and the mountains of forest we have clear mountain lakes. AZ is also home to one of the most beautiful cities (in my book), Sedona. The most breathtakingly beautiful red rocks around!
    Most of my life I dreamed of Hawaii, It took me 30 years to get your home of O’hau and it didn’t disappoint. Another trip this year to HI and next year I’m hoping to hit the Pacific Northwest and then the Northeast states, they are the only 2 areas of the country I haven’t been able to travel too.
    Looking forward to more of your travels Wendy!

    • HI Andrea- I’m so glad you got to Hawai’i and I have been to your home state once- just for a conference- but it was really cool- the heat was interesting- but everything was so beautiful. If you ever get a chance- visit Volcano on the Big Island- it reminds me a little of your desert. Thanks for reading and commenting and sharing! XO Aloha, Wendie

  9. Hi, Wendie! “Home, home on the range”! That’s me, alright! But I never would have expected that, being a 5th generation Californian. Of course, i wanted to get off my personal rock that was called San Bruno Mountain in those days! I met my cowboy while on vacation in Montana and I’ve been living on the prairie ever since. It’s not exactly a rock, and it’s big! Really, really big!

    But I succumbed to the travel bug when I was just a girl – my parents loved road trips. We never went too far, mostly just up and down the Pacific coast. I did go to Mexico in high school with my Spanish class, and after college, toured the British Isles with my parents. After working a few years, I took a cruise to the Mediterranean, taking in Venice, Greece, Turkey and Israel.

    After marrying my cowboy and having three children, trips out of the prairie consisted only of vacations back to San Francisco to visit the grandparents. Now that the kids are all grown up, I can start scratching that travel bug again! I keeping swimming back to your rock, Wendie, because I absolutely love it there! But I also want to get back to Europe, and Egypt! I have a passion to ride a camel and visit the Great Pyramids.

    I actually live fairly close to Yellowstone Park -did a day trip through the Lamar Valley and saw some beautiful scenery and wildlife earlier this summer. Mt. Rushmore is only a couple hours from me — in the opposite direction.

    Have to add, my children all have the travel bug, too. Taking them to California every summer introduced them to the world beyond their prairie, and now they are constantly plotting new places to go and trying to figure out how to get “Mom” to take them! (I think I did my job of broadening their horizons a little too well!)

    Looking forward to more of your travel stories in the future, Wendie!

    • HI Lynnette:) Thanks for reminding me about Yellowstone- Chief is dying to get there. I am too- we’ve been close, but never quite made it. We love your hometown area esp San Francisco. You’ll have to help me when I write about my favorite California spots:) Thanks so much for reading and commenting and ALWAYS supporting! XO Aloha, Wendie

  10. Nadia (Fanmisa) // July 31, 2013 at 12:22 am // Reply

    Wow Wendie ! A lovely article ! It’s funny because my dream would be to move to Hawaii #justsaying lol

    I’d traveled a lot since I’m young, but living in France, I actually visited all the countries around, and almost never went out from Europe.

    I spend 9 months in the USA after my HS, and had the chance to visit a lot of cities and amazing places there during week-ends or holidays, and so far, it is the best year I spend of my entire life !
    Travelling opens your mind and makes you meet different people, and discover new horizons, new culture. You grow up and win in maturity during every single travel you can do during your life.

    Mahalo for this Wendie !

    • HI Nadia- well, my dream is to perhaps visit you in France! That would be amazing! 😀 I agree with you- Traveling completely opens your mind and makes you discover all kinds of new things. And it is endless… don’t you think? Love your thoughts! Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting and I hope one day you’ll get to see my home and I’ll get to see yours! Aloha, Wendie

      • Nadia (Fanmisa) // August 1, 2013 at 7:48 am // Reply

        Aloha !
        Whenever you wanna come to France, you know where to find me 😉
        I absolutely agree with you, when I came back to France after the 9 months I spend there, I was another person, much more mature, and I just had an amazing time with amazing people from all around the world and I’ll never forget this experience ! As soon as I can I’ll come to visit you, it’s a done deal trust me 😀
        Mahalo ! – Nadia

  11. Somehow Wendie, you are always able to cut right to the heart of a subject and you always get me thinking deeper about whatever your subject is. The hallmark of a great writer! It’s why I enjoy reading your work so much!

    There is that old saying about the grass being greener and I think we all, at one point or another want to make it to the other side of that fence. I was born, raised and still live in Philadelphia. All joking aside, it’s a wonderful city. Full of culture, entertainment, restaurants, sports, an entire new country full of history, and a diverse population to rival any city in the world. People make the decision to spend their vacation money here year after year and yet, like you, I crave to be somewhere else. I have traveled a bit, mostly cruises to the Caribbean but the furthest I’ve ever been from Philly is my one, extraordinarily wonderful trip to Hawaii. You’re right! I can’t imagine anyone wanting to ever leave there. I knew I wouldn’t want to leave before I even got there and being there only cemented the feeling. When (you’ll notice I refuse to say IF) I win the lottery I know where I’m going to move.

    But I do understand the feeling of wanting to be somewhere else when you have spent your entire life in one place, even if others consider that place paradise. Kind of like living in that guided cage. I am so happy you have been able to follow your dream. Keep dreaming, keep traveling and keep writing. Those are the things that make you happy and by extension makes us happy because through your writing we are able to share it with you. You’re making it to the other side of that fence and happily the grass is a lush wonderful green! Aloha sistah!

    • Oh and I almost forgot! The USS New Jersey is still sitting across the river waiting for her Chief to come visit! <3

    • Oh Linda- you’re such a gem:) Thanks for your comment- you always “get” me- and then state it in such a lovely and sincere way- so love that about you:) Thanks for giving me the best compliment about my writing! Mahalo nui loa:) I’m SO looking forward to the roadtrip to Philly to visit you and the USS New Jersey! You know Chief will LOVE seeing his ship again! I know how much he loves the USS Missouri and that’s because they are sister ships. But to be on his first ship his first time at sea when he first joined the Navy? Wow. We’ll have to make that happen:) XO Mahalo sistah:) Aloha, Wendie

  12. Wendie…
    I traveled some in my youth. I’m from Alabama (where I met you!) but my family visited St. Louis every summer to visit relatives. When I was eight, we drove to Wisconsin for a cousin’s wedding. at nine we drove out to Yellowstone, at eleven we went to D.C. and at thirteen we drove to the Grand Canyon.

    I went to Italy with friends over Y2K (and we made it back!) Then France, Germany, Austria & Switzerland in 03 (right after the war started), Hawaii in 05, Israel & Jordan in 06, London and all over Scotland in 09 and then a tour of five national parks in 2011.

    But the funny thing about all of this is, I never would’ve done it had my parents not kicked me out of the house the day after I graduated from high school and had me move in with my Aunt in Tennessee. They could see I was too introverted and afraid to take risks. How right they were! I think the traveling I’ve done has taught me so much about myself and what I can handle, but more importantly, it has shown me there is so much more to life than the small little area of the globe that I inhabit.
    Looking forward to reading more from you!!

    • HI Amy:) I feel the same way as you do- like I there’s so much more to see and do if I just get out of my comfort zone:) Thanks for sharing your experiences! I hope to see a lot of what you have seen- many of those countries are on my dream travel list:)
      It was so nice to have met you! One thing great about traveling too is all the folks you can meet on your journey:) Aloha, Wendie

  13. I know exactly how you feel Wendie. I live in Mililani. I commute in that 6am traffic every morning to my job in Hawaii Kai. I make it a point to get off the rock at least once a year. I sometimes think about just leave for good. Thank you for this. At least I’m not alone. 🙂

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.