What Casa Di Marco Polo Can Teach Us

What Casa Di Marco Polo Can Teach Us

Writing about your own life is a lot more important that you may think

There's a tiny piazza in Venice, Italy near the open air markets called Corte del Milion. You get to it after ducking through a low tunnel and once you're inside, it's quiet. Surrounded on all sides by buildings, it's characteristic of Venice's narrow alleyway-type streets, the kind that should make you feel claustrophobic but instead make you feel cosy. That piazza, hidden away in the middle of Venice's catacomb of streets, is where we find the home of Marco Polo. To the right of his historic abode is a Greek marble arch that he has written about in his writings, so we know that in his day-to-day life, he saw that very arch, just as we see it now. It's truly spectacular to stand in that square and take in the sight.

Marco Polo was, according to Italian history, the first western explorer to explore the East. He was actively exploring during the 13th century. When he would come home, he would be laden with beautiful things and even more beautiful stories from his travels, which would impress his neighbors. But Marco Polo wouldn't just tell his stories to the people nearest to him. He would write it all down. This is one of the most crucial pieces of information about Marco Polo; he was smart enough to write down what he saw. Surely, he was not the first western explorer who traveled to the East in search of trading posts and goods. But he was one of the very first to ever write down his travels, so that people far and wide, in both space and time, could hear his stories. What good would his travels have been, who today would have known his name, if he had not written down and preserved his memories? What good are the travels of those who explored but had no way of recording what they saw? We don't know their names of their stories. Marco Polo was one of the first to see what he saw, and his writings brought those far away sights to many, many people, even centuries after he passed away.

In history, recording events is incredibly important. It's so important that people write down what's occurring around them. Otherwise, events are shared with the people around you and then no one else. We would never hear of anyone's stories. We would never know what that far away mountain range looks like or what kind of dream vacations other people are going on. All we would know are the lives we and our friends have lived. When you write down your experiences, everyone and anyone can read them. Anyone can experience the things you are experiencing. Regardless of whether you morally agree with or support the history or not, it's important to recognize that you wouldn't even know of any history if it wasn't recorded by someone.

This is why I believe it's so important to keep a journal or a blog or a diary or a vlog or a photo journal, some type of written, preserved record of the things you are seeing and the life you're living. Sure, you might not be "exploring" things in the same sense as the New World explorers, but in a way, we're all pioneers. We're all seeing things and making discoveries, at first in our own lives, but that may some day lead to something much bigger than just ourselves. At the very least, recording your own life creates a history for you and for your family. When you're toward the end of life-- or maybe not something not as drastic, simply when you're toward the end of a life phase-- you can look back on the memories of the important days that you have captured in your own words. You can remember what it felt like to be there, in that time. You can relive details that you may have forgotten. You can pass on those memories and those lessons to the rest of your family. There's something truly transcendent about reliving your life that way, with a nostalgic happiness.

There's no point keeping the voice inside of yourself locked up. You are living a unique story-- share it. Modern technology gives us the freedom and access to share what we're living as we're living it. Take advantage of it. Capture every moment that you think might be worth remembering. Out of 100 memories you capture, you'll probably really only care about 5, but those are the diamonds in the rough. Edisons journals weren't filled cover to cover with good ideas-- remember, it took him 1000 tries to get the light bulb right. That's a 1000 pages with just one page that was "worth it", but what an important page it was. So, I say, don't be afraid to capture the world in your words. It's your world and it's more than worth it.

Cover Image Credit: Sailko

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5 Small Ways We Can Help the Planet Everyday, Not Just On Earth Day

Trust me, they're super easy.

Earth Day has come and gone, but there are still so many ways for us to do our part and help our planet!

As a species, we have produced more plastic in the last ten years than we did in the entire last century. The average American throws away 185 pounds of plastic each year and half of it is only used once. When it's thrown away, the trash just floats along. Literally.

By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

This is really really not good. But, luckily, it's almost entirely avoidable.

Here's a list of things we can all do to keep our planet pretty and kick some ass for Mother Earth.

1. Ditch plastic straws

Yeah, you've probably heard this one before — but hear me out. We only use straws once and then we throw them away. They end up in the ocean and kill sea turtles. We're all guilty of this. Hell, I used to drink everything with a straw. But the important thing is that we change our ways and better not only ourselves but the environment.

If you still wanna use a straw, that's totally okay! Try using a glass or bamboo one. You can buy packs of them on Amazon for less than ten dollars, which isn't bad considering you'll be able to reuse these as many times as you want.

2. B.Y.O.F. (Bring your own fork)

And your own spoon. And knife, as well. If you plan on going out for the day and you don't want to bring your own food, you can just buy your lunch and use your own silverware. This way, you won't waste any plasticware and there is no unnecessary waste from your lunch.

3. Cups, too!

While we're on the subject of just bringing your own stuff, bring your own cup when you're out for the day! Whether it's your water cup or your travel coffee mug, bring it (even if you don't plan on making your own coffee or tea).

Why, might you ask? Well, because you can just go to your favorite cafe and get your favorite hot drink in your own cup! This is both more sustainable and more cost-effective (they actually charge you for the cup).

4. Don't! Use! Plastic! Bags!

No matter where you are or where you're shopping, please be sure to use a tote bag or any other kind of reusable grocery bag. It's better for the environment, it's easier for you to carry, and you can get one with whatever you want on it! Mine says "You look radishing" and it has a drawing of radishes. Very cute.

Also, if you're buying fresh produce, you can use lighter mesh bags instead of the plastic bags from the produce section!

5. For *that* time of the month

If you're a period-having person, you might want to rethink the way you handle your lunar cycle. On average, people who have periods will throw away 300,000 pounds of menstrual products in their lifetime. This is really really not cool.

I suggest switching from tampons and pads to menstrual cups and cloth pads. While the cups might seem weird at first, trust me — they aren't weird at all. Both cups and cloth pads are easier and longer lasting than your conventional period tools.

While there are a bunch of other tips I could most definitely talk about and rant about and advocate for, I feel like this is a good place to start.

Just be sure to reduce the number of one-time plastics you use and make sure you're cautious of the waste you produce.

Cover Image Credit: Penelope De La Cruz

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What YouTube Says About Our Generation

We can learn a lot from high school vlogs.

Last week I wrote an article that sought to examine YouTube, not as an entertainment platform, but as a revolutionary and powerful tool, capable of documenting and preserving our generation in ways which no generation previously could.

I wrote:

"The ubiquity of cameras has made it so that our images are being captured constantly whether we realize it or not. And with YouTube and the Internet, we are seamlessly being cataloged into a massive and growing database of humanity ... I think of YouTube as a time capsule. Centuries from now, everyone can look back through YouTube and wholly experience our generation: its sights, sounds, issues, and—most importantly—the individual personalities of, not just its Kings and Queens, but its ordinary people."

With this article, and in subsequent articles, I'd like to elaborate on this concept by exploring and showcasing various content on YouTube. In doing so, I hope I can get some people to look at Youtube through a different lens—one that understands it as a historical tool.

In this article, I'd like to share a type of video I've found much of on YouTube: "day in the life of high school" videos. In these videos, someone goes around with a camera and basically shoots, in documentary style, a full day of high school.

Here's one from 1996:

One of the fascinating things about a video like this is that, when we watch it, we tend to see it in the context of the present. I'll watch the video, but instantly my brain seeks out the differences and similarities between high school in 1996 and in 2016 (when I graduated high school).

Through this video, we see, documented in an unbiased fashion, the lives of ordinary people. And through watching these people, we can also extrapolate further information about that generation. We are ALL a product of our times, whether we realize it or not. Everything posted on YouTube lends some kind of window into the present that it was posted in.

For example, at around 17 minutes into the video above, the cameraman begins to hum the Mission Impossible theme, a movie which came out in May of 1996, right about the time this video was shot. It was a big blockbuster hit and was most definitely on the minds of high schoolers like these. While that might not sound too fascinating right now in 2018, it will be a much more fascinating detail to those studying pop culture history 100 years into the future.

Now take a look at a modern "day of high school" video:

Now, imagine you were somebody in 1996 watching this video today. In just 20 years, we can already see tremendous generational differences. In the 1996 video, people were detached when confronted with a camera; it was something strange to them. In 2018, the digital age has taken over completely. In this video, everyone understands that he is "vlogging," a term that didn't exist in 1996.

In fact, everything about this video screams of our generation: the slang, the music, the fast jump cuts, the concept of a "YouTuber," the dress, the technology, Internet culture, how everyone's plugging their Internet identities (Instagram, SoundCloud, etc.)... the list goes on and on. Going from the 1996 day of high school and then jumping to this one really puts my generation into perspective.

This video is much more polished and edited, and its clearly made with the intention to project oneself to an audience, rather than for purely documentary purposes like the video from 1996 was. It brings to light an unforeseen force working all around us: the rise of a new type of global culture, one that, through social media, is growing larger by the day.

But these are just two videos out of over a billion YouTube videos. Estimated, it would take 60,000 years of non-stop watching to watch every video that is on YouTube right now. That is a LOT of content, and ALL of that is focused on the thoughts, concerns, issues, and realities of THIS generation.

We will leave a footprint unlike any other generation in history; I think its important for all of us to understand that.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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