A Guide To Your Next US Vacation: East Or West Coast?

A Guide To Your Next US Vacation: East Or West Coast?

Whether you're a city gal, an outdoorsy man, a beach bum, or a midwestern lover of cold, the United States has any travel destination you can dream up.
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Traveling is one of the world's finest things to conquer. May it be leisure-related, work-related, family-related, school-related, or just any other reason you can muster up to take a vacay, it's always nice to step foot into new grounds and explore what they have to offer.

Whether you're a city gal, an outdoorsy man, a beach bum, or a midwestern lover of cold, the United States has any travel destination you can dream up.

So, if you're looking for somewhere to travel for a weekend getaway, or a week-long beach vacation, there are a number of options you have from coast to coast of the United States.

1. California

Beach, in-land, and multiple different aspects of city life, California is sure one to give you what you want. Listed below are a few of the many, many cities to travel to that I absolutely adored when I visited.

San Diego

Full of a downtown city life and home of many different surrounding beaches, if you're looking for a place to travel with family or friends, San Diego surely is one of the best. San Diego is full of many different shops, delicious places to dine, home of SeaWorld San Diego Theme Park, and is only a small drive from downtown to get to the beautiful island of Coronado. Neighboring San Diego is the beautiful city of La Jolla where you can find cute shops and boutiques, a beautiful beach, a wonderful place to snorkel, and great restaurants to grab a bite to eat.

Los Angeles

If you're looking for a city vacation, Los Angeles has it for you. Home of the beautiful Beverly Hills, Downtown LA, and Hollywood, Los Angeles has many different activities to add to your itineraries. Feeling a Beverley Hills celebrity home tour? Feel free to pick one up in Downtown Hollywood. Feeling a day in a museum? Go ahead and check out the Grammy Museum downtown. Ready to shop and maybe--probably not, but maybe--spot a celebrity? Rodeo Drive has all of that for you. The only downside about LA is that the traffic is nuts, so be prepared to leave ahead of schedule.

Laguna Beach

Home of the infamous TV show "The Hills," Laguna is full of many different shops, rooftop dine-ins, and the beautiful coast of the Pacific Ocean. On radar, Laguna seems to have been meant for a drop-in, drop-out kind of town, seeing that the two times I've been there I had only stayed for the mere daylight and headed elsewhere as night struck. Laguna is very upbeat, but the best part of it is its beauty. So if you ever find yourself cruising up Pacific Coast Highway, pit stop in Laguna for delicious food, a place to shop, or just a beach to relax on.

Santa Monica and Malibu

The outskirts of LA bring you on your way to both Santa Monica and Malibu. Both famous beach cities, they both bring you an aspect of the beach that the other does not. Santa Monica is home to the infamous Santa Monica Pier, where you can grab a greasy bite to eat or catch a ride on its many different carnival rides, the best, of course, being the Ferris Wheel. If you're feeling up to a walk, Third Street Promenade gives you many different options to dine and shop. Malibu is home to the University in which "Zoey 101" was filmed, Pepperdine, and the home of many different celebrities around the world. Both a place to dine and relax on the beach, Malibu has it all for you.

2. Florida

Found on the polar opposite of California, Florida is home to many different beauties, whether it's the Atlantic Ocean, the Everglades, Disney World, the Gulf, or the Keys. Listed below are a few cities that I once visited and loved because of the way they were so calm and collected.

Key West

The true, absolute beauty of the United States. The Southern Most Point of the U.S. has a great amount to offer, whether it's one of its many, many beautiful beaches, its downtown shops, or its delicious seafood. Key West has all it can offer for a great, relaxing vacation, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's looking for a nice place to getaway.

Naples

Looking for a place to relax on the Gulf? Naples has that for you. One of the most relaxed, laid-back places I've visited, Naples has anything you can dream of. Dining, shopping, walks on the pier, you name it.

3. Arizona

Ready to relax but not quite to the point of relaxation on the ocean? Looking for a getaway from your home that feels like home? Arizona has that for you. Home to the Grand Canyon and the major campus of ASU, Arizona gives many different options for you. Listed below are a few cities that caught my eye.

Phoenix

Want a getaway but don't have that beach bod yet or aren't feeling the beach drive? Phoenix is very laid-back, has many places to shop, dine, take walks, swim, and really anything. If you want a getaway from home that feels just like home, Phoenix is the place for you.

Yuma

A small, dinky town on the crossroads from Phoenix to San Diego, Yuma is only a couple miles out from the border of Arizona and California. Yuma's very old school, but a great place to stop to grab a bite to eat or to walk around downtown. Not only is there a downtown, but a river walk, theater, and many different museums. If you ever find yourself road tripping through the west coast, take a stop in Yuma. It won't disappoint.

4. Texas

One of the biggest states in the U.S., Texas has a lot to offer. Beach front, inland, and some cowboys here and there, if you're looking for a warm vacay any time of the year, Texas will give it to ya. Listed below are some major cities and what they have to offer in the dry, sunny state.

Dallas

Filled with a number of things to do, Dallas has the famous JFK museum, a beautiful downtown, and many different places to shop and grab a bite to eat. Not only that, but it is home to the Texas State Fair running through the months of September and October.

Waco

The home of Chip and Joanna from "Fixer Upper," Waco is a town with a very homey feel. Waco holds "Magnolia Market," the home and goods store of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Waco is also home to Baylor University. If you ever find yourself driving from Dallas to Austin, take a pit stop in Waco. It's sure to not disappoint.

San Antonio and Austin

About an hour drive between the two, San Antonio is famous for its beautiful river walk, yummy restaurants, and fun shops that sit home to the Riverwalk. For something fun to do in San Antonio, drive around through its historic downtown or take a river taxi tour through the Riverwalk. As for Austin, take a trip downtown to grab a bite to eat or shop around. Austin is also home to the Circuit of the America's, a race-car track that has held many different Grand Prix's over the years. Both cities hold a lot of potentials, and I'd recommend them to anyone who's looking to take a trip down south.

Cover Image Credit: Abby Graf

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Two Weeks In To Living In A Water Crisis In Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa is in a serious water crisis and critical measures are being taken to avoid a Day-Zero.
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Cape Town, South Africa is having the worst drought ever recorded in its history, stretching over the last three years.

As dam levels reach a critical low there is cause for concern over the lack of water for municipal use (i.e., showering, hand washing, drinking, cooking, washing, etc.) As of right now (February 7th, 2018) the dam levels for Cape Town sit at 25.2 %, noting that the last 10% of dam water is unusable due to the amount of salt and debris. So the City of Cape Town has noted a "Day Zero", in which the dam levels will reach 13.5% and all municipal water will be turned off except for vital services.

In an effort to avoid a "Day Zero" situation the city has implemented level 6B water restrictions as of February 1st, 2018. Meaning that every person in Cape Town is now limited to 50 liters (13.2 gallons) of water per day.

A stark comparison to the typical American who uses an average of 80-100 gallons of water per day. As well as the average Cape Town usage has been dropped to the target of 450 liters (119 gallons) per day for a city of a little over 400,000.

As a study abroad student I have been living in Cape Town for 2 weeks and have felt the effects of the water restrictions since day one.

Within our house in Observatory, we are all limited to a 3-minute shower and are advised to only shower every couple of days. Those showers consist of wetting our hair and body, turning off the water, then shampooing/conditioning and washing our body, then turning back on the water to rinse off, done!

A far cry from the relaxing steamy shower in the United States, filled with sudsy bubbles and singing. Going through this process had made me appreciate the privileges we have in the US, most we don't even realize.

Recently we have put a bucket in our shower to catch any excess water that would be going down the drain, we refer to as "grey water". This will be used to flush toilets in the case of our water being turned off. Above the toilets, we have signs that read, "If it's YELLOW, let it mellow. If it's BROWN, flush it down."

Translating to, if you just peed don't flush, but if you did other business, flush. Which would seem gross to most, but in actuality has become a habit since living here. I think as humans we quickly adapt to situations we are put in, and for most of my group, this has been the case.

We also do not wash off our dishes before they go into the dishwasher, once the food is scraped into a trash can the dish goes directly in the dishwasher as to save water. When boiling water for pasta or other foods we recycle that water to be used a grey water in an effort to increase our supply.

In the event that an actual "Day Zero" happens, all municipal water will be turned off in Cape Town, excluding vital services. Meaning residents will have to collect water from one of the 200 collection sites around the city, which limit 25 liters (6.6 gallons) per person. With security and law enforcement deployed at each site to reduce possible violence.

If "Day Zero" arrives it is likely the restrictions will last for months. "We should be prepared to live with very little water for at least three months and possibly up to six months after Day Zero, but it all depends on when rain falls in the water source areas that feed the dams," said WWF in a statement.

Recently there has been fluctuation in the actual date of "Day Zero", two weeks ago the date was moved up from April 29th to April 16th, but within the last few days, it has been pushed back to May 11th.

As for life out in Cape Town, most restaurants and bars have signs out that state they will not be giving out water unless it is specifically asked for, and in some cases, a bottle of water must be purchased. When waiting in the line for customs at the Cape Town International Airport there are giant signs displayed regarding the water crisis, and reminding tourists and locals to save water.


The University of the Western Cape, where my group of study abroad students attend, has been publically posting signs all around campus regarding the severity of the water crisis. Even going as far a to place large signs depicting where the dam levels sit currently as a way to reach students who do not understand the current situation.

While the water crisis has been widely covered by national media outlets, it's hard to understand exactly what's going on here until you're on the ground living it. That's just my experience from two weeks! For people who have grown up here, and dealt first hand with the current three-year drought they would have much more to say than me.

In retrospect, coming here I was scared of the water crisis and what it would mean for my experience. But I shouldn't have been.

While living a sheltered life in the States it was very easy of me to be scared of things I did not know or understand. When in real life this is just another way of living, a normality for hundreds of thousands of people. I think what the media fails to cover is the resilience of the people of Cape Town and the reality of the situation.

I'm grateful for the people of Cape Town and their hospitality since I have been here. I have nothing but amazing experiences from my short two-weeks here, and I cannot wait for the rest of my adventure to unfold.


Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Maine: The Way Life Should Be

This "wicked good" state is a hidden gem in the United States.
Anna
Anna
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When I moved to Maine four years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. To be honest, I didn’t really know much about it. This rather small state on the East Coast is not particularly well known in Europe or even some parts of the United States as I came to find out later.

But in those four years, I came to love this state despite those long horrible winters that sometimes made me question my choice of moving there. Now that I moved back to Europe, I will tell anyone, whether they like it or not, about this wicked good state and how awesome it is there.

For anyone out there thinking of going there to visit or for anyone who is adventurous enough to move there, here are some reasons why Maine is not only Vacationland but also one of the best states to live in the United States.

Nature:

There is absolutely nothing more breathtaking than the nature of Maine. Throughout all four seasons, nature is something that people from all over come to admire. Whether it's the Indian Summer with incredible views of foliage as far as the eye can see, or the winter wonderland that Maine turns into as soon as the first snow hits the ground. During the summer months, the millions of hiking trails throughout the state will invite anyone to go on a little adventure and to go off the grid to recharge your batteries.

Camp:

During the summer months, most Mainers go out to camp. Camp in Maine can mean anything from a small shack with an outhouse to a nice comfortable house with all the bells and whistles. Maine has a ton of lakes and most families own some property that is on the water. The days during the summer are spent playing lawn games, going out on the water with a jet-ski, swimming and just eating tons of good food. The quality time that you spend out there makes you really appreciate the simpler things in life and will help you get through those long and cold winters.

The food scene:

Maine offers something for anyone. If you are into vegan, and healthy foods there are tons of alternative restaurants or little shops everywhere that will give you exactly that. Many of these places are locally owned and the food is sourced from surrounding farms and cooked fresh. However, if you are looking for some comfort food you will also not be disappointing. Tons of restaurant will offer you that burger with fries or some incredible mac n cheese which you might be graving. Also, you can pretty much find any ethnic cuisine that your heart desires. And because life is only truly complete with dessert Maine has incredible options. Whoopie Pies, for example, is something anyone going to this state needs to try.

The sense of community:

The people of Maine are among some of the most friendly people I have ever met. When I moved there I didn't really know a soul. By the end of my four years, it was hard to say goodbye. These relationships have really impacted me and my life would be very different if it weren't for these incredible individuals. Mainers have this wonderful talent of making anyone feel welcome and part of the community fairly quickly. Also, the support they show for people in need is heartwarming. Whether it's fundraisers or volunteering within the community, if there is something that can be done to help Mainers are always willing to do that.

The quality of life:

If you are looking for a place away from the hustle and bustle, Maine is definitely for you. There are tons of outdoor activities throughout the year, festivals in the summer, football games and apple picking in the fall, and holidays throughout the year that will keep you busy. You have the option of living in a city like Portland which will give you the feel of a big city or you can literally live in the middle of nowhere with your closest neighbor being some deer and moose. Whichever one you prefer Maine has something to offer for anyone!

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash
Anna
Anna

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