This Is How You Should Actually Spend Your Time Abroad

This Is How You Should Actually Spend Your Time Abroad

These are your moments; not all of them are meant for Instagram.

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It is often said that in the end, all we really have are memories. I think this is quite beautiful, as terrifying as it is. Our memories allow us to relive those moments we wish we could hold onto forever. They take us back to some of our happiest times.

Studying abroad and traveling around Europe has, so far, been the most incredible experience I have ever encountered. Sometimes, though, I am so scared by how little time I actually have here. I try my best not to let these thoughts creep into my mind as I'm enjoying a perfectly good moment. I think that's the hardest part about experiencing life, at least for me.

But it's time to stop tarnishing the present moment.

No more worrying about how one day, that first sip of Guinness, that first bite of Goulash, that first solo trip, will be a fleeting memory.

No more desperately trying to capture every beautiful moment on your phone, simply for your followers.

No more posting on Instagram or Facebook every time you take a picture you really like.

Your experiences - your moments - are yours to have. In the end, they're what we're left with.

This is the time to pursue that things you've always dreamed of doing. Not everyone's plans are going to match up with yours. There may be flights you want to book, places you want to see, and museums you want to visit that your friends do not have an interest in. Do not let them stop you, as selfish as you may feel at first. This is the time to be selfish.

After all, these moments are yours to have.

Take pictures without feeling like you have to show your followers everything. Take pictures because one day you'll want to remember what that tiny jungle cafe in Galway looked like. Take pictures because one day, you'll want to show your children. Take pictures because sometimes these photos are the only way to ensure you won't forget it all. But take them for yourself. This is how you should spend your time abroad.

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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