The Importance Of Space Exploration

The Importance Of Space Exploration

My thoughts on interstellar travel and exploration.
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There are times when I just want to go out and look up at the sky; times that I could stare for hours and hours at the innumerable constellations containing stars and planets that shine ever so brightly despite how far away they are. I wish I could just go away by myself or with a close friend watching the night skies just sitting there wondering about what's out there, beyond our solar system.

The universe is so vast and even now we are just beginning to comprehend what it holds. We know little as a collective and our knowledge is only a small percentage of what we will know in the future. Looking up at that almost lucid, luminous sky that roars with never-ending life gives me some sense of solace.

It also gives me peace.

There is something about those stars that is absolutely enthralling to gaze at. Sometimes I believe I could fade away amongst the stars and not have to worry about the burdens of this world.

My only hope is that this is heaven. Floating, a spirit, amongst the stars. No boundaries except where I want my mind to take me. That is my dream. To one day sail through the vast and incomprehensible ocean that is space, through nebulas and massive star clusters.

No amount of dreams could match the intensity and vivaciousness that the universe offers. It is a divine creation for us to explore and we should grasp that opportunity. Instead of living our lives confined to a shell of a planet we must branch out and explore. It is our divine providence to do so. Already, we have probes and rovers sent out to other planets and stars.

Every day we learn something new and sometimes we even find that our previous thinking was wrong. Every day we find some amazing, stunning new element of our world that challenges even the most steadfast of ideas and beliefs.

However, let not our exploration be confined to our own solar system. We must as nations, as a world, but most importantly as people push to learn more about what lies beyond the skies. We must do this to propel ourselves forward. Nothing is standing in our way but ourselves.

Many times I wonder who the first person was to look up at the skies and notice its beauty and wonder what lies beyond.

Who was the first person to actually notice our universe’s extravagance and not take it for granted? Who was that first person to spark a kindling in mankind not just to explore our own planet but those beyond? Whoever it was I thank them.

I thank them for the achievements we have accomplished and those to come which only God knows. We know nothing except that our fate is sealed. Our destiny is to roam the skies and stars. For thousands of years, the people of Earth have pondered the possibilities of space and what it consists of. If only they could see us now.

We’ve sent men to the moon not once but several times. Even today there is talk of sending men as far as Mars. In the near future, I can even imagine colonies on other celestial bodies.

However, let us hope that we do not lose sight of the reason we are out there in the untamed wilds of the universe. We are out there because we are curious. Curious about what lies beyond our planets, solar systems and even our galaxy.

We are curious about what we will find and what we won’t. I can only imagine the sheer excitement that the first man in space felt as he finally passed through the Earth’s atmosphere into a vastly unknown realm. For all we knew there could have been nothing up there. Yet our curiosity got a hold of us and hauled us into the endless vanity of space.

Ever since we have been hooked. Like a drug, space has intrigued us since day one and I believe that as long as we allow, it will until the end. So when I look out my window on a crisp winter night when the sky is clear and I can see a star shining brightly in the distance, I like to imagine that maybe one day I might be on that star looking back down at Earth.

Cover Image Credit: pixabay

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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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Solo Travel As An Extrovert Is Not Easy

Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.

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Life has a funny way of revealing itself and after my mom ditched me on our mother-daughter trip to Taiwan, I found myself on a plane headed to a country I had never visited where I didn't know a soul. (Disclaimer: I have relatives in Taiwan but had never met them prior to the trip.) I was excited for the adventure that awaited, fear not setting in of how difficult it would be not to just travel in a foreign country where I didn't speak or read any Mandarin beyond the very, very basics (Literally my vocabulary consisted of 10 simple words/phrases, one of which was the word for "apple" which isn't that helpful for getting around. I have since picked up a few more phrases.), but also be alone with just myself for company.

So much of who we are is influenced by the people around us. A large part of our identity comes the communities we choose to be part of and how we interact with others. But who are we when no one's looking? Who am I without the pressure of other people around me?

I am an extrovert. I get my energy from being around other people. It's not that I can't spend time by myself; I just prefer to be in the company of others even if we aren't always interacting the entire time. My best friend and I will even do independent activities together. (Once when we were hanging out, she was knitting and I was doing a puzzle. I swear we don't act like grandmas all the time.)

Although an extrovert, I'm still a pretty independent person who doesn't like to rely on others for help. But traveling alone in Taiwan, I don't have much of a choice. I'm forced to learn to navigate public transport myself and somehow survive with the basic English that Taiwanese locals know.

Learning to travel alone has been an emotional and difficult journey as this is the first time I've been on my own for this long. Although lonely at times, I've realized that loneliness is a mental state of mind. There is the Sanskrit saying, "Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha moksayoh" which translates to "As the mind, so the person; bondage or liberation are in your own mind." My mind determines my emotional state of being and perspective! Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.

Through solo travel, I am slowly learning to be comfortable with my own company which has been the biggest challenge. I was never an only child, I've always had a roommate in college, and even when I study, I go to public spaces like coffee shops so I can be surrounded by people. I don't know what to do when it's just me and my thoughts all the time. (Especially during meals. Should I appear busy on my phone like all the other single people around me?)


Because when you're traveling alone, you're in charge. You have control. You can change the itinerary from moment to moment without anyone's approval. No one's holding you accountable. Spontaneity? Let's go. You can build barriers but you can also tear them down. It's fun, it's exhilarating. But it's also scary. And unpredictable.


Would I go on another solo expedition in the future? Preferably not as traveling is way more enjoyable when you have someone to share the experience with. It's the people, not the place who make all the difference on a vacation. Yet I do believe solo travel is an experience that everyone should embark on at some point in their life (to grow and learn more about yourself).


This trip has taught me to find spontaneity in the fear and excitement and I've learned to embrace discomfort and unpredictability. To travel with not just my mind and logic but my heart. There are so many unique experiences, if you overthink too much, you'll lose your chance.

I've found that when I am alone, I become more vulnerable and open to meeting new people and having more offbeat experiences. I say yes with zero hesitation. Certainly, there are friends I made, hikes I climbed, streets I meandered, and epiphanies I had that wouldn't have transpired had I been with my mom or a group of people.


Traveling alone, I am now more confident in myself and am ready for the next wave that life throws me. Because I've learned that once you overcome the fear of being by yourself, getting lost (which you will), or accidentally eating meat as a vegan because you didn't understand the signage (I'm sorry!), the world in all its vast infinity can be pretty great. And there are some things that you can only learn on solo travel.

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