Moving 1,500 Miles

Moving 1,500 Miles

Home is where the heart is
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Almost 16 years ago I moved from New Jersey to Kansas. As a five-year-old, I had no say, I was just going with the flow. At first, I did not like it, I hated it. Everything was so different to what I knew back home; the music was different, the food was different, the culture was different. Eventually, I embraced it and made friends.

Over the next decade, I grew to know Kansas as my home. New Jersey was just a place where my family was. It was hard to adapt to that, but over time it became my life. I made more friends, who have remained my friends. I adapted to the music, country music is even one of my favorites, and the food was not so bad. Luckily my mom made great pasta.

My senior year of high school I had to prepare for a new life, I decided to move back to New Jersey. I did not know what to expect by moving back. I knew it would be different, but I knew I had to embrace everything that was going to come to my way.

The official move was hard and it was really sad. I was leaving all the people who had become my family behind. However, it was something I had done before, but it was different. I had made lasting connections with the people in my life. Fortunately for me, I was going back to a place where I still had family. They were a great support system in my transition. I was also lucky that I had my friends back in Kansas to support me.

It was also easy for me to accept moving by seeing my friends' lives continue. I did begin to doubt whether or not these friendships would last, but as time went on and I kept trying, I realized that they were not going anywhere. I now just had to embrace that whatever time we had on the phone was going to be great, and that the big moments were the ones that counted.

Three years later, I am still trying to figure out my place here. I have changed a lot living here, I have become more open minded. With each opportunity I try to take it head on and get as much out of it as I can. If I had stayed in Kansas, I would not have had the opportunity to work in diverse communities or work for the number one camp on the East Coast. And I would not trade my jobs for the world.

As I am figuring me out, and my place here, I realize that my life is really just beginning. Just this past week I had my first interview for Montclair's education program and it only made me see how much more I need to learn before I graduate. As I look back over the past three years and see how much I have learned I am blown away.

It is still hard. Kansas will always be another home for me, but I have realized that wherever I am I can have a home, whether that be in New Jersey, in Kansas, or even at camp.

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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10 Vacation Destinations That Are Worth Hopping Over To During Easter Break

Colored eggs and chocolate are not the only treats you can get for Easter Break.

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Easter is a time to spend with family, have time away from school, go out with friends, and remember the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, it is also an opportunity to visit many fun and exciting locations. Whether you love swimming, dancing at clubs, indulging in five-star restaurants, or getting a massage, there are a variety of activities that will make anyone's Easter more enjoyable. Here are 10 vacation locations that will meet the needs of any family this Easter.

1. The Royal Hawaiian

Hawaii is one of the best places to visit for vacation. Families will love walking along the shore, getting delicious food or drinks at one of the many bars, and even stopping by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for a massage at the Abhasa Waikiki Spa. If you are courageous enough, head out to the beach for surfing or just to relax. With so many sites to explore, this is a vacation that will bring lasting memories.

2. Berry Springs Lodge

Here is a nice and quiet location that is definitely a treat if you want to experience a less hectic vacation. The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee is great for anyone who loves taking photos or exploring landscapes. There are two Whirlpool Suites with a fireplace, deck, and whirlpool that gives you an awesome view of the mountains. Activities include playing a game of pool and going on a mountain bike through the nearby trail, so try to stay observant and take in the environment.

3. Lake Austin Spa Resort

If you plan on traveling to a much warmer state for the holiday break, then this would a good choice. This resort is just a short drive away from Austin and is an excellent place to take it easy. Here you can stay at one of the cottages, take a nap by the fireplace, stroll through the outdoor garden, get a massage at the spa or have a seat in the hot tub. This is a vacation that will certainly take your stress away.

4. Fredericksburg

This is another city located in the state of Texas that features a special Easter tradition that families will love. Dress up for the Easter pageant and have a fun time. Visitors can see the Easter fires in the surrounded area that light up the night. There are plenty of food, drinks, and activities to keep everyone occupied, and ensure that they will have a happy Easter.

5. Bay St. Louis

Here is a vacation spot in Mississippi to celebrate Easter. All families will enjoy watching the sunrise and hunting for Easter eggs. Other activities to check out include the Stella, Blues and Barbecue festival for some tasty food and fun. There is also a yelling contest in which participants scream "Stella!" which is a reference to "A Streetcar Named Desire." No matter what you choose to do, this location will result in plenty of excitement, laughter, and possibly a sore throat.

6. Flagstaff

If you are traveling with a small or big family and do not mind the heat, then head down to this destination located in the very hot state of Arizona. The land is beautiful and gives photographers a chance to capture the amazing forests and mountains there. If you are feeling adventurous, check out the Snowbowl Ski Resort or if you want to take it slow, there is always Humphreys Peak where you will see gorgeous landscapes. Lastly, make sure to visit one of the restaurants that they have to offer for a delicious breakfast for an amazing start to the day ahead.

7. Lake Powell

This destination features cool rock landscapes and is located on the border of Utah and Arizona. Despite the place being surrounded by boulders, families can still have a fun time. You can take photos of the environment or visit a petting zoo. Take a walk around the land, find a spot to catch some fish for dinner, and you will agree this vacation definitely rocks.

8. Santa Monica

Here is an awesome vacation spot for anyone who loves working out and engaging in various outdoor activities. This is the place where you will find the Half Marathon for Easter. There are other options like the 5k, 10k, or 15k run, as well. The weather is sunny and it's a nice place to go for a swim, visit a farmer's market or participate in other Easter themed events.

9. Savannah

Do not let the heat discourage you from visiting this location. There are multiple gardens and parks to check out, along with markets and a music festival. If you are looking for additional fun, there is a Savannah Riverboat Cruise for families to travel around the city. There are a variety of delicious options for brunch or dinner, and other surprises for your holiday.

10. St. Augustine

During Easter vacation, there are so many things to do with family and friends. If you decide to travel to this location, you will enjoy the Easter parade known as the Parada de los Caballos y Coches or the Parade of Horses and Coaches. If you are looking for a nice family event, head on down to the parade and listen to the music. The horses and carriages are great to see as well, and there are multiple restaurants located around the city when you need a break from the festivities.

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