9 American Wonders To See Before You Retire

9 American Wonders To See Before You Retire

This is a list of several sights in America that are breathtakingly beautiful or symbolic and must be seen.

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As our world becomes more and more technologically connected, we begin to lose touch with the natural beauty of our country. According to the National Park Service - a branch of the United States Department of the Interior - "over 418 areas covering more than 85 million acres in every state, DC, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands" are protected National Parks. Here is a list of sights - many of whom are national parks - or monuments that YOU must see before you retire.

1. The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

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The Grand Canyon is one of America's best wonders. Located in Northern Arizona this wonder is accessible Year Round and possess natural earthen beauty unlike anywhere else. Additionally, there are several opportunities to hike in and along the Grand Canyon as well as even ride a Donkey through the Canyon itself. I believe this is the #1 place one should visit before entering the workforce, as it truly shows you the raw power that nature holds. The Colorado River ran down from the Rocky Mountains and chiseled the Canyon over thousands of years, making it into what it is today. Finally, as evidenced in the picture above, it is extremely gorgeous at and after sunset.

2. Abraham Lincoln's Log House

Abe Lincoln's Log Farmhouse

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Abraham Lincoln's Log house or Log Farmhouse - both located in my home state of Illinois - are attractions that one MUST see. To me, it symbolizes the true American Dream. It shows what individuals had to do back in the 19th Century just to survive. It symbolizes the hard work and perseverance that our past generations possessed and it shows us how we as a nation and as individuals need to work hard in order to become powerful, as opposed to wishing for the government to give it to us for free.

3. Redwood Forests

The Redwood Forests

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The Redwood Forest is a place that can truly return us to our roots. It shows us the power and beauty of nature and allows us to witness some of the tallest tree's in both America and the World.

4. The World War Two Memorial

The World War Two Memorial

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This - as well as the one that follows it - is by far is one of my favorite monuments to visit. I am an avid military guy and I loved learning about World War Two. When I visited Washington D.C a few years ago, the power and sheer awe of this monument truly highlight the titanic struggle and immense sacrifice that "The Greatest Generation" made for our great country.

5. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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Like mentioned above, the Vietnam Memorial is another memorial that honors the service and sacrifice of our nations bravest soldiers. This monument is extremely powerful, yet it is the most simple of the war memorials in Washington D.C. This memorial consists of two long rows of black granite blocks conjoined in the middle. What makes it truly powerful, is that each and every name of all of the soldiers who passed away are inscribed on this memorial.

6. The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty

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Like it was to immigrants who were legally trying to enter into the United States throughout history, the Statue of Liberty is something that I would recommend everyone see. A short ferry ride off of the coast of New York City, one has the ability to climb up to the top of the statue and view the surrounding area around the statue: An amazing view of New York City and the Hudson Bay area.

7. The Washington Memorial

The Washington Monument

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Although it certainly does not look like much, the Washington Monument - a concrete pillar that salutes the dedication to our nation given to us by George Washington - is one of my places I would recommend. Like the Statue of Liberty, one has the ability to climb up the stairs to the top and view out over the entire National Mall: Quite the scenic view.

8. The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

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Many say he is the greatest if not the second greatest president of our history - behind George Washington. However, the history and accomplishments of Lincoln truly come alive when you walk up the long set of stairs towards a giant statue of "Honest Abe".

9. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

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I have actually never been here before. However, just like the Redwood Forests and the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park is a true symbol of the natural beauty of America. Additionally, there are several types of animals at the park that you can see as well as amazing geysers (like the one pictured above) that only add to the experience.

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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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