5 Things no one told me the first time I traveled alone

5 Things no one told me the first time I traveled alone

Through all the hectic airports and short layovers, it's easy to forget what is necessary

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Before my first time traveling alone the only advice I remember getting was, "be careful." Then, I thought that was the only advice I really needed, but as I am two weeks away from my trip back to Thailand I cannot help but not remember everything I wish someone had told me. Here are 5 things I wish I was told before my first time traveling alone that I hope can help someone in the future:

1. Keep up with personal hygiene.

So, you would think this was a no-brainer but this definitely slipped my mind after spending 26 hours flying and running through airports. My two biggest concerns were missing my flights and the language barriers, so much so I had completely forgot about my personal hygiene. Not until I made it to the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand did I realize how bad I smelled.

I was not only embarrassed that I had forgotten to change my clothes or brush my teeth, but I completely forgot about the people who had to, unfortunately, sit next to me. Now that I am a lot wiser from that unfortunate lesson, I think back, how could someone forget to change their clothes? Even underwear? Yes. Somehow when I tell that story I get nothing but gross looks, but really, who remembers changing underwear when you're flying to Asia alone? But I am here to be your reminder, change your clothes and brush your teeth.

2. You need to talk to strangers.

Being 20 years old and flying alone, I still heard "don't talk to strangers." But somehow, without the few strangers I did talk to, I wouldn't have made it. I talked to people in every airport I was in but it wasn't until I made it to Bangkok that I had enough time to hear stories. When I arrived I changed into my college shirt and met a couple that attended a college a few hours from where I went. They spotted me out because of the shirt I was wearing. They are flight attendants and they use their free time to travel together. I met another couple while asking for directions to a specific spot who told me that they had met while the man was traveling alone. He told me that my courage to travel alone was going to be one of the best things that will ever happen to me. And I also met a guy, who was 21 at the time, who had quit school to travel across Asia for 3 months. We had so much in common and his excitement to travel alone and meet new people was so inspiring.

Although going through 5 different airports and crying because I missed a flight isn't what I would say is "fun", meeting strangers and stepping outside of my comfort zone to talk to them had to be one of the best parts of my trip. I am not excited about the flight time, but I am excited for all the people I am going to meet while in airports.

3. Prepare yourself for any and all language barriers.

My first time traveling alone was to Thailand. As exciting and independent as I thought this was, you bet your ass I was crying wishing I had my parents there to help me. Thailand? That was, in essence, a mistake. On my flight to Shanghai, China the lady I sat next to was Asian. That gave me a piece of all I was about to endure for the next three airports. And trust me, it was as miserable as it sounds. I had missed my flight to Koh Samui, Thailand because of language and the flight back was just as bad even had using the lessons I learned going.

So, when I say "prepare yourself" I mean understand that there will be language barriers. Even if someone can speak English that does not necessarily mean that they understand what they or you are saying. I have realized that some airport employees know enough to get by or try to be of help, but do not get frustrated as it isn't their responsibility to know all that you are saying. Just be prepared and get familiar with the airport.

4. Adjusting to time.

I knew what I was getting myself in when it came to time but I didn't really "know". Not until I arrived and had dinner with my grandpa, his wife, and their friends and was jet-lagged, did I realize how hard it was to adjust to time. Actually, my grandpa called me a couple of days before my trip back and said, "Remember, you cannot sleep once you get here. You have to stay up." I have been dreading it ever since.

But I had prepared myself more than I thought when I came back from Thailand, I came home around 10 p.m Saturday night and was asleep until 6 p.m Sunday night. But even after two days in Thailand, adjusting to time wasn't all that difficult but something that I should have been more mindful of. As much as I am dreading it now, I know what to keep in mind and what I have to look forward to.

5. Be as open-minded as possible.

One thing I did my best to remember is that this trip is not just about me but those I can learn from. This is especially important when traveling to a country that handles everything in a different manner than your own. Thailand is different in religion, in politics, in morals and values, and natives are not as privileged as those who tour. They don't have as much freedom as I do or a percentage of others who tour there as well. I had to keep in mind that I couldn't openly talk about the government or give personal opinions on how they handle things within their own government. Which is understandable, but others don't get that.

Be open-minded when it comes to your own country versus the country in which you hope to travel to. Respect cultural values, morals, and mannerisms. It's important to know when and how you can disrespect natives so that it doesn't happen or could potentially happen.

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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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For Camille, With Love

To my godmother, my second mom, my rooted confidence, my support

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First grade, March. It was my first birthday without my mom. You through a huge party for me, a sleepover with friends from school. It included dress up games and making pizza and Disney trivia. You, along with help from my grandma, threw me the best birthday party a 7-year-old could possibly want.

During elementary school, I carpooled with you and a few of the neighborhood kids. I was always the last one to be dropped off, sometimes you would sneak a donut for me. Living next door to you was a blessing. You helped me with everything. In second grade, you helped me rehearse lines for history day so I could get extra credit. In 4th grade, you helped me build my California mission.

You and your sister came out to my 6th grade "graduation". You bought me balloons and made me feel as if moving onto middle school was the coolest thing in the entire world.

While you moved away from next door, you were a constant in my life. Going to Ruby's Diner for my birthday, seeing movies at the Irvine Spectrum and just hanging out, I saw you all the time. During these times, you told me about all of the silly things you did with my mom and dad, how my mom was your best friend. I couldn't have had a greater godmother.

In middle school, you pushed me to do my best and to enroll in honors. You helped me through puberty and the awkward stages of being a woman.

Every single time I saw you, it would light up my entire day, my week. You were more than my godmother, you were my second mom. You understood things that my grandma didn't.

When you married John, you included me in your wedding. I still have that picture of you, Jessica, Aaron and myself on my wall at college. I was so happy for you.

Freshmen year of high school, you told me to do my best. I did my best because of you. When my grandma passed away that year, your shoulder was the one I wanted to cry on.

You were there when I needed to escape home. You understood me when I thought no one would. You helped me learn to drive, letting me drive all the way from San Clemente to Orange.

When I was applying to colleges, you encouraged me to spread my wings and fly. You told me I should explore, get out of California. I wanted to study in London, you told me to do it. That's why, when I study abroad this Spring in London, I will do it for you.

When I had gotten into UWT, you told me to go there. I did and here I am, succeeding and living my best in Tacoma. I do it for you, because of you.

When I graduated high school and I was able to deliver a speech during our baccalaureate, you cheered me on. You recorded it for me, so I could show people who weren't able to make it to the ceremony. You were one of the few people able to come to my actual graduation. You helped me celebrate the accomplishments and awards from my hard work.

When your cancer came back, I was so worried. I was afraid for you, I was afraid of what I would do without the support you had always given me. When I was in Rome, I went to the Vatican and had gotten a Cross with a purple gem in the middle blessed by the Pope to help you with your treatments. It was something from me and a little bit of my mom in the necklace, the gem.

Now, sitting so far from you away at college just like you wanted me to. I miss you. I wish I was there to say goodbye.

I'll travel the world for you, write lots of stories and books for you, I will live life to the fullest for you.

You are another angel taken too early in life. Please say hello to my parents and grandma in Heaven for me.

Lots of love,

Haiden

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