The Importance of Traveling

The Importance of Traveling

Travel the world and all you can see
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Traveling doesn't always mean an elaborate vacation or hoping on a plane to go somewhere. It can be as simple has driving to a state park, driving around the state and visiting different places along the road trip, or driving across multiple states on a huge road trip with friends or family. It can be anywhere, any time. What matters the most is what you took away from the experience, what you've learned, and how much fun you've had.

Through out my life, thus far, I have been to so many states, seen a lot a beautiful landscapes, met a lot of wonderful people, and made so many memories and I thank my parents for all the traveling we have done. From Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, to Boston, to Sanibel Island, to the Bahamas, to Washington D.C., and to San Francisco and all the little road trips in between; all the funny moments and all the things I've learned, I thank my parents for. Letting us go to Saint Louis to see Real Madrid C.F. play Inter Milan and surprising us with a long "mystery" road trip to Florida. So many moments stand out in my mind from all my trips and vacations.

Photo taken by Alan Downs, Facebook. Sanibel Island, Florida. 2014. (source: Facebook)

I have had so many opportunities to explore the world around me and I'm grateful for that. Traveling has helped understand the subcultures in the U.S., try different food, explore the different parts of the United States (the midwest, the east, the west, and the south), and learn some history from each part along the way. Having the knowledge and life experiences from all over the U.S. helped me understand how the culture overall in the United States has changed, how roles and norms have evolved, and how politics has shifted though out U.S. history. I have also learned valuable lessons with each trip or vacation I took.

So why is it so important to travel?

1.) Live and learn--Expanding your knowledge on life and history will help you later down the road because you'll have something to connect other things with.

2.) Make memories, make smiles--Travel with family or with friends! I promise, something memorable will happen along the way.

3.) Personal growth-- Not only can trips/vacations make you feel good, they can also boost your confidence and build a stronger bond with the people you went on the trip with. Overall, it will help you grow as a person.

4.) Get out of the norm!-- Going outside of your comfort zone can seem scary but, when you travel, it doesn't matter if it's scary. It will be fun and learning about what's out there in this big world of ours is helpful to make social and maybe even business connections later on in life.

5.) Modes of transportation-- try each transportation; train (subway), plane, taxi, boat, or even the family van, and find out which you like the most! Experimenting with life can be a fun adventure.

Photo taken by: Cassidy Downs, 2015. Massachusetts. (Source Facebook)

Like I mentioned before, not all trips have to lavish. You can simply drive to a State Park or National Park and spend a day or more there. Camping is always a great, and fairly inexpensive way to get some adventure in. I believe the most important trips are the ones not spent in a city, but spent in the outdoors. Experience the beauty around, breathe in clean air, and get away from people. Stand at atop a mountain, hill, or boulder and take a moment or so to appreciate your life and the tranquil nature around you. Doing this as often as possible can help your outlook on life.

Going to all kinds of unique and various places in my life, I feel as if I've had an almost full life. Of course there are a few places and things I have yet to do, like backpack with my sister in Isle Royal and Montana and go to Europe, and I know I still have plenty of years to complete that! Traveling has certainly changed me and helped shape me into the person I am today. So, get out there and have an adventure or two! With that in mind, I just have few last words: Travel more, smile often, enjoy the world around you, and adventure outside your comfort zone every once in a while. Who knows, you might like it!




"Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert




Photo by: Cassidy Downs, 2016. (source Facebook).

Cover Image Credit: Cassidy Downs

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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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My First Time Camping Changed My Life

Sleeping in the middle of the woods for one week was terrifying and absolutely lovely at the same time.

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Last week I was a camp counselor for an amazing group of kids and I have to say, it was one of the best weeks of my life. Not gonna lie, when I first walked into my cabin and saw a chipmunk scurry across the dusty floors, I screamed. Loudly. Then I screamed once more when I realized there were no outlets to charge my phone.

I remember the struggle of climbing to my top bunk and almost falling off every single morning. Oh, and the bathrooms were horrific. It was a cozy home to many spiders and beetles, but it was more like a haunted house for me. I made sure to close my eyes while showering so I didn't have to look at the musty walls surrounding me.

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But every night, the cool breeze of the woods and the sound of rain drizzling on the roof of the cabin would gently put me to sleep. Even though I would have to wake up at 6:00 AM the next morning, I slept like a baby and was fully rested the next day. As much as it was frustrating not to touch my phone for about 14 hours a day, it was liberating, too. I felt more relaxed and no longer had that urge to check on my Snapchat streaks and go through my Instagram feed. I was happier than ever getting to know my kids, playing all kinds of games with them, and singing camp songs all day.

My favorite part was the campfires. When someone handed me a stick with a giant, puffy marshmallow, I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. I cautiously held it over the sparkling fire and watched it become this perfect golden glow. As one of the other counselors squished my marshmallow in between the crackers covered with chocolate, I started tapping my feet like a little kid.

As I took my first bite, I felt like the happiest girl in the world. My campers were looking at me like I was crazy for never trying a s'more before. They were right though, I was quite crazy for trying it so late. Apparently, I was missing a lot of magic and gooey happiness in my life.

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I'd done quite a few things I've never done before at camp. I went rock climbing for the first time, and yes, it was pretty tough. I also went zip lining through the woods, and almost felt my heart jump out of my chest. It was a rush of excitement and fear all at once. I also participated in my first color wars and unfortunately, a lot of the powder went into my mouth rather than on my white shirt.

Oh, and it was also my first time trying a corn dog. Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Did this girl even have a childhood?" I'm just so grateful I went through all these first-time experiences surrounded by people who made my first week of camping so incredible and memorable.

As I go through all the Facebook photos, I can't help but feel the wave of nostalgia hit me like a truck. Despite the spiders and raccoons and hideous bathrooms, camping was such an inspiring and magical experience. I feel so blessed to have met so many great people and create new friendships and memories that I will always remember.

Thank you, Camp Kesem.

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