Tags Posts tagged with "Travel"

Travel

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Sydney wasn’t at the top of my most desired places to go on my trip around the world. Africa was first, since that was the reason why I had planned the trip in the first place, but I definitely thought I would love Thailand more than Sydney.

When I arrived in Sydney, it was freezing cold, and raining – not the typical warm, sunny weather that everyone boasts about. However I wasn’t the least bit concerned about the weather. I was just happy to have made it there on Malaysia Airlines and with absolutely no money at all.

My debit card and credit card had gotten stolen in Thailand, and I had used my last bit of cash for the cab to the airport. Luckily, I had gotten a hold of my mother who was able to wire my money to me when I landed in Sydney. I was grateful to have cash, but it still made me worry, especially since I was traveling completely solo…for the first time.

At first I thought it was going to be a complete bust. I thought I’d end up sitting by myself at a café with nothing to do, and no one to talk to. But boy, was I wrong! I stayed in Bondi Beach, a local area, and immediately fell in love. The shop, café, and restaurant-lined street made me feel like I was meant to be there, and I even texted my mom to tell her I wanted to move.

Since I was solo, I was really able to take in my surroundings, and discover how it feels to live in this other world. I figured out how to budget my money, and although I ate pizza for every meal, I felt so proud and excited to be figuring out how to be completely on my own. It wasn’t long before I felt comfortable walking from place to place in Sydney, and taking the City Sightseeing tour bus – which doubled as transportation – to and from my “apartment” in Bondi.

I became so confident with myself that other tourists would stop me to ask if I knew how to get to certain streets! It also made me not only comfortable, but also eager to meet people.

Just by smiling, saying hello, or even taking a photo for someone led to a new friendship, which six months later, still exists. These new friends made me love Sydney and Bondi even more than I already did.

I told my new friends about my volunteer trip in South Africa, my misfortune in Thailand, and how I had be winging it with my limited amount of cash in Sydney, and their responses were the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.

They told me I inspired them. They said they were so inspired that I had made it around the world despite many hurdles, and was still so confident and happy, that it made them want to travel more and help others.

Suddenly, I had found my purpose in traveling. I travel to inspire others.

As luck would have it, my new friends took me in, and took me around Sydney and Bondi as if I had lived there forever. I knew I couldn’t afford to eat at the places they would take me, but when they noticed I was only ordering one house wine and a glass of water, they insisted on treating me so I could really experience local life.

These strangers who I had only just met helped me so much, and it made me realize something. If you’re kind, grateful, genuine, and confident, your energy will be noticed and appreciated by other people. I realized that I really was all of those things, and even more importantly, I was happy.

 

I thought I was so lost when I first got to Sydney, both literally and figuratively. But by the end of my journey…I realized I had found myself.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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From the Cliff in Indonesia

Before I traveled to Bali, Indonesia, I thought I knew what paradise was, since I was born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii. The rich, exotic culture, which is steeped in vibrant Hindu traditions, the lush and mountainous landscape, and premier surf spots are only some of the aspects that entranced me. Given that Indonesia is a developing country, I was instructed to be on guard at every moment. Don’t drink the water, mind your passport and money, understand the danger, and don’t disrespect the religion were a few of the warnings. I never felt an ounce of worry while traveling around Bali.

After being in Bali for a few days, I hired a driver to take me to a legendary surf break, Balangan. The driver, Wayan there are five main names in Bali and Wayan is given to the first born, but sometimes people will have “street names” like Harry or Sally, drove me out of Kuta, a congested, touristy beach city reminiscent of Waikiki on Oahu, in a rickety Toyota van. It was evident that he didn’t properly know how to drive a manual transmission because the car jerked in third gear at a crawling five miles per hour. Eventually, we escaped the trafficked area and hit the open road.

He turned off the main road, which slithered up and inland of the cliffs, onto a dusty, pothole-ridden dirt road. The van rattled and I bounced around on the sticky leather seats because of the poor suspension. Then we burst through a cluster of trees and I could see the beach. As soon as the car came to a jittery halt, I leapt out to look at the breathtaking bay. From the cliff, I counted ten people out in the water. Mangy cows lounged next to towering palm tress in the grassy area above the beach. A wooden warung, a modest, family-owned restaurant that serves the bay’s visitors, squatted in the center of the beach. Waves smacked the cliff on the far side of the bay before peeling across the break. The wind was minimal and the waves looked like they were roughly eight feet. I couldn’t believe I was about to paddle out in this picturesque, vacant surf spot.

            I climbed down the stairs to the beach and quickly realized that the waves were much bigger than I originally thought. Sometimes the desire to taste the danger needs to be satisfied. I felt inspired to tackle this foreign break, but wondered if I was in over my head once I paddled out and reached the waves. Surfers dropped in and were continually engulfed by the jaws of the dangerously beautiful barrels. To ride in a tube of moving water and hear nothing but the sound of rushing water as it curl over your head and collides with the surface below, is one of the most amazing things a surfer can experience. I had to ride one of these daunting monsters. I came to Bali to surf.

            A fifteen-foot wall of water approached me. I faced towards the shore and dug my arms into the water to get on the wave. Water splashed in my face as I popped to my feet and charged the colossal drop. As I carved down the line, I saw the jagged, dry reef nearly fifty yards away. Out of fear, I decided to abort the wave by diving through the steep, thick wall of water—only I didn’t. The immense force of the wave caught and threw me over the falls.

            Darkness surrounded me, but I relaxed and let the ocean punish me. Though I wasn’t in the most ideal situation, there is something moving about being alone under a thundering wave, witnessing the sheer power of the ocean. I’ve often thought about dying out in the ocean and I would happily surrender my earthly ties to the ocean, but it wasn’t my time. I had to seize the moment to scramble back up through the washing machine of currents and breach the surface. I gasped and located my board, once I resurfaced. I walked my board to shore in the shallow water and jogged up the beach. Turning around to look at the bay that just punished me, I was proud that I had the bravado to challenge the bay. Even though it punished me, it was no less beautiful; I had more respect for it.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

Drinks at Bella Vista, overlooking the ocean at sunset

I have had a crazy 18 months. I knew I would (finally) have some free time, so I planned a vacation where I could really get back to myself. I set out on a restorative trip to find some peace. I went to Santa Barbara, and stayed at Four Seasons The Biltmore.

I had been there before as a teenager, but had never experienced the place as an adult. I’ll admit, I wanted a lazy vacation where I never had to get in the car. I wanted good books, poolside drinks, and palm trees. The gorgeous views were expected, but there was no way I could predict how relaxed I’d feel only a few hours into my stay. Here are the highlights of my trip:

Drinks at Bella Vista, overlooking the ocean
Drinks at Bella Vista, overlooking the ocean

1. Outdoor dining. For three days, I didn’t eat a single meal indoors. Breakfast on the patio, lunch by the pool, dinner across the street on the balcony at Tydes. I never got tired of the spectacular ocean views available from the Bella Vista restaurant at the hotel. It’s quite easy to spot dolphins swimming by every day. Some of the hotel staff told me they have spotted an occasional blue whale, as well. Above, you can see our drinks the first night, over looking the ocean. The poolside lunch menu was clean and delicious, featuring an amazing chicken salad that I couldn’t help pairing with a decadent piña colada.

2. The service. Having stayed in top notch hotels all over the world, the Four Seasons Santa Barbara has some of the best service I’ve ever experienced. By the pool, the wait staff came around with complimentary smoothie shots and fresh fruit. The concierge were always happy to rework a dinner reservation, and even afforded me a luxurious late checkout, so I could squeeze a few more hours by the pool. My book was just too good to stop reading!

Lounging by the pool
Lounging by the pool

3. The incomparable atmosphere. The pueblo-style compound immediately put me in the mindset of warm-weather vacation. The sound of the ocean drifting through the windows while I got a massage was amazing. And the beautiful, colorful decor in the rooms, including some fantastic, artful tiles, made me want to stay in my room almost as much as I wanted to hit the pool.

4. The beach. Santa Barbara is not your standard SoCal destination. It’s on the cooler side (during my visit the weather stayed between 68 and 72 degrees), but the beach is perfect for surfers and taking scenic walks (with a sweater). There is even a very unique graveyard on a cliff overlooking the ocean within easy walking distance. If you want to stay out of the cold, both pools at the hotel are wind protected and it feels way warmer on a sunny day!

Morning coffee on my balcony
Morning coffee on my balcony


After such an intense year and a half, it was amazing to sink back and feel the stress melt away in only a short, three day trip! I highly recommend taking a lazy vacation. Perfect weather, perfect pool days and perfect piña coladas!

 

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Shopping in Rome, (well in most of Europe) there are different social norms and customs that patrons are expected to know.  In the United States, people paw the merchandise, carry it around and then usually leave it somewhere it doesn’t belong.

This. Does Not. Happen. In. Italy.

Entering into a shop is like entering into someone’s home.  (While the larger mall like stores are more lax in this custom, for this article, I am addressing the small shops.)  When you enter into someone’s home, you immediately greet them.  This is expected in an Italian shop as well.

Vendors are ready to wait on you.  They want to serve and they are attentive.  When you walk in, say, “buon giorno” and smile.  They will greet you as well and may ask something along the lines of “Che cose’?”  This means loosely, “what would you like?”   It is expected that you do not touch the wares. Italians are very meticulous in their belongings and they frown upon the idea of someone else trying it on and touching it. In fact, if you are choosing to try it on, it is almost an unspoken expectation that you plan to purchase said garment.

Wha?????  How do I know I like it?  How do I know it will fit?  Trust me.  The salesperson will have sized you up correctly the moment you darkened their doorstep.  They will know precisely what size you need.  (An aside here is it may not be the size you want.  Sorry.  Their sizes are different anyway, so it doesn’t matter.)

If you are looking for a particular color, they will be happy to help.  When you walk into a shop, the first thing you may notice is that it is very sparse.  There may be one or two mannequins dressed in an ensemble, but that will be it.  The wall are usually lined with drawers or doors that host the goods.  Italians do not like to be overwhelmed with too much at once.  Much in the way they prefer their meals to be presented in unadorned sequence, they use the same principles for clothing stores.

You may like the scarf or the skirt on the mannequins so you can point to it and say, “Lo mi piace.”  This means “I like it.”  Suddenly, before  your very eyes, there will appear a bevy of this particular skirt or scarf or shirt in an array of colors and patterns and sizes.

If there is a certain color you are looking for, it would be a good idea to learn how to say it in Italian. (Most of the shops are housed with salespeople who can in fact, speak English, but they are so happy and proud of you when you attempt the native language, it’s adorable.)

Once you have decided what you will purchase, you can say something like, “Lo prendo.”  This means, “I’ll take it.”  This is the best part.  The salesperson will whirl you up to the cash register and prepare your new belongings for their journey home.  They use tissue wraps and ribbons and beautiful reusable bags with zippers.  It is a treat in itself to watch them.  The excitement overtakes you as you make your lovely purchase.

Try and maintain your dignity when you leave.  At least go around the corner before you begin squealing in delight.  Once, I purchased a scarf (well I made my husband purchase a scarf for me) on the via Condotti and I was so proud of myself for not tearing the package open and rolling around the streets on my new treasure.  That kind of behavior is an entirely different article.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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What are the odds?

This is my new favorite game. My friends introduced it on our recent road trip from Tennessee to Idaho. One person in the group thinks of a task for someone else to complete, and challenges that person by asking “what are the odds” that he/she will do it. If they are up to the challenge, that person names their odds, one out of whatever. On the count of three, both people say a number out loud between 1 and the range stated. If the numbers match, the challenger wins and the person who named odds must complete the task. Obviously, the game is most fun when people get bold and set very low lines for odds.

Challenger: “What are the odds that you will eat this entire jalapeño pepper for breakfast?”

Me: “Hmm… One out of five”

Challenger: “Ok. One, Two, Three…

Both: “TWO”

That pepper went down even less smoothly than I thought it would.

This was really one of the more mild dares that happened over the course of the trip. I won’t go into detail about all the ridiculousness that was imposed, but you can imagine how heinously uncomfortable/embarrassing some of it was.

What are the odds that I would end up road tripping for three and a half weeks across the country? A few months ago, when I was traveling Europe, I would have said the odds were low. At that time, I was spending my savings to visit old friends and see new countries. I was satisfying my travel bug and looking forward to a long, relaxing summer in East Tennessee—or so I thought.It was this game and other such shenanigans in the company of good friends that made my summer trip Out West so memorable, but of course, the amazing whitewater, mountains, and rocks were pretty influential as well.

After enjoying a full month back home, I was restless again and ready for more adventure. Friends of mine had a private permit for a trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon, a 100-mile section of class III-IV whitewater that rolls through the Idaho wilderness.

A separate group of friends had planned a climbing trip to Colorado for the week after the river trip was to end. If I was going all the way out to Idaho to kayak, why not take an opportunity to climb in Colorado as well?

I still had a little money left over, and I figured if I spent it wisely and played my cards right, I could link the two trips and make the most of my remaining time off school.

I didn’t know for sure whether the odds would work out in my favor, but I knew that I wanted to seize this chance while I had it. I knew that graduate school would make spontaneous adventures to new places much harder to realize.Was going on this trip an impulsive and irresponsible decision? Maybe. Could my time be better spent working in Knoxville, saving money, and preparing for the future? Perhaps. In a way, I was playing the odds that my savings would hold out; that I would find a place to live for graduate school after putting off my housing search to hit the road; that I would have enough time to pack for the big move after I returned home. To some degree, I was playing the odds that I would complete the trip healthy and unhurt, and physically able to move and start school at all.

So I went for it. I hopped in with friends from Tennessee and we trucked out to Idaho. We saw new cities and met new people along the way. We floated the river with old friends and a few new ones. We experienced nature in a way that most people never get to, from the bottom of a rugged river gorge, inaccessible by any road. Entirely self supported, we lived in our own isolated world of wonder for seven days. I didn’t regret one second of it.

Afterward, I hopped in a different car and rode to Colorado, seeking mountains and tall rock faces, playing the odds even further that everything would work out. It was there that I was reminded of the true weight of this game I was participating in.

On July 11, and again on July 12, hikers were struck by lightning within a radius of only a few miles in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Each strike killed one person and left others injured.They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, so what are the odds that lightning strikes would kill two people, in two days, within the same area?

I was spending that weekend in the town just outside the park. My friends and I were watching the weather carefully, knowing the dangers full well and bailing from climbs when prudent to do so.

The victims were not climbers; they were simply tourists on a short walk away from their cars, but news of the deaths spread quickly among the climbing community, because climbers pay close attention to the dangers of lightning. On a tall face or a high peak, storms can roll in suddenly, and often from the backside of the feature so climbers may never see it coming before it is upon them.

However, hearing of the lightning strikes on hikers did not convince me that I was on the losing end of a game of chance. In fact, it did quite the opposite.  The sudden deaths reminded me that life is fragile and short, and that every day we play ‘what are the odds’ that we will live to see another.

The tragedies of the lightning struck so close to home because as a climber, I have long accepted such risks inherent to the activity. I know how to minimize the risk, but ultimately, I can be killed by lightning just as easily as unfortunate tourists can, so why would I not spend my valuable time doing something I truly enjoy?Those people did not have the odds on their side that weekend. But it could just as easily have been me that lost the game of odds—driving my car, crossing the street, playing sports, or even going to school. The reality is that any mundane activity could be my last, so although kayaking and rock climbing may put me in marginally more danger than sitting behind a desk, I am willing to accept those odds because I would rather use my breath for something exhilarating than something boring.

I can name my own odds that I will eat a whole jalapeño, but I am constantly at the mercy of certain odds that I just can’t control. When I see these odds come into play in such jarring proximity to my own life, the other odds games I play seem so insignificant.

What are the odds I’ll eat that pepper? What are the odds I’ll spend too much money before graduate school? What are the odds I’ll find a place to live?

All of a sudden these things don’t matter so much. Why not just eat the pepper anyway? Just go kayaking anyway? Go climbing anyway? I should take my chances while I still have them, because there’s no telling how many more chances I will get.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Don’t mess with Texas

“Don’t mess with Texas”, that is the first thing I’ve learn before visiting Houston. But like what Chris Brogan said “ welcome to day one, you are the superhero you’ve been waiting for.” What I did not expect is to learn and say, “Don’t mess with me”.

As a cabin crew, my sole responsibility is to ensure the service and safety of the passengers onboard. But what most people perceive me to be is a high-end waiter catering to demands from thirty-five thousand feet. Most importantly, what they did not realize, including my fellow crew, is the importance of embodying bravery at any given time and moment of flying.

So why did I choose Texas, particularly Houston as the place that inspires me to be brave and save the day? Throughout my gap year of flying, Houston was my first ultra long haul destination, with a flying duration of sixteen hours. More importantly, the one and only Houston flight that I’ve done in my flying career is the most memorable among all my other flights.

On my first Houston flight, I encountered an old Arabic man crying loudly on his seat prior to disembarkation. I wasn’t able to understand him due to language barriers, but from the translation made by the passenger sitting beside him. I’ve come to realize that his daughter had just lost her battle to cancer and is now lying inside the coffin within our cargo. The old Arabic man was feeling so distressed, he wanted to go straight to the cargo and see his daughter. Although I was feeling very sympathetic for his great loss, I had to remain firm to the distressed passenger and warned him that if he continues to display such hysterical behavior, we will have to offload him from the flight. As much as I hate to give such warning during moments of one’s depression, I know I have to because I need to know whether the passenger is mentally fit to endure sixteen hours of flying. More importantly, my judgment will contribute to the captain’s decision to have him as a passenger and whether he will be a form of distress for the entire flight. People always say ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, but from the experience of my Houston flight. I truly believe that great bravery comes with greater responsibility because true bravery is not just about being proactive. True bravery also involves empathy so that our proactive decisions will lead us to see the bigger picture for every situation, and guide us to follow the path for a greater cause.

This Houston flights taught me a very important lesson about the act of bravery, it taught me how to harness the equilibrium between kindness and wisdom. Without kindness, we will not be able to put ourselves in another’s shoe and thus, the motivation to be brave will not be genuine. However, kindness without wisdom will potentially lead us to have the worst outcome out of the best intention. Therefore in order to achieve a powerful balance between the two, we need pure bravery as a bond so that we can learn how to make the most pragmatic decisions during the worst situations. Most importantly, the accurate sense of bravery will lead us to achieve a strong sense of self-regulation so that we will avoid reckless decisions through the deep consideration of the world we belong to.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

 

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London the Hub Or the Brutal Congested City…You decide!

Do you share our Passion for travel? Would you like to see more of the world, do you think you have to save forever to take your first dream trip? Allow me to take you on a journey

Recently my husband and I decided to have some R & R in London as he was away for a month over Christmas & London…!

Now I consider London like being at home as I live in UK! So when we decided to head over to London  for a Business event in Ealing, we decided to also take some time out for “us” too :) Now Ealing is in the west side of London yet not really part of the London West end!

Last time I went to London I headed over to the Holiday Inn Kensington and enjoyed the Science Museum and The Ice Rink by the Castle! Dropped in at Harrold’s and enjoyed the ambience of The Borough of Chelsea!  So I wasn’t really expecting to be enamoured by Ealing town!

Keep in mind that we woke up at 4am to catch a 5am Train from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston and had to dash to the underground to get to Ealing Broadway for a 9am Start of the event.  Enter Ealing Broadway and we were pleasantly surprised indeed… Word of advice; If you’re going to be in London for more than a day, it’s worth buying a Visitor Oyster Card in advance, which they post to your home before you arrive in London. This is probably the best ways to get around London. If you do not do this and still plan to see London for more than a day, definitely buy an Oyster card at the Tube station…and by all means don’t get lost on the underground….Long story don’t ask :)

This part of London is definitely the Brutal congested rush hour City, Not very friendly!

But…we got to the Other side, though not the west end it was definitely A sight for sore eyes!

The streets were spotless clean… Oh you might wonder which parts of London I normally visit…but bear with me! Every time I go through London it’s never that clean! We headed over to The Ealing Town Hall and I fell in love with this part of London even more.

I love Old Architecture and the Town Hall is a handsome building that blends in beautifully with the rest of the street!

Ealing town is a lovely area to explore on foot, lots of lil cafes and shops. There are smaller shopping streets in the area. Don’t miss the Arcadia shopping centre for your generic buys!

Now we only stayed for the weekend and visited other places family and stuff, it was a kind of Whirlwind stop over but we made time to visit Walpole Park & Pitzhanger Manor House
An amazingly grand and gorgeous Manor House. (I did warn you I love old architecture). This work of art can be found at the entrance of Walpole Park. It is a grade 1 listed building and here is the bonus, there was a free art exhibition and apparently there are several all year-roundJ. And get this the park has some amazing landscaping; ornamental bridges, ponds, streams and a walled rose garden – one of my favourite sites. According to a local resident who chatted us up on our walk, in the summer months of July/August the area & park hosts a multitude of festivals  showcasing jazz, comedy, opera and, of course his fav, lashings of beer. Ealing indeed does have an abundance of lush meadows and parks; one is right across the Underground station that we walked through to the Town Hall!

Like I said I may not do this part of London justice as it was a whistle stop, so I hope I will do the city of Budapest More justice as it is our next stop over!

 Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Boston means a lot to me. The hot, sweaty summer evenings; the chilly winter mornings; the gulls down by the harbor and the street performers at Fanueil Hall. It means three years of my life. Hours spent at school, at work, at play. It also means a lot of firsts. My first apartment, my first full time job, and my first experience of a bombing. And on that day, when something that sounded like a firework being shot off ricocheted down the street, I was not brave. Everything in me turned inwards, tried to run away as I saw the mass of people streaming down the streets. The phone lines were dead. My internet was sluggish if nonfunctional. I just saw all the people running and screaming, a few cop cars going the other way.

It was warm by that time of year, a welcome relief from the wet winter, and I stood in my apartment, alone, staring out. The flow of people had slowed but the scream of the sirens had not. It took me a minute to realize my phone was ringing. I assumed it was an emergency alert, but it was my friend, Ana. I picked up the phone; it felt like a death sentence. Until then, I had no idea what was going on. In the next second, I will. Can I handle that?

Behind Ana was shouting and sirens and the static sound of chaos. She was choking back tears, repeating my name. “What’s the matter? What’s wrong?” I kept asking, telling her it would be okay in intervals, even though I had no idea what she was so worried by. The dread I felt at knowing deepened.

“They bombed the marathon,” she said with a hiccup. My stomach sank. We were supposed to be there together now, at the finish line, but my computer had gotten a virus that I had to take care of. We called it off, but it sounded like she had still gone. “I was on the green line when it happened, at Park St, they forced us off. I—I don’t know who did it or what’s going on, can you come get to me?”

It was a small question, one that was hard to pick out from the all the background noise. I was about to say yes even though I knew it was impossible—the bombing was between us and the T was shut down. My response was precluded when Ana started up shouting. A reporter was asking her for a statement. She did not want to talk. The phone call ended and my service refused to come back.

I decided to go out, see what was going on and meet with a friend. And while I was not brave, still terrified out of my mind, the people of Boston changed that. Walking down Columbus Avenue, I heard stories of runners in the Marathon that had continued on past the finish line to run to the hospital to donate blood. Of the first responders who were able to clear out the area quickly. I expected an atmosphere of anger, or some degree of a violent, visceral reaction. But the bombing had not torn Boston apart, rather, in those very moments, it had brought the city together.

When the city was shut down. When terrorists were being chased. When men with assault rifles guarded the streets. I felt no fear in me. I felt invincible. And I still do, whether I am on the bricklaid sidewalks of the South End or now on the cobblestones of Germany. I remember the bravery of so many and the strength of the community, and with that I am braver as well. I look forward to moving back to Boston in a year, but look even more eagerly towards the adventures between then and now.

Boston made me brave and, one day, I look forward to giving back to the community.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Dear America

 

Dear America,

I need to apologize to you the way an adult with kids of their own has to apologize to their parents for rebellious teen age years. I never appreciated you until I left home.

Last year when I “finally” packed my bags and left the country for half a year I threw you the deuces and hopped on a plane. I knew there would be things I would miss, certainly there would be people, but you? America? Unlikely. I had always felt disdain towards your flapping, bright colored flag and enthusiastic “God bless America” speeches. Any show of patriotism always seemed to me pompous, arrogant, and above all, ignorant to what was going on in the world outside of our meager four percent of the population. But I was no exception to that ignorance, and I learned something in these other countries I visited that made me strangely defensive of you. I learned that I was not the only one with this particular sentiment.

No, apparently, you are the country everyone loves to hate. Apparently I’ve been rolling my eyes at you for all these years with most of the rest of the world. Everywhere that I went people made jokes about America or Americans, somehow overlooking that I was one. The jibes about your portion sizes and ignorance of geography were just too much sometimes. The only thing more frustrating was the way that all of us, Americans, reacted to it – joking a long or staying silent – apologizing for you when we should have been apologizing to you. You don’t deserve this, and I’m so afraid that you’ve started to believe you do.

I don’t want to tell you this, but I think just beneath your enthusiastic pride, you already know; most of the world thinks that you are a highly superficial nation that never has to do anything dangerous or uncomfortable. I’m sorry that I believed that too. And I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t stick up for who you really are. If it’s not to late, listen to another perspective.

You are passionate. You are sensitive. Your heart is huge and generous and you are so much fun.

When I heard accusations for you being otherwise, I felt a defensiveness for you, but it wasn’t until I got back home that I realized how misunderstood you have been. It wasn’t until the after party for a 5k I ran for orphans in India that I realized who you are so eager to be.

The run was put on by a few college age kids that decided to single handedly take on the task of building an orphanage. Local businesses joined in to cover all the run’s expenses. Over three hundred people showed up to race. Ten thousand dollars were raised.

This might be just the kind of thing that people would mock you for. That “Americans will pull some money out of their pockets but aren’t willing to get their hands dirty.” But these are just the kind of accusations that are making you insecure and helpless and that are simply not true.

It’s not true about the young adults that did all of the work to make this run happen and who are bringing every cent of the money they raised back to India with them. And they are Americans. It’s not true about myself who literally thanked God for this opportunity to do something for a country I had visited and fallen in love with earlier in the year. And I am American. So it can not be true about you either.

Here’s what I think: I think that we are extremely aware of how sheltered and privileged we are and I think it scares us. I think we know that there is a world out their that faces things we know nothing about, and I think that this intimidates us and roots us further into our security, and our comforts and our large portion sizes. But I think that just below all of that is the heart of a nation that is aching to give, to love and to serve. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. I know that it is there. We just have to stop believing the lies that are projected on us by people who have only seen our comedy TV Shows and fashion magazines. It’s not anyone’s fault. We haven’t made a very impressive show of being anything else. But that’s put us in a cycle that I want to apologize for being a part of. It’s put us into a cycle that I want to break. I want to be brave for you America. To show you that you can be. To show the world that we are.

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Located in the home of the brave and the one that has been known as the city that never sleeps; say hi to New York City. The city that is usually termed as N.Y.C. offers the best things one can ever wished for, from fashion to food, from Chrysler building to chances. Whether you are looking for couture gowns or just to stroll down the park, New York will pleasantly provide them for you. The live and upbeat atmosphere of New York cannot also be denied to have inspired some of the successful people in the world; it can also include you!. People consider the atmosphere of New York as a magic seed. Everything you see, everything you hear, and everything you meet can certainly inspire you.

As you step into the city, your attitude starts to shift; not only your attitude, but your priorities too. The feeling of ‘everything is possible’ is securely held in your hand. It does not matter if you start your journey from the historical Matthew Henson’s residence and end it with eating at the famous New York street food, Red Hook Lobster Pound food truck; every activities you conduct in New York will still make you feel from ‘No’ to ‘Noble’. The bright city lights at Time Square and the trees at Central Park will generate ideas you have never come across. The energized feeling possessed by New York will make you feel brave and bold.

The contribution from the people of New York in making this city as one of the greatest cities in the world cannot assuredly be understated; the people of New York are one of the world’s exemplars. Do you know that there is a nickname for the people of New York? Yes, there is! They are called as New Yorkers. New Yorkers are equipped with the best self-esteem, knowledge, and of course, fashion.  The competitive yet friendly vibe carried by New Yorkers inspires the people around them to become better at whatever they are doing. The fire inside the New Yorkers to become better each day is very contagious. It does not matter if it is a New Yorker you meet at Bergdorf Goodman or the one you meet at China Town, the vibe will definitely still be there.

Culinary plays a massive role in New York. You thought you have tasted the best food in the world? Wait until you go to New York. New York’s culinary ranges from a 3 US$ street foods to the world’s fanciest ice cream at Serendipity 3 restaurant, which priced at 1,000 US$…a glass. There is always a place for everyone, from those who only fancy dessert to those who fancy big meals. What about entertainment? Well surprise, surprise. New York is not a stranger to have been one of the notable places for entertainment, from the famous New York Broadway plays to the eminent location for big-screen movies; for example: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, King-Kong, Batman and so on and so forth. Your visit to New York City will be worth it since you will get a chance to visit the real location of some of the famous movies in the world.

Not only that New York will provide you with the best experience that you will ever receive, New York City will also change you as a person; braver, bolder, better. The greatest entertainments, skyscrapers, foods, fashion, and etc. await you. But let’s not forget the opportunity offered by the city as well. Tom Wolfe once said that “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” – What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and see you in New York City!

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