Equality Forgotten

One in the Same

One in the Same

I have been blessed with an open mind, where the idea of being better than someone else because of my skin color, my hair color, my eye color, whatever it may be, means absolutely nothing. I have been blessed with an open heart, where the words “racism”, “discrimination”, and “judgement” do not exist, and never, for as long as I live, ever will. I have been blessed with a set of eyes that are always wide open, in hopes that I will see and learn cultures unfamiliar to me. I have been blessed with open hands, that will hold and help the hand next to me, whoever that person may be. I say the word “blessing”, because there are too many people in this world who do not share my outlook on life; who were taught to be close-minded and therefore cannot see anything beyond themselves. I am not a perfect person, no, I am in fact far, far from perfect, but the difference between myself and someone who puts themselves above others, is the fact that I make that effort to break down the racial barriers that STILL plague our world today. And THAT is a blessing; to put race, sex, religious preferences aside and to treat everyone as you would a friend.

I have been meaning to write a blog post about this topic for a while, but of course, I pushed it on the back burner, always coming up with a new or better topic to write about. But the fact is, this issue is something that affects each and every one of us…this is something that EVERYONE understands and is prevalent in each of our lives, no matter what shape it may take. Maybe you are on the receiving end of this, where people run to conclusions about who you “MUST” be and determine your character without so much as saying a “hello” to you. Or, maybe unintentionally, you are the one who is doing the judging. Maybe you are the one who continually makes racist jokes or feels uncomfortable when talking to someone you consider “out of your comfort zone”. No matter which end of this spectrum you are on, just admitting you are simply “on” the spectrum sadly admits that this is an issue that occurs each and every day.

With the recent court ruling in the George Zimmerman/Treyvon Martin case, I knew that there was no better time than now to write about something like this. Now, I’m not going to go into the details of who I think was right, and who I think was wrong in that court case, because that is not what I want to focus on. Rather, the fact that this is even an ISSUE in today’s day and age is what has me completely baffled. 

Right now, life in 2013 has been the most convenient, most connected, most in touch, and most knowledgeable generation EVER, in the history of the world. We can chat with someone that lives oceans apart from us, we can have our groceries delivered to our front door step, we can find the name, birth date, job information, address, phone number, and ex girlfriends of someone all within a matter of SECONDS. We get news updates immediately when something is happening, even if it is on the other side of the world, and through social media, we can connect and interact with celebrities, politicians, and basically, anyone who is anyone. But yet, even with all this power that we now possess literally at the push of a button, we STILL cannot find a way to treat others as equals. We can’t seem to find a way to part with this shallow and uneducated way of thinking that we are better than someone else simply because of the way we look, our religious preferences, sexual orientation..etc. We simply cannot muster up the POWER to stop this way of thinking.

Well, guess what? What you look like, where you were born, whether you are attracted to men or women…it’s all a matter of straight COINCIDENCE. You have no say in what you look like, no opinion in what kind of religious upbringing you want to be a part of, and no voice in which country you are born in. You didn’t wake up one morning and “decide” to be black or white, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian. Put simply,  it was just through a whole lotta luck that you were born the way you were. You could have SO easily been born and raised in a country much different than the one you are living in today, in which your freedoms could be counted on two hands and every decision was already decided for you.  Be thankful for what you have and where you live, but do not, under any circumstance, consider yourself BETTER than the person next to you, who may have experienced this world much differently than the way you have. 

Think about it. Women were granted the right to vote less than one hundred years ago, and yet now, it is silly to even imagine a time when women did not possess this right. Think about slavery and the time when African Americans were denied the right to vote. It seems so…close minded. Right? And yet now we think it is ok to deny two people who love each other the right to marry. Turn the tables and think about how you would react and how you would feel if someone told you you couldn’t marry someone because it violated their religious beliefs? Now, I’m just saying this for sake of example, but this is the kind of discrimination that fuels the endless amount of hate and intolerance  in this world.

My opinions and my views on how people should be treated should not be categorized in any kind of “political” context. I do not consider myself to be left wing nor right wing. Rather, I like to think of myself of someone that is just open minded and someone who realizes that we are all just people. People that all share the same hopes, dreams, and goals. We all want to be happy. We all want to make our mark on the world. We all want to be loved. And that’s the bottom line, isn’t it? To be happy…to be free…to be treated as an equal.

Life is too short to possess these prejudices. This world will open its arms to you if you go into it unbiased and free of judgement.

That is, if you let it.

Photo Credit to http://leagueofvillians.tumblr.com/
 

 

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Through New Eyes, Story Two

Just a Casual Skydive

See the World!!

So you want to travel the world, right? You want to see travel this earth from end to end, with the truest intention to eat, explore, and discover everything there is to offer, with nothing getting in your way. Looking at a map seems to be the gateway to your dreams, and the butterflies you get in your stomach when you hear about exotic places makes your heart beat faster and has your thoughts running wild. Rome, Venice, Istanbul, Melbourne, St. Petersburg, Munich, Barcelona, Brazil…it’s all waiting for you. Now, how to get there is the question. Look no further, because the person I am featuring for my “Through New Eyes” project is a good friend of mine who did everything I just mentioned, and then some.

Meet Bryan, the world-wide traveler who spent five months flying around the globe, with only a backpack and some plane tickets. As a true believer in the six degrees of separation, the idea that everyone is connected to each other in some way or another, meeting Bryan just reaffirmed my belief. I met Bryan while in Munich last summer on a free walking tour of the city. After talking for a little while, Bryan and I both realized that we not only came from Cleveland, but both graduated from Ohio State. Crazy, right? So, naturally, Bryan, my boyfriend, our new Australian friend, and myself, all went out that night to experience Munich’s infamous club scene, which consisted of plenty of techno music, wild lights, and many, many pictures. After hanging out with Bryan in Munich, we saw him again in Venice, and then again in Rome. After Rome, we left Europe to fly back home to the States, while Bryan continued his crazy adventures. Here is his story, in his own words.

What company did you use to plan your around the world trip?
All the planning in the actual destinations I did on my own, the company I used to book my flights is called Airtreks http://www.airtreks.com they specialize in booking packages like the one I did and they are much flexible in planning flights than booking using airline alliances as they allow you to book with multiple airline partners. You have a personal representative who can assist you with your booking, and they provide free travel insurance (a must have) when you book your trip.

How did you go about deciding which countries to visit? Did the company have a list of countries to choose from?
The choice of destinations was made by me, it was mainly just places I had always wanted to see as well as some suggestions made by others. Airtreks gave me great flexibility on which coutries I wanted to go to since they didn’t have any restrictions on where I could or could not go, they also helped me in choosing the order of destinations by telling me if it was cheaper flying out of one place than another.

How did you hear about these world excursions?
I had originally come up with the desire to do this on my own, and through research I found how common it was to do a trip like this. Some great sites I had for inspiration were http://www.nomadicmatt.com and http://www.bootsnall.com . Nomadic Matt is a guy from Boston who has been traveling around the world for about 4 year’s now and he provides a lot of great travel and planning tips. Bootsnall is a great traveler’s community site where you can talk to other traveler’s on their forums and get advice on your trip.

How many countries/cities did you visit on your trip? Where was your starting point and where was your ending point?
I visited a total of 20 different countries. I started in London and my last stop was Hawaii. A quick overview of countries: England, Ireland, France, Monaco, Belguim, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Greece, Russia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Tahiti, US.

How did you prepare for a trip like this? How did you figure out what to pack?
Preparing for this trip was honestly the most difficult part, imagine all your possesions, and now imagine that you could only have access for the next 5 months to those things that you could fit into a 40 pound backpack. It really lends some perspective to what things you really need in your everyday life. The good thing is there are a lot of sites out there, including the ones I already gave that provide some general packing lists. Another good thing is I never stayed in a hostel that didn’t have some sort of access to laundry services so that made it a heck of a lot easier to pack things knowing that I could do laundry on a semi regular basis. I also lucked out that I didn’t go anywhere that was very cold for a long time so I mostly needed to pack summer clothing. In terms of preparation for the next city I would visit, my ultimate resource waswww.wikitravel.com which is essentially a wikipedia but for travelers, it provides tons of great information of destinations all around the world, anything from how to get around using public transportation, to places to eat, to local customs you need to know about, I could not have done my trip as successfully without it.

How long were you gone for?
I was gone for about 5 months.

Is there anything you would’ve changed about your trip? Is there any place you wish you would’ve gone to?
A couple of things I would’ve changed were 1. I would’ve allowed myself a little more flexibilty in terms of being able to stay in a place I liked longer or make it easier to travel with new friends. 2. Not packing as much as I did. As far as places I wish I went the 2 places I regret not going to the most were Eastern Europe (Czech Republic, Croatia specifcially) and Southeast Asia (Thailand and Cambodia). These are 2 destinations that as Americans when we hear about them we tend to think they are a bit sketchy, but after hearing dozens of stories from fellow travelers on how great they are, they are now 2 places I plan to go visit someday for sure.

Since you did this trip on your own, was it fairly easy to make friends?
It was really easy to make new friends, although at first it took me some time to break out of my shell. I’m normally pretty shy when it comes to meeting people, but doing this trip really forced me to change that, otherwise I would’ve been alone and not enjoyed the trip nearly as much. I also met a lot of people doing similar solo travels so they too were looking to meet new people which made it even easier to make new friends.

How did you find hostels? Did the travel company you used help you find these hostels?
One thing I was really surprised about was how much I enjoyed staying in hostels. I think the perception of hostels that most Americans have are from that God awful Hostel movie. The way I like to describe staying in hostels is to imagine you are back in Freshman year of college in a dorm room. Most hostel dorms range from 4-10 beds in a room, the more you pay the less people are in the room. Prices range from as cheap as $10 a night to $30 (which is great since you can use the money you save to get a nice dinner or do an activity that you might not otherwise have done), they are very clean for the most part, they are centrally located, and many came with better free amenties than most nice hotels. For instance I never stayed in a single hostel in Europe or Asia that didn’t have free wifi, and about 90% of hostels I stayed in had free breakfast each morning. Hostels are also great for solo travelers as it is much much easier to meet people in one than it is if you were staying in a hotel. As long as you don’t mind sacrificing a bit of privacy, hostels are an incredible value and a very fun and interesting experience. All of my hostel bookings were done through hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com. These sites are invaluable as you get user reviews that give you an idea of what you are getting into before you go.

What was the craziest memory you have from your trip?
I don’t have one particular craziest memory, I can name off a few though, skydiving in New Zealand, bungy jumping in New Zealand, swimming with sharks in Australia, Eating Gyros and watching the Sun come up after partying all night in Greece, sleeping on the beach in Fiji.

Favorite city?
Florence was probably my favorite city, it has such an incredible mix of old and new, and the people there were incredibly nice.

Coolest/most unique thing you ate while on your trip?
The best thing I ate on my trip was a nine course Kobe beef dinner in Tokyo. The most unique thing I ate was a tie between a duck brain and a scorpion on a stick in Beijing.

How much should someone budget for a trip like this?
A budget for a trip like this really depends on what you want to do an where you want to go. It’s possible to live on $50 a day if you stay in hostels, make your own meals, and limit the activities you do and drinking. Personally I budgeted for myself between $75-$100 a day, which afforded me the ability to do activities I wanted to do, as well as to have good moderatley priced meals when I wanted to. If I knew I was going to do something that would be expensive in the next week or so I would cut back on my budget the days prior to save up the money.

Any advice you would give for someone looking to do a similar trip?
My best advice for planning is to give yourself enough flexibility with your planning that if something unexpected comes up you can change up your plan’s and do it. Also do your research, there are tons and tons of resources online that can be invaluable to your planning on what to take and how to get around easily. My last tip is when you are on your trip is to take advantage of every opportunity that is presented you, you may never have the chance to do what you are doing again, so don’t have any regrets that you didn’t do something you wanted to do.

Dinner in Venice!

Dinner in Venice!

Also, check out Bryan’s blog that he kept while abroad!
http://thebuckeyetraveler.wordpress.com/

 

The Road Less Traveled

Open Road

Here is Now

Better safe than sorry, or better to live and learn? That’s the question I’m juggling with right now…and when I say “juggling,” I really mean throwing everything I know up into the air and hoping that it lands in one piece. Do the people who take chances and risks get more out of life than those that don’t, those people who constantly experience the “not knowing” of a situation but dive in head first anyways? Or are the people who stick to what they know the smarter ones? The people who like the security of knowing what’s going to happen next, of what to expect and don’t feel the need to step out of their comfort zone simply because they don’t have to. In the end, who ends up on top?

If you have been keeping up with this fabulous blog (but of course you have, right?), you should know my answer to that question. If you’ve been reading about my stories and my outlook on life on here, then that answer should be a given. Right? Well, while you are not wrong, I must also admit that recently I’ve experienced the latter end of that question. Sure, I love traveling and being spontaneous, but I’ve learned how to be comfortable and content with routine. I know what to expect out of my days, I usually know what I’m doing on the weekends a few days in advance (and for those that know me, that’s a huge milestone), I know the people I’m going to see, the foods I’m going to eat, and the places I’m going to go. I know the joggers I’m going to pass while on my way to work (yes, I see the same people jogging at the same time everyday…semi creepy), and overall, I feel so….secure. No surprises, no tricks, just straightforward and…generic.

But where’s the fun in that? The few times that I’ve thought about enjoying the routine of everything, I am quick to bite my tongue. Because I know that’s not me. I know that’s not what I want. And I only think that because I am “in the moment” of it. It’s so easy to become comfortable with a routine and a schedule, but I’m not looking for easy. I want a challenge. I NEED a challenge. What I am most afraid of out of life is being sucked into something because it is easy and secure. Sure, right now, I live in Cleveland, and while I do love this city more than anything, I also know that there is SO much more out there. I do not want to stay in Cleveland because, for me, that is the easy thing to do. I KNOW Cleveland will always be here for me, it’s my home, my city, my life. But at the same time, there is so much more to simply experience and explore. People think I’m crazy for wanting to move and for wanting to live in a big, new city, but really, isn’t there nothing better than doing something a little crazy, a tad scary, and something straight out wild?

And while I debate back and forth between the “easy” life, and the “adventurous” life, I always come back to the same story, the same lesson. Last year, while I was a senior at Ohio State, I was a marketing/public relations intern for a local Columbus neighborhood. Our main job was to focus on how to market this trendy, up and coming neighborhood. The lady in charge of the association was intimidating, straightforward, and knew exactly what she wanted, when she wanted it. And I completely looked up to her. One day, it was just her and I in the office, and she told me a story of how after college graduation, she up and moved to Miami beach with a friend of hers and bar tended there for eight years, without having any initial plan at all. It was the time of her life…when she only had to worry about herself and had the freedom to do any and everything she wanted. Her time in Miami didn’t last forever, and in fact she is now happily married with a baby, but she STILL refers to those days as some of the best ever…because the story of it will live forever (refer to my previous blog posts for more on this topic…).

And that, right there, is the point to my story. What’s 2 years, 5 years, or even 8 years of doing something spontaneous and exhilarating in the big scheme of life? Take that risk, make the next move, go out on that limb. If you mess up or decide it’s not for you, well, who cares? It’s YOUR life, and you live and learn, but you most definitely don’t know until you try. And you will never get another shot at it, ever, because you only experience life once. If you are at a crossroad in your life, having no idea of which direction to go in and which road will lead you to the greatest happiness, take my advice. Take the road you are most scared of. Take the bumpy road, the jagged road, with the destination unknown. Take the road less traveled.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowline. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. DREAM“.
-Mark Twain