Dear Non-Feminists,…

Hi, I am a feminist.

I don’t know if you’ll still read on after that sentence but I sincerely hope you do.  I know this subject is a heavy one, and I promise I am not going to try and convince you of everything I believe or attack your own beliefs.  I just want to address a few things that I think the mainstream media and social media outlets have distorted, and, as a result, this distortion has caused division, hatred and, in my opinion, regression.

In writing this, I am not trying to convert non-feminists into feminists.  I solely want to explain my beliefs in a candid way and the reasons why I hold these beliefs.

So today, I’d like to clear up three common misconceptions about feminists and feminism.

 

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Graphic by Martine Ehrhart

 

But first, a little background information:

The feminist movement, since the inception of the word “féminisme” in French in 1837, includes all movements working to obtain women’s rights (even when these movements were not explicitly self-defined as a “feminist movement”).  Historians consider modern feminism to have occurred in three waves.  The first being comprised of the women’s suffrage movements (women’s right to vote), the second, beginning in the 1960’s, was the women’s liberation movement (social and legal equality), and the third, most recent wave, beginning in the 1990’s and (I would argue) continuing to this very day, is a continuation to the ideas of the women’s liberation movement and a reaction to what was unaddressed and/or dismissed in second wave feminism.  It introduced terms and ideas including intersectionality, postmodern feminism,  womanism (within black feminism), sex positivity, etc.

Misconception #1:  Feminists are misandrists. (Misandrist=Men-hating)

In every instance of its creation and evolution, the feminist movement’s goal has been to advocate for women’s rights so that political, social, legal, financial and personal equality of the sexes may be achieved.

Feminism, in reality, is a working corrector of centuries of social and institutionalized misogyny.  It is, in no way, “a gender-swapped version of it”.  Yes, I am aware that some women claiming to be feminist’s are outspoken in their hatred for men, in their beliefs that men are inferior, etc. However, as the definition of feminism lies in the basis of gender equality, we know that this is not feminism.  

Just as Christians can express that the actions and claims of the Westboro Baptist Church do not represent Christianity; just as Muslims can express that the actions of ISIS do not represent Islam; just as a person who calls themself “pro-life” can express that the actions of an abortion clinic bomber do not represent the Pro-life movement; Feminists can express that these aforementioned claims do not represent the feminist movement.

As a side note: My partner (who is a man) is a feminist.  Men can, are and, in my honest opinion, ought to be feminists. Feminism is also about men. This leads me to my second ‘misconception’.

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Misconception #2: Feminism is only about women, only women can be feminists, and feminism only benefits women.

Feminists are advocates for gender equality.  Feminists are also vocal opponents of many things damaging to boys and men in our society.  I believe that it’s extremely important to understand how patriarchy harms men while also giving them benefits simultaneously.

Examples include:

-Gender Roles

-Societal expectations for men to not have nor show their emotions (“boys don’t cry” / ”don’t be a girl”)

-The fact that male victims of domestic violence and rape are often unheard or not believed by friends, family, judges, jurors, etc.

-Toxic Masculinity (traditional norms imposed on boys and men equating that they must be, aggressive, insensitive, sexually dominant, etc.)

-The societal conception that women are naturally better nurturers of children, can lead to a mother getting child custody even in the case of a great father vs a negligent, and/or abusive mother.

-The expectation for men not to have an interest in dancing, cooking, fashion, art is so intense that it instills a fear in men. (i.e. if they do like an activity society deems feminine they will be called a “girl” or “gay”)

-There are so. many. more.

Feminism as a movement is seeking to change how we as a society function within these contexts of gender roles and sexist norms which limit and harm men and women every single day.

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Misconception # 3: Feminists think men and women are the same.

Yes and no.

As a feminist, I wholeheartedly believe that men and women are the same (equals) in terms of value, respect, worth, voice, competency, intelligence, agency, importance, the list goes on.

However, obviously, men and women are not the same in terms of biology nor in terms of experience (i.e. my experience as a woman, is far different from that of a man’s).

Feminism is rooted in the idea of equality, not identicalness.

In conclusion,

I hope the ideas I have mentioned, at the least, gave you something to think about and, at the most, helped you to find value in feminism and appreciate what this movement is trying to achieve.  

Nevertheless, thank you for reading.

P.S. As a side note, there are obviously many more misconceptions about the feminist movement, and I may write about those in the future.  Please feel free to leave a comment or message me if you have any questions.

 

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9 Must-Haves for a Comfy Travel Day

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1. Noise-Canceling Headphones: You are going to be so glad you brought these when the baby across the aisle starts wailing or if you’ve been assigned the seat next to the guy that wants to make conversation the whole flight.  My go-to pair of noise-canceling headphones are my Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones but I also love my pair of the BÖHM Wireless B66 Bluetooth Headphones which are more affordable at $85.

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2. Amazing Playlist or Favorite Podcast: Before you head to the airport make sure that you have a playlist of your favorite songs.  Listening to songs that put you in a good mood can drastically improve your experience on a long flight.  If you have a favorite podcast, then download it so you can listen to it when you get bored of listening to music.

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3. Good Books and Guide Books:  Before a long flight it’s always a good idea to pick up a book you’ve been dying to read along with a book or two about the destination you’re headed to.  If you don’t have any books you’ve been dying to read, I 100% recommend Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar or Carrie Fisher’s Postcards from the Edge.

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4. Eye-Mask:  Great for catching some zzz’s, even if your neighbor has their reading light on.  The eye-masks that airlines provide are normally pretty cheap, always slip off your face and are uncomfortable.  I always use my Bucky Contoured Eye-Mask, it has cups over your eyes, so it’s super comfortable and doesn’t mess up your makeup or eyelash extensions plus its only 10 bucks.

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5. Comfy Socks: During your flight, you’re going to eventually want to take off your shoes. Comfy warm socks are perfect for sleeping on a cold plane.

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6. Leggings/Sweatpants: The airport is the worst place for dressing up; it makes going through security difficult and your flight uncomfortable.  Even if you are flying to a warm destination, You might consider wearing leggings/sweats to the airport because it’ll probably be cold on the plane.  My favorite pairs of leggings are my Lululemon Wunder Under Leggings and my Under Armour HeatGear Leggings (these are lifesavers if you’re headed somewhere cold).
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7. Sweater or pullover: A nice comfy sweater or pull-over will help you stay warm and feel super comfortable the whole flight.

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8. Travel Snacks: Granola bars, pretzels, salted nuts, and fruit are all healthy snacks allowed through airport security (unopened, in their packaging).  If you have dietary restrictions, this is super important because your airline may have very limited if any meal/snack options for you.

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9. Empty Water Bottle: Staying hydrated can help prevent jet lag.  You’re allowed to take an empty water bottle through security, and then you can fill it up at a water fountain.  Plus it saves you cash since you don’t have to buy an expensive water at one of the airport shops.

Hope this helps you pack for your next trip, xoxo Tyler.

The U.S. Airlines to Fly in 2017: My Favorites

So, you’ve decided to go on an adventure somewhere but, before you book a place to stay or build your itinerary, you need to buy the plane tickets.  There are many options and every airline seems to say they’re “the best”.  However, that simply isn’t true. There is no one best airline for every flight.

If you are the kind of person who only flys one airline for every occasion, you are probably LOSING money (most likely for no reason).

Here’s a tip: Don’t rely on Expedia, Travelocity or Cheap-o-air for comparing flight costs.  Airlines like Southwest, Virgin, Allegiant, etc. are often times not displayed and you may mistakingly buy a more expensive ticket with an airline that offers less.

I put together a list of, in my opinion, the best U.S. airlines to fly and the best situations in which to fly them.

VIRGIN AMERICA

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Perks to flying Virgin:

  1. The cabins are up-to-date, meaning black leather seats in Economy, charging ports for every passenger on board, and the in-flight entertainment is amazing. 
  2. Great snacks (from local San Francisco retailers), and they offer meals for purchase!
  3. They are also known for great customer service and non-robotic flight attendants with a sense of humor.

When to fly with Virgin:

  1. Best for flights from the U.S. to Central America and the Caribbean.
  2. Best for flights to California as their hubs are in SanFran and LA, they offer exceptionally good prices to their hubs.

Airline Equality Score: 7/10

(This Airline is currently planning to merge with Alaska in 2019)

JETBLUE

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Perks to flying Jetblue:

  1. The cabin seats are comfy. This airline specifically has the most legroom in coach (out of all other US airlines).
  2. Great Free Snacks, forget the peanuts and stale pretzels, Jetblue offers Cheeze-its, Popcorners, cookies and more.
  3. I find their customer service incredible.  They are friendly and accommodating even in stressful situations, (like when, due to weather, all flights out of Boston were delayed HOURS).
  4. In-flight entertainment is amazing (Recently released movies, classics, etc.)
  5. Also, they are the only airline with free high-speed Wi-Fi at every seat.
  6. Boarding Process is the smoothest, most efficient thing I have ever experienced. I am convinced every airline should follow Jetblue’s model. They board from the back rows to the front rows, MEANING that the 30-50 minute boarding process is reduced to around 15 minutes!

When to fly Jetblue:

  1. Best for Flights to New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Florida (FLL or MCO), or California (LGB).  These five airports are their hubs and if you are flexible with your flight dates, you can find a pretty good deal.
  2. They also offer great prices flying from the U.S. (specifically Fort Lauderdale) to Central America and the Caribbean.

Airline Equality score: 6/10

ALASKA AIRLINES

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Perks to flying Alaska:

  1. Customer Service is known to be accommodating and kind.
  2. Seats are comfy and, like Virgin, you’ll find black leather seats in coach, charging ports for every passenger, and in-flight entertainment. 
  3. Alaska offers Free Chat (free inflight messaging) which can be useful if you are coordinating pickup from the airport or if you are awaiting an important message.

When to fly Alaska:

  1. Best for flights to Alaska, Seattle, and Portland which are their hubs, typically, they offer great prices to these locations.
  2. Alaska often has good prices to Hawaii as well.

Airline Equality Score: 7/10

(Set to merge with Virgin in 2019)

SOUTHWEST

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Perks to flying Southwest:

  1. Value: Southwest offers great prices and there are no bag fees and no change fees.  Your carry-on flys free, up-to-two checked bags fly free, and if you decide you wanna catch an earlier flight home, you can WITHOUT A FEE.
  2. Southwest is known for their hospitality and often exceed customer’s expectations.
  3. The seats are comfy, offer leg-room and, on longer flights, they offer in-flight entertainment.

When to fly Southwest:

  1. Best when you are going on a longer trip and/or planning on taking two-checked bags.
  2. Southwest has many hubs: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago–Midway, Dallas–Love, Denver, Houston–Hobby, Las Vegas, Oakland, Orlando, and Phoenix–Sky Harbor.  They offer great prices to these locations but also others.  I check Southwest for almost every trip I go on, and often times the price is equal to or lower than the competition.

Airline Equality Score: 6/10

SPIRIT AND FRONTIER

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Perks to flying Spirit and/or Frontier:

  1. PRICE: these are budget airlines and the base fares are incredibly low.
  2. Decent Customer Service: Every flight I have taken with Spirit and Frontier was okay in terms of customer service.

When to fly Spirit or Frontier:

  1. Best for domestic flights, shorter trips, with VERY little luggage. If you’re a light traveler, comfortable without all of the ‘extras’ most airlines provide, flying Spirit or Frontier can save you hundreds on flight tickets.  A ticket with them solely entails getting you and a small personal item from point A to point B.
  2. Warning: If you are not the kind of traveler mentioned above beware of fees:  $30 for a carry-on suitcase, $40 to check a bag, $110-to change a flight, $10 for Spirit to print a boarding pass (Just print at home, or use a mobile boarding pass), $1–50-to pick a seat (let them pick a seat for you), $1–15-for snacks and drinks (bring a water bottle), etc. (all fees are approximates)

Airline Equality Score: 3/10

 

Any tips to add? What’s your favorite airline to fly?

 

Learning a Foreign Language: 7 Fool-Proof Tips

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Learning a foreign language is hard.  I have learned two foreign languages myself and can attest to the frustration and hard work that encompasses the endeavor.  Throughout my escapades learning French and Spanish, I have discovered 7 effective tips for significantly increasing fluency and comprehension.

LISTENING: audiobooks, Netflix, and lyrics

When we learn our first language we spend the first 7 or so months JUST LISTENING. Trying to understand and differentiate between all of the different sounds that make up our mother tongue.  This listening step is also incredibly important (and I would argue the foundation for) foreign language acquisition.  This is the premise for the first 3 tips.

1. Watch most TV shows and movies in your target language. If you have Netflix and Hulu, many shows and movies are offered in multiple other languages.  Using subtitles either in your first language or in the target language often helps with comprehension.

2. Download an audiobook in your target language. I recommend it be a book that you have previously read, especially if you are just beginning to learn the language. I also recommend the book be a children’s or young-adult chapter book.  These typically use more conversational phrases, useful vocabulary and verb tenses.  Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone is a good example.  Listen to the audiobook while you are going to bed, getting ready, showering, eating breakfast, whatever.  Try to aim for a chapter a day.

3. Make a playlist with songs you like in your target language. Play them in your car while driving.  Soon you will start to learn the lyrics and sing along to them.  You’ll notice increased comprehension, pronunciation, and memory of the words and phrases in the songs.

STUDYING: words, verbs, grammar, conjugation, everything

Whether it be classes at your university, high school, community center, or online language learning like Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, or Babbel; Studying does facilitate the retention of new words, correct grammar, conjugation of verbs, etc. However, how you are studying is important and indicative of your either impending success or struggle.  Here what I recommend:

4. Try to focus on verbal learning. Often times foreign language learners find themselves in the awful predicament of being able to write a complete and complex essay in their target language but unable to have a simple conversation with a native speaker of said target language.  This is often due to a disproportionate focus on studying spoken vs written.  In too many classes, whether in person or online, students spend approximately 80% of their time learning and studying focusing on writing and reading the target language and about 20% focusing on speaking and listening.  I would argue that it should, in fact, be the opposite.

Converse, whenever, wherever and with whoever you can

5. Having conversations in your target languages helps build and improve almost every aspect of fluency. I always find it helpful to tell the person I am speaking with that they should feel free to correct me whenever I am wrong.

Go to where the language is widely spoken

6. Say you live in Texas and you are trying to learn Spanish. You have so many options: visit the Spanish-speaking neighborhoods around where you live, fly to Mexico, backpack through Spain.  Say you live in Kansas City and are learning French, you also have many options: Join the Alliance Francaise (a group that meets often around the city to enjoy French conversation), take a road trip to Montreal, Canada or Fly to France.

Give yourself grace

7. This is an extremely difficult thing you have set out to accomplish and you should be proud of and patient with yourself every step of the way.  Even when you can’t remember a simple word or phrase.  Even when you have no idea what the person in front of you speaking in plain Chinese just said.  Give yourself some grace, and then get back to practicing those verb conjugations.

You can do it. Puedes hacerlo. Vous pouvez le faire.

YOUNG & TRAVELING: HOW I AFFORD IT

Surprise, I did not sell all of my possessions, quit my job and decide to travel indefinitely. I am a full-time college student, and I have a car payment and rent to worry about along with other bills. My mom is not funding this expensive dream of mine. (Shout-out to my mom though, she’s the best.)

Since January, I have traveled to eight countries and I will be traveling to at least five more by December.

 

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Playa Red Frog, Isla Bastimentos, Panamá

 

I frequently get asked the question, “But how do you afford to travel so much?”.

For me, it all really comes down to five key things.

1. Travel Cheaply

Traveling used to be a rich man’s hobby.  It isn’t anymore.  I book budget airlines like Wow Air, Spirit, Southwest, etc (most of the time when they are having sales).  I book a $30 Airbnb instead of spending $100+ on a hotel room.  When possible, I use public transportation instead of renting a car.  While traveling, I prepare most of my meals and eat at a restaurant maybe three times a week.  By doing all of these things, I was able to spend an entire month traveling during which I visited Washington D.C., Iceland, London, Paris, and Chicago for under $1200.

 

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Meal that I made while traveling in Panamá

 

2. Prioritize Your Wants

You will never forget a trip to the Himalayas.  You will never remember all the cappuccinos you bought your freshman year of college.  And while I completely understand the love of all things coffee, latté, and cappuccino; if traveling is really a priority in your life, spending $5 bucks for a macchiato might become a less regular occurrence. I pack lunches, make my own cappuccinos (for the most part) and I don’t buy super expensive clothes.  My spending money goes to plane tickets instead.

3. Don’t Limit Yourself

I grew up poor.  My childhood was shaped in part by financial instability and as a product of it, growing up, I never thought I would be able to travel the way I am now. During my freshman year of college, a professor mentioned studying abroad and my first thought was ‘oh no, I can’t afford that’.  But then my advisor mentioned it, then my classmate and I started to think it may be possible.  I researched cheap flights to Europe, work-exchange programs, au-pairing, etc.  Try to get out of the mindset that it is impossible for you to travel.  Because it isn’t.

4. Go for Flexibility

A job with flexible scheduling or a remote job is immensely helpful when you want to travel.  Thankfully, I work at a school so I have summers off, a month-long winter holiday, and a week off each fall and spring.  My boyfriend, Chris, works at an indoor soccer complex and they are just incredibly flexible in their scheduling.  Since we both have flexible jobs we don’t have to quit or take a leave of absence to go on a trip.

5. Leave Everyone Else’s Expectations and Opinions Behind You

As corny as it sounds, please don’t let anyone keep you from following your dreams.  If your dream is to travel but your significant other is pressuring you to settle down and get married, get on a plane and go.  If he or she isn’t there when you get back (or if they didn’t go with you in the first place) then they most likely aren’t the right person for you.  If your parent/s are skeptical of you traveling, and try to scare you out of it, still get on a plane and go.  Your parent/s will still love you, they’re your parent/s.  Whatever the situation is, try not to let other’s opinion and expectations of you become an excuse for you to not take a risk and do something a little outside your norm.

Be brave. And good luck.

 

A PASSAGE TO PUERTO RICO

This archipelago, home to 3.4 million people, a tropical climate and exquisite cuisine, awed me with the beauty residing in its people, architecture, and its diverse natural scenery.

I was sitting in the back of a shabby, historic taxi-van, watching the world around me slowly morph from bustling city into mountainous villages into a verdant tropical forest.  Our friend and driver, John, born and raised in Puerto Rico, was familiar with the serpentine, tortuous roads leading into El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s 28,000-acre rainforest.  There is a breathtaking silvery waterfall hidden in the forest, and after a forty-five minute hike, I was standing right in front of it. The best word to describe it is majestic, it’s a sight that makes you feel small and all of your worries inconsequential but in a breathtaking, liberating way.

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We had already been in Puerto Rico for two days. My boyfriend Chris, two of our close friends, and I were going to be traveling in Puerto Rico for 6 more days. We planned on visiting beaches, sailing to islands off the eastern coast, hiking the rainforest, and shopping for souvenirs.
What we did not plan on was being unable to rent a car. We originally booked a rental car because the guest house we had rented out was in central Puerto Rico, in a small town called Gurabo, and there is no uber, no taxis, nada within walking or biking distance. So, when we went to the rental car location with a reservation I had made weeks ago, the representative informed us that to rent a car for 6 days would not cost the $200 I was originally quoted, but almost $700 due to fees and required insurances.
So, we called a cab. I was trying to stay calm and relax, even though I was exhausted from travel and nervous about how we were going to find another means of transportation during our stay.
There is a saying in Spanish that perfectly describes what happened next. It’s: “No hay mal que por bien no venga”. It literally means that ‘there is no bad from which good cannot arise’ but its idiomatic equivalent in English is something more like: “Every cloud has a silver lining”. We stepped into the cab and we met the driver, John, our honest-to-god, metaphorical silver lining. It’s an hour-long drive from the airport in San Juan to our guest house in Gurabo and during that hour we talked to John and eventually told him about our transportation-less situation. John offered to help us out. He drove us to the destinations we had planned on, destinations we hadn’t thought of but he recommended; he was our guide and showed us his island. He even drove us to Wendy’s when we were dying of hunger on our way home from the airport.

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It was such a relief when we finally arrived at the guesthouse. We swam in the pool to cool off and decompress; then it was time to sleep.  We had a big day ahead of us.
We woke up early the next day to go to the beach, one John recommended to us, near the beautiful coastal town of Loiza.  We met beach dogs, ate the traditional Puerto Rican Dish ‘Mofongo’ (which was heavenly), and swam the day away.
For our second day, we visited El Yunque National Rain Forest.  This forest is home to thousands of diverse species and it is normal to see many colorful birds, loud coquis, rivers and waterfalls throughout the Jungle-like scenery. On our way in, we climbed up the Yokahu Tower, which has an observation deck offering a stunning bird’s eye view of the rainforest.  After climbing back down we began our hike down the winding, slippery path leading to the waterfall.  We got SO many mosquito bites, almost slipped every so often, and laughed the whole way down.  When we turned the corner and saw the waterfall, we were stunned.  We swam for an hour, slipped a few more times on the rocks, and then made our way back up.  Hiking up the mountain we were silent, mainly because of our heavy backpacks, breaths and even heavier feelings of physical exhaustion.  It was a little more than an hour’s hike up the steep mountain path.  

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The next couple of days we visited various beaches, went to an open-air market and explored the port-city of Fajardo.  We got to know John more and learned about his life in Puerto Rico, his family, and his perspective and a Puerto Rican U.S. citizen.  The next day we were headed to La Isla Culebra, which meant we had to get up early.  John suggested we just spend the night at his house, since it was closer to the Island, and he had two guest bedrooms.
At his house, we met his wife, Betsy, who is one of the kindest women in the world (and also one of the best cooks), their one-year-old son and their six-month-old puppy Rocko.  Their family welcomed us into their home, and it was such an incredible experience.  
The next day we drove to the shores of Fajardo, to catch to ferry headed to La Isla Culebra.  Then later that day, we got pizza at Mario’s, a family owned pizzeria with the most delicious pizza I have ever eaten. 10/10 recommend.

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Our last day in Puerto Rico we spent in San Juan.  We went to a beach in the morning and then we headed to Viejo San Juan, the oldest part of the city.  The blocks of ancient buildings are so colorful and charming.  We met a man with 20 parrots, got some souvenirs for family and friends, and got ice cream.  

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It was a fantastic trip, we got to meet such warm and caring people, and see the beauty of Puerto Rico.

 

A Kansas City Holiday Bucket List

1. ICE SKATING & 100FT CHRISTMAS TREES & CROWN CENTER SHOPPING

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See the lights and the mayor’s Christmas tree (which is 100 ft tall), go ice skating at the ice terrace, then walk through the stores inside of Crown Center. My personal favorite is Hall’s, which has beautifully decorated Christmas trees and decorations throughout the store.

Click here for more info.

2. CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK

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Visit Kansas City’s largest drive-through winter wonderland.  It’s open nightly through New Year’s Eve and admission is free but donations are accepted (and the right thing to do if you can afford it). Donations benefit local charities.

Click here for more info.

3. BAKE CHRISTMAS COOKIES

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Nothing really gets me into the holiday spirit like baking Christmas cookies with friends and family.  I’ve made it a habit of tripling any recipe I use so that I can share them with classmates, coworkers, neighbors, and visitors.

Here’s my favorite Christmas cookie recipe.

4. VISIT THE HISTORIC WEST BOTTOMS 

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This is the oldest area of Kansas City, and it has the BEST stores, shops, and cafes.  You’ll find something perfect for everyone on your list and be supporting local businesses, Yay!  You’ll have to stop by The Painted Sofa, Easy Tiger and Bottoms Up Antique Market, they’re simply magical. Most shops are only open on weekends though, so make sure to check their hours.

Click here for more info, hours, directions.

5. HOT COCOA & A CHRISTMAS CLASSIC

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Go ahead, put on your PJ’s and comfy Christmas socks, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, and put on your favorite Christmas movie.  For me, that’s always been It’s a Wonderful Life. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s a really good oldie, like a really really good oldie.

6. ENJOY THE PLAZA LIGHTS

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Online shopping is amazing and all, but actually going out with friends, grabbing a peppermint mocha and walking around all of the festively decorated stores is so much more fun and so much more Christmas-y.  The Plaza is the perfect place to go shopping in the evening, and the lights make everything seem magical.

7. ATTEND A LOCAL HOLIDAY PERFORMANCE

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Find that little black dress hiding in the back of your closet and go out on the town for a night.  There are some really great shows this holiday season; there’s the Kansas City Ballet’s production of  The Nutcracker, the KC Rep’s production of A Christmas Carol, and The Coterie’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Click here for more info.

8. Give Back

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Christmas is a time for giving back.  Find ways to give this season, whether it’s donating toys to a toy drive, donating time at a soup kitchen or giving back in another way.

9. SPEND AN EVENING AT THE BLUE ROOM

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Blue Room, one of the greatest Jazz clubs in the country, serves cocktails and has great live music throughout the holiday season.  It’s a great place to spend an evening with friends and listen to Jazz especially during the holidays when they have nights filled with Jazzy Christmas Music.

Click for more info.

10. ENJOY UNION STATION’S GRAND HALL

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Union Station goes all out for the holidays, and their decorations are beautiful.  Plus, Union Station hosts a bunch of different holiday events that are either free or low cost.

Click here for more info.

What’s on your holiday bucket list this year? 

I hope you found some new traditions, and have some new festive activities to do with loved ones.

Happy Holidays!

Scuba Diving for the First Time: Discovering Caribbean Waters

Matthias Goetzke

Hey, guys!

This week, Chris and I decided to go out into the middle of the Atlantic ocean and dive 25 feet down to the ocean floor with oxygen tanks strapped to our backs.  It was incredible seeing the multicolored fish, coral reefs, and other creatures the Caribbean holds in its water.

Here in Bocas del Toro, there are many awesome scuba diving shops, we decided to go with our friend Glen’s.  After filling out the forms and watching a PADI video on safety, we got on our wetsuits and sailed off.

After practicing our hand signals and going over the safety information again, we back rolled off the boat and into the water to start our dive.

We saw about 15 jellyfish during our hour-long dive, one even touched my friend’s flipper. The jellyfish aren’t hostile or aggressive at all.  If you follow what your instructor shows you to do, there is nothing to worry about.

An important thing to remember while diving is to not touch the aquatic life including the reefs.

We saw crabs, a lobster, jellyfish, starfish, angelfish and a bunch of other kinds of fish.

I was nervous when we first got into the water, but after a few minutes you calm down and enjoy the scenery.

10/10 recommend.