Life Lesson #3: It’s a Small World After All

What do you get when you combine six degrees of separation with the song, “It’s a small world after all?” Well, fine readers, you get:

Life Lesson #3: It (really is) a small world after all!

Disney World – one of the most magical places on earth!

A place where kids beg their parents to go on vacation, where newlyweds spend their honeymoon, and where generations of families gather together to take in the magic found here.

There’s so much to see and explore between the various parks that it’s often hard to decide what to do first! Should I go to the Animal Kingdom and go on a safari ride?

Or, should I start with Epcot where I can travel to Italy, France, AND Morocco without ever leaving the park?

Maybe it’s better if I just start in Magic Kingdom, see a parade and some of my favorite Disney characters, ride some timeless Disney rides, and go from there?

Growing up, I was lucky enough to travel to Disney World twice- once with my family and once with my high school band. Both times were wonderful and I can safely say that I was never able to see or do everything that I wanted while I was there. I saw many parades, watched fireworks shows, took pictures with my favorite Disney characters, and rode many rides. Thinking about the rides, the ones that stick out the most to me are: Splash Mountain (awesome, but wet-clearly), Space Mountain (super fun), the Buzz Lightyear ride/game (I rocked that game), and the It’s a Small World After All ride.

If you’ve been to Disney World/Land (or even if you haven’t), you’re probably familiar with “It’s a small world after all.” If you’re not, here’s what you would experience if you were on this ride:

As a kid, I didn’t really understand or appreciate the meaning of the song or the excitement of the ride. Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing all the different cultures and countries represented in the display…although, the song did get a little annoying after awhile. Nevertheless, I didn’t really see how everything was connected or realize how small of a world we actually live in.

 Now that I’m older and yes, even somewhat wiser, I’ve come to better understand how the song and ride is applicable in the real world.

Most of you may be familiar with the theory of six degrees of separation. It’s a theory that asserts that everyone in the world (yes, all 7.2 billion people) are connected to everyone else by six links or people.

Wow.

It’s such a crazy idea when you take a moment to think about it.

When I think of this theory, it’s hard not to imagine I’m back on that ride in Disney World. Is it possible that a girl from a  small town in Ohio can be connected to a random stranger half way across the country? It seems crazy and doubtful.

I’m not saying that I buy into this theory completely, but I can appreciate it in the context of realizing that it really is a small world after all. When you move to a new place, start a job in a city where you know no one, and are feeling completely alone – remember this.

Remember that we are all connected in some way, shape, or form. Maybe not by six people. Maybe it’s a connection through an activity that you participated in when you were in high school. Maybe it’s through a university you attended for undergrad. Or, maybe it really is by a person. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Finding those connections may not even be intentional. You may have to work to make those connections and to put the puzzle pieces together, but I have a feeling that if you look for it, you can find the link.

Here’s why: When my family was in Egypt when I was a baby, we were in the Cairo airport waiting for our flight. From across the airport, someone began frantically waving to my family. From what my parents tell me, they had no idea who this woman was or why she was trying to get their attention. As she approached them, she addressed them by their first names. My parents didn’t recognize her. At all. Literally. It was 2:00 am in an airport half-way across the country from our real home and here’s this woman who knows us. Apparently, she was the sister of the priest of our church in Ohio and had recognized us from a single mass when I was baptized. Connection number one.

In July, Joni and I (and Sarah, too, but she wasn’t there for this part) attended a bachelorette party in Cleveland. As Joni and I were riding in a taxi that evening, we began talking to our driver. We were talking about various topics, when it somehow came up that we had attended the same university for graduate school (not at the same time). It was so random to be riding in this taxi in Cleveland and accidentally find out that we had the same alma mater. Connection number two.

During my first year of grad school, my mom came to visit me. Naturally, this trip involved shopping because what mother-daughter trip doesn’t?! When she was there, we went to Sam’s Club. Shortly after we entered the store, we saw a man who was clearly a Coptic Orthodox priest. So, not to be too creepy or anything…my mom and I followed him and his family to the checkout lane…to talk to them. As we introduced ourselves to the family, we realized that he knew my uncle (who is a priest) who still lives in Egypt. Seriously? In a country with over 80 million people, how could be possibly know my uncle? What are the chances that when my mom and I serendipitously (is that a word?) ran into this family that we would be connected?

It’s a small world.

So, why am I telling you this? I think it’s as much for you as it is for me. I think it can help you realize that no matter how far you go from home that you’re not alone. You’re not disconnected. The connections are there, you just might have to look for them. You might think you know no one. You might think that there’s no one around who can possibly understand the uniqueness of where you came from. But, in some way, the connection is there. It may be unexpected and not in the way that you had anticipated, but I have confidence that you’ll figure it out.

Now, go forth and enjoy the ride! Find those connections.

Who knows, maybe you’ll discover how you’re connected to your favorite actor, musician, or politician!

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Blogger Interviews: Abbie and Emilie

I’ve been really excited about writing this post for a while, because it doesn’t involve much writing on my part, and I get to feature two other blogger-friends of mine who have been on the other side of the world since this summer. When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I attended one of the Study Abroad fairs and grabbed several brochures and magazines for studying, volunteering, and sight-seeing in other countries through my university. Most of the information I picked up was for Egypt, South Africa, or Western Europe, since those are places I’ve always wanted to explore. Although I don’t think I would be able to do a whole semester in a different country (I’m too afraid of missing things), I wouldn’t have minded a two-week experience.

Abbie in Malawi, and Emilie in Istanbul

Abbie in Malawi and Emilie in Istanbul

I met Abbie, who worked as a Resident Assistant while she was in college, through my sister and her friends. She is currently in Malawi (in southeast Africa), teaching at a secondary school, and posts on her blog, Traveling and Teaching: Living and Learning. I got to know Emilie through all of our related activities and mutual friends while we were at YSU together, and got to work with her during my graduate internship. She is studying abroad in Istanbul, Turkey (at the same school where Sarah spent last year’s fall semester!) and blogs at overandout while preparing to apply to graduate schools. I asked them a few questions about their experiences in their respective locations…

Abbie's Form 2 Students

Abbie’s Form 2 Students

1. What made you want to travel to this location?

Abbie: I wanted to come to Malawi because I already had such a strong connection to this community as I had previously traveled here in 2010. I’m back in the same part of Malawi and working with the same NGO (non-government organization) as before. This time instead of two weeks, I’m here for a year.

Emilie: I chose Turkey for a number of reasons. For one, Turkey is one of those mysterious countries that it seems no one really knows anything about, and this obviously attracted me. I wanted to meet the people, eat the food, find out for myself if those silly stereotypes that people believe about the middle east are true. A second reason is because Istanbul is quite literally the center of it all. Half of the city lies in Europe while the other half is in Asia. It’s a mix of people from all over the world, 15ish million of them, all living in this crazy, historic, fascinating city. This also makes it easy/quick to travel almost anywhere in the world, with the exception of North/South America, of course.

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

2. What has been one of your favorite experiences?

Emilie: One of my my favorite experiences so far has been having a HUGE traditional Turkish breakfast with a wonderful, sweet family I met here through some people at home. We had never met before I came to Turkey, but they welcomed Ed (the other YSU student here with me) and I into their home, showed us all over the European side of the city, and have been so generous and kind to us. A few weeks after we arrived, they invited Ed and I over to spend the day and eat with them. It was the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever had, quite possibly the best meal I’ve ever had. Not only because of the food, but the company also made it unforgettable. I only wish I would have taken my camera… rookie mistake, haha.

Abbie: One of my favorite experiences actually happened the first weekend I was here. One of the girls, Alice, who hangs around the lodge/NGO where I stay frequently asked to take me on a tour of the village. As we were walking she asked what my surname was and I told her. She started to smile and talk in Chitumbuka to the other girl walking with us. I asked her to explain and she told me that my surname is the name of her sponsors. What that meant was that my parents sponsor her education. On top of that, I am her math teacher at her secondary school! Alice took me to see her house that is made of mud and sticks and has a thatch roof. Her family welcomed me and offered me a seat on their front porch. Alice told her brother that my parents sponsor her education. Her brother began to tell me in broken English how grateful they were for the sponsorship because by bettering Alice’s life with an education, it’s also bettering her family’s life, as well as the village. Education here is the only way out and a lot of the times it’s not possible because of money.

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

3. Have you had any trouble adjusting to anything?

Abbie: Everywhere I go I stick out like a sore thumb. When I go to the market, when I walk through the village, when I do my laundry in my back yard I am entertainment for most people. As I walk down the road, kids from everywhere will yell “Mzungu!” meaning, “white person.” I’m unable to be anonymous here and that has probably been the most difficult thing to adjust to.

Emilie: Ah, well, living in Istanbul has required quite a bit of adjusting. Not only is the culture overwhelmingly different, moving from small-town Ohio to one of the most overcrowded cities in the world was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The traffic, the pollution, the (not always reliable) public transportation, lack of greenery, it was all pretty frightening at first. Now, I appreciate all of the differences for what they are, I’ve stopped expecting Istanbul to be just like Ohio, and it’s finally starting to feel like home. I guess if I wanted everything to stay the same, I wouldn’t have come. But I definitely know now that I can’t live without nature, it’s just so depressing!

Cappadocia

Cappadocia

Check out Sarah’s post about her impromptu cave camping trip in Cappadocia!

4. What is one thing you wish you could bring home with you?

Emilie: The one thing I wish I could bring home is the incredibly cheap produce. Seriously, the fruits and veggies and fresh bread are sooooo cheap here, and the quality is so good (assuming you know what you’re looking for). There are bazaars all over the city every day of the week full of vendors selling fish, produce, cheese, just about anything you could ever need. The bazaars and the produce are something I’m really going to miss.

Abbie: One thing I wish I could bring home with me is the kitten I recently got for my house! She is ADORABLE! Her name is Kim Jong Kitten and she eats all the nasty critters that lurk in the corners of my house. (she was named by a PCV friend). Also, I want to bring home ALL THE BABIES!!!!! They are soooo cuuuuute!

 

I wish I could share all the gorgeous pictures these girls have taken. I’m so jealous of each of their journeys and I hope they both continue enjoying themselves. I can’t wait to read more about them! Thank you, Emilie and Abbie! 🙂

Daycations: The Best of Northeast Ohio and Pittsburgh

If you found your way here from Once Is Enough, welcome! We hope you’ll click around and check out our other posts!
 

Earlier this week, I wrote my first ever guest blog post for Sam over at Once is Enough while she went on vacation. I focused on daycationing, outlining several tips to help you have a great time while being a tourist in your own town. Head over to her blog to read more about finding the best local spots to explore and save money — great for the college girl on a budget! While you’re at it, read posts from Sam and the other guest bloggers for the week. 

If you’re still in school, summer is pretty much half over already… unless you’re in graduate school, and you’re very likely still in class till very late at night or early on Saturday mornings. I feel your pain. I’m currently still looking for a job, and while I’m cutting back on unnecessary purchases, I still plan on taking a daycation or two. I’m lucky that I live in an area filled with hidden cultural jewels, right between two large metro areas with experiences totally unique to each of those cities. It’s unlikely that people from outside of the area plan to vacation in Northeast Ohio, there’s much to do for those who are willing to explore, and do a little research ahead of time. Here are four of my favorite day-trips for a quick weekend excursion. Click through on the links to each of the attractions for more information about hours of operation, admission, and directions. 

Youngstown, Ohio

Home of my alma mater and Ed O’Neill from Modern Family, Youngstown is in the middle of a cultural revival, working to rebuild itself from the fall of the U.S. steel industry and shed it’s image as hub of organized crime. It boasts a rich ethnic heritage, and on any given weekend in the summer, you can sample Greek gyros, Italian sausages, or Polish pyrohies at any of their popular festivals held each year. In the six years I spent living in Youngstown earning my degrees, I learned to love the area and discovered many of the gems of the city and surrounding area. 

First, visit the Butler Museum of American Art, the first museum of strictly American art in all types of media, dedicated in 1919. Featured on the National Register of Historic Places, admission to this museum is free. Take time to reflect on paintings by Edward Hopper, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keefe, and Robert Rauschenberg. For lunch, take a very short drive over to Casesse’s MVR, one of the most popular restaurants in the Mahoning Valley. While you wait for a (massive) plate of cavatelli, or any of the other old school Italian dishes, look around at all of the Youngstown sports memorabilia, from the years the YSU Penguins won four national championships under Coach Jim Tressel (just before he went on to coach for Ohio State) and boxing greats, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Kelly Pavlik. Take your to-go box and head to Mill Creek Park, the second largest metro park in the United States. With over 4,400 acres for you to explore, its easy to spend an entire day here out on the hiking trails, paddling around Lake Glacier, or simply relaxing and enjoying nature. You might even happen upon a wedding in any area of the park, especially in the gorgeous Fellows Riverside Gardens and its visitor’s center. As the sun sets, head back into town for dinner and drinks at the Lemon Grove, part bar and restaurant, part performance venue, and part art gallery. Almost every night of the week, you can catch live music, poetry readings, or events like trivia games or karaoke at this lively downtown establishment. Don’t forget to check the schedules for the Dana School of Music and the Department of Theater and Dance at YSU, bringing top notch vocal, symphonic, and theatrical performances to the valley. 

Bonus Youngstown Sites
Charlie Staples’ Original Bar-B-Cue
Mahoning Valley Scrappers Baseball
The World’s Largest Pair of Drum Sticks, in honor of Warren native Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters 
Oakland Center for the Arts

Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

Geneva on the Lake has become one of my favorite weekend getaways for two simple reasons: there’s a beach and the wine is plentiful and delicious. The beach is on the shores of Lake Erie, and though I don’t think I would take a dive into it, it is quite beautiful to look at. Start your day at Geneva State Park, and don’t forget to pack your towels, sunscreen, and a good book. Bring a picnic lunch, too, and soak up the sun watching the waves coming in from the lake. After relaxing at the beach for a few hours, head over to Lake Road for food, drinks, and entertainment. For family fun, stop at the Adventure Zone for mini-golf, bumper boats, and go-carts. You can also rent bikes, golf carts, and surrey limos. To sample some of the area’s best vino, grab a map and choose your destinations. I recommend Ferrante Winery, Chalet Debonne Vineyard, and The Lakehouse Inn & Winery.  In the evening, park your car along the strand and grab a bite to eat at one of the many food stands that line the road, or pop over to my personal favorite, The Old Firehouse Winery, for a breathtaking view of the lake and live music nightly. Don’t miss their Ferris wheel and the wine slushies! Find your favorite wine and bring a bottle or two home to enjoy for the rest of the summer.

Bonus Geneva-on-the-Lake Sites
Eddie’s Arcade (on Lake Road)

Laurello Vineyards
Old Mill Winery

Cleveland, Ohio

While you could easily visit their amazing visitor’s page, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite things to do while in Cleveland. Since Brian and I love going to zoos, the first place I would go is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo & Aquarium, featuring The Rainforest and the new African Elephant Crossing. It doesn’t matter how many times or how many different zoos I go to, I’ll always take pictures of the penguins and the bears. They’re just too cute. After a hot morning and afternoon wandering around the zoo, head over to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a uniquely “Cleveland” experience. Nowhere else in the world can you find such an expansive collection of rock n’ roll memorabilia and learn so much about the music and it’s roots. See tour costumes, handwritten lyrics, and other belongings of your favorite musicians and watch films featuring all of the inductees. In the evening, find dinner and drinks in the East 4th Street entertainment district. I prefer the House of Blues for dinner — their cornbread is nothing short of incredible — but there are plenty of great little restaurants in the area, including Flannery’s Pub and the Corner Alley Bar & Grill.

Bonus Cleveland Sites
The Christmas Story House
CLE Clothing, Co. <– Stop here! The shirts are brilliant!
West Side Market
Great Lakes Brewing Company

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Ok, so this one isn’t necessarily in Ohio, but I live within 45 minutes of Pittsburgh, hence why I’ve always been a Steelers fan over the Browns. Recently, the city appeared as part of Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, and I won’t pretend that I didn’t get more than a little excited to see Bill Cowher’s face on the sidelines during the Heinz Field scene. I must insist that you take the Fort Pitt tunnel entrance into the city. There’s no other way to arrive, as Pittsburgh truly is the only city with an entrance, and it blows me away every time. Start at the Phipps Conservatory and immerse yourself in the beautiful botanical wonderland, featuring art glass hand-blown by Dave Chihuly. For lunch, make your way over to Oakland and stop in at Primanti Bros. for one of their famous sandwiches.  Take in the architecture of the University of Pittsburgh and other universities in the area as you head to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. Admission gives you access to Dinosaurs in Their Time, the Hall of Ancient Egypt, Monet’s “Water Lilies,” the stunning Hall of Architecture (can you sense a pattern here?). Cross the river to Station Square for dinner at Bar Louie, and at sunset, take the Duquesne Incline to the observation deck for the most beautiful view of Pittsburgh.

Bonus Pittsburgh Sites
Warhol Museum
Carnegie Science Center, IMAX, Laser Shows, and USS Requin
The Mattress Factory Art Museum
Pittsburgh Public Theater <– Always check for Student ID discounts!

While I could go on for days about the cool things to do in Pittsburgh, I really recommend checking out this link for lots of free ways to explore the city. Let me know if you’d like more ideas about where to go!

Locals, did I miss anything? Have you been to any of these places? Add your must-see attractions in the comments, or give me the daycation of your city!

Definitely Better than Camping

I spent several nights in a cave…

…in early January…

…in the middle of nowhere…

…in Turkey…

And it was fantastic.  My boyfriend and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Cappadocia in central Turkey (from Istanbul where we were based in January).  By impromptu trip I mean we bought the plane tickets about 48 hours before the trip and arrived in the middle of the desert with no hotel and only the vaguest idea how to get from the airport to a town that offered hotels.  We managed to catch a few shuttles that got us to the center of Göreme where we consulted my Lonely Planet guidebook.  We checked out the hostels it listed in the center of town only to find them dingy, deserted, and overpriced.  I was about to say we should just grab one of those hostels because it was cold and we were stranded, but my boyfriend suggested we at least check out the Lonely Planet #1 choice for Cappadocia.

So we did.  We had to drag our bags up some gnarly cobblestone street hills in search of the #1 choice, but a few pit stops to catch our breath later, we were at the Kelebek Cave Hotel, and, oh my goodness, was it worth the hike!  If anyone out there is considering a trip to Cappadocia (and I have some acquaintances who are or will soon be in Turkey), I highly recommend Kelebek; even if you will never in your life so much as consider a trip to Turkey, you can still browse the pictures of the hotel. Traveler’s tip, always have a multi tool pocket knife with you.

As per its name, Kelebek Cave Hotel is a collection of caves carved into the natural stone in Cappadocia.  It is really quite beautiful.

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The top of the line room at Kelebek is the Presidential Suite, which reportedly has an amazing view of Cappadocia.  Here is the room.

ImageWe did not stay in the Presidential Suite, but we were more than happy with our room.  We could not have been happier with our experience at Kelebek.  The service was extraordinary, the free breakfast gave a tip of the hat to Western tourists with French toast, and the tours through the hotel were perfect.  We would love to stay there again.

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Kelebek: http://www.kelebekhotel.com/index.php


I feel comfortable saying that the Kelebek Cave Hotel is the coolest place I’ve ever stayed.  Should you ever find yourself in central Turkey, I highly recommend visiting Cappadocia and staying in Kelebek.

A few pictures of Cappadocia for reference…

From the top: pigeon houses, an early Christian monastery, the remains of an early Christian fresco, and a 3,000 year-old underground city.

Places to Go, Beauty to See

As Abbie posted last time, we indeed will shortly be talking about “guilty pleasures” soon, but writing is all about being inspired and today I wasn’t inspired about telling you one of my guiltiest pleasures.

You may have noticed that we Dames (Abbie and I in particular) are currently enthralled with a website called Pinterest. (I highly suggest you check it out.) One of my favorite things about the website are all the absolutely gorgeous pictures that people post of different sights around the world. Places they’ve been, places they’re dying to see, and places where the photographer has taken natural beauty and transformed it into something intensely breathtaking.

So, today, I’m going to share some of my favorites with you. Some places I’ve been and others I haven’t. And I just might share a few of my own photos with you.

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Multnomah Falls, Oregon – A two-tiered waterfall on the Columbia River Gorge that flows year round.

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island – I’ve been here, and I highly suggest you visit too. Not just the mansion, but the whole city of Newport. It’s one of multiple mansions in Newport which was once the summer playground of America’s wealthy. This summer “cottage” owned by the Vanderbilt family and facing the Atlantic Ocean boasts 70 rooms and 65,000 square feet of living space.

The Smoky Mountains, Tennessee and North Carolina – I’ve been here too. The Appalachian Mountains as a whole are amazing, but there’s something about the Smoky’s and their mist that stops you.

The Fairy Pools in the Cuillin Hills, Scotland – Can’t wait to go to the UK and Ireland!

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – Road trip anyone?

Bojnice, Slovakia – A castle and spas in a beautiful, historic place. What else do you need?

Stonehenge, England – England and ancient ruins. 🙂

Half Moon Cay (Little San Salvador Island), Bahamas – My advice? Get yourself on a Carnival or Holland America cruise that stops here. You’ll never want to leave. The water is really that blue.

On a Cruise Ship, sailing down the East Coast of the United States, in the Atlantic Ocean – Words are not needed.

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What do you think are some of the most beautiful places? Where have you been? Where do you want to go?