Monthly Archives: January 2015

Why More People Should Visit the Midwest in the United States

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What is the Midwest? “There’s no place like home” is one of the most famous expressions from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who resided in Kansas, one of the states in the Midwest. The Midwest is one of four regions in the United States, including 12 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

View of Lake Michigan from Traverse City, Michigan

View of Lake Michigan from Traverse City, Michigan

Most known for its farmland, family-oriented nature, and football spirit, the Midwest has great charm, unlike any other place in the world. Why should you visit the Midwest?

  • For those of you who are learning to speak English, the Midwest is the home of the traditional American accent. News broadcasters in the United States are generally trained to have accents like Midwesterners. You will gain great exposure to the American accent as you are completing your English studies and traveling through the states in the Midwest.
  • Drive through the origin of the automobile assembly line (Ford Motor Company) and the Motor City (name based on the large automotive influence) in Detroit, Michigan. You can learn more about Detroit’s automotive heritage at the Greenfield Village Henry Ford Museum. Your ears will be delighted to hear favorite tunes from the past, as Detroit is also known as Motown for being the home of Motown Records, with famous musicians such as Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Diana Ross & The Supremes, the Jackson 5, and Marvin Gaye.
  • Swim in the largest source of freshwater in the world, the five Great Lakes! Surrounding Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Illinois, the great lakes host several fun beach towns. Given my Michigan roots, I am biased towards the beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan, particularly in western and Northern Michigan. As a new Clevelander, I have also become fond of Lake Erie, and especially the Cedar Point amusement park, which has some of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth in the Cherry Capital of the world in Traverse City, Michigan. Also climb and explore the Sleeping Bear Dunes, which were recently called “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by ABC News. The lakeside soil also caters to beautiful wineries, comparable to Napa Valley, California in scenery with sweeter flavors. While you are there, go back in time with a visit Mackinac Island, a charming island with bicycles and horse carriages replacing automobiles, delicious fudge, and nineteenth century history including forts from the War in 1812.
  • Rock and roll throughout Cleveland, Ohio, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Cleveland is experiencing a revolution, with young professionals (like me) moving downtown to explore the diverse restaurants, trendy bars, and breweries. Cleveland is the home of Great Lakes Brewery and offers free brewery tours.
  • Stroll through the Windy City of Chicago, Illinois, which is known for much more than its strong wind. Great shopping, restaurants, and site seeing make it one of the best cities to visit in the United States. Some highlights include the reflective bean in Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and the Magnificent Mile.
  • Shop in one of the world’s largest shopping malls at Mall of America in Minnesota. While you are there, make sure to stop in Minneapolis, which is considered a global economic city. Minneapolis is famous for its seven miles of glass-enclosed skyways, perfect for walking around in the winter.
  • Try cheese in Wisconsin, the largest cheese producer in the United States, making over 600 cheese varieties.
  • Wonder why American children get excited that they can spell Mississippi? Besides that it is a long word to spell, the name is significant for the Mississippi River, which is the chief river of the largest drainage system in North America. It rises in Northern Minnesota and passes through 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces. You can learn more about the river’s significance at the National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa.
  • Explore the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, which was named after President Theodore Roosevelt. According to the National Park Website:

“When Theodore Roosevelt came to Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883, he was a skinny, young, spectacled dude from New York. He could not have imagined how his adventure in this remote and unfamiliar place would forever alter the course of the nation. The rugged landscape and strenuous life that TR experienced here would help shape a conservation policy that we still benefit from today.”

  • Learn American history at one of the nation’s most famous memorials: Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. As the memorial website says:

“Symbolizing the ideals of freedom and democracy, it is a tribute to four presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln and their invaluable contributions to the United States.”

  • Cheer loud at a Big Ten college football game (originally rooted in the Midwest) for a taste of American football. The nation’s first college football league was founded in 1895 in the Midwest, first known as the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives, and later called the Big Ten Conference. I cannot give this recommendation without a shout out to my alma mater and a member of the Big Ten Conference, the University of Michigan. GO BLUE!

If you have any questions about visiting the Midwest, feel free reach out to me in the comment section below, on Facebook or Twitter (@brittanyvb). I have proudly lived in the Midwest for my entire life and traveling the world has made me proud to call the Midwest my home.

Also view this post on One World 365.

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Llamas: A Symbol of Perseverance

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Over the weekend, one of my best friends from the University of Michigan visited me and we had insightful conversations, reminiscing about college, reflecting on our careers, and dreaming about the future. Both of us are facing unique challenges in our lives and we are craving an extra dose of inspiration.

Ironically, my friend pointed out a plaque on my wall of a llama, which I purchased in Chile while I was studying abroad. A llama? Most of you may ask. Why would I have a plaque of a llama? While studying in Chile, I learned that llamas are a significant symbol in South America. Since pre-Hispanic times, llamas were widely used meat and pack animals by Andean cultures in South America. Llamas represent perseverance. As a senior in college at the time, I had to put forth great effort in order to succeed personally and professionally. I purchased the plaque as a reminder that I can persevere, as long as I work hard, stay balanced, and keep an optimistic attitude.

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Looking at the plaque two years later, I am reminded that I can and will persevere. According to Spirit Animal Totems, if a llama crosses your path:

“She is here to remind you that only through hard work and perseverance will your dreams be realized. Know that you have the ability to adapt to any situation you find yourself in. Know that whatever loads you are carrying right now you will be able to manage and see them through. Alternatively Llama could also be reminding you that your biggest focus should be yourself and that personal growth and your connection to spirit should be your highest priority at all times. Insisting on following your heart rather than your ego will bring you all the rewards you are seeking.”

This message resonates with me at this point in life. I am sure that others can relate, so if you are facing any life challenges, remember llamas as a symbol of perseverance. You can do it!

Charleston, South Carolina in 24 Hours

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Last weekend, my boyfriend and I planned an impromptu trip to Charleston. When I say impromptu, I really mean it. We were driving to Charleston and still didn’t know if we were going for just a day trip or staying over night! We ended up staying at an Airbnb location, which you can learn about in my previous post. I’m normally a planner, but the spontaneity made this trip exciting. I learned that it is possible to explore a place in only one day!

Downtown Charleston

Downtown Charleston

How can you see Charleston in 24 hours?

  • Schedule a walking tour, which is a great way to get a taste of the highlights of Charleston and to learn about the city’s history and charm. My first priority when planning my trip was to go on a walking tour, and a free one, if possible. The night before we left, I booked the Historic Charleston tour with Free Tours By Foot.
  • Tour the churches (or at least check them out from the outside) to learn why Charleston is called the Holy City.
  • Look for the Phillip Simmons‘ gates. Simmons was a significant ironworker in 20th century Charleston who designed unique, ornate gates. I purchased a pair of earrings designed like his gates.
  • Walk along Rainbow Road, full of beautiful colorful homes and cobblestone streets.
Rainbow Road

Rainbow Road

  • Go shopping and have lunch on King Street, which is one of the most elegant and charming shopping districts I have ever seen.
  • Go for a jog (or stroll in my case 🙂 in Battery Park and see the pineapple fountain and bay area. I learned that pineapples are a symbol of hospitality, and guide Charleston to be one of the most hospitable cities in the U.S.
  • Eat a seafood dinner near Shem Creek for beautiful sunset views and a taste of the low country boil and delicious seafood in Charleston. I tried Red’s Ice House, which is a classic restaurant in Charleston.
  • Have drinks on Sullivan’s Island at Poe’s Tavern, the first tavern I have ever seen that is completely dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe. Charleston was a significant city to Poe, and you will learn why when you go to the tavern.
Inside Poe's Tavern

Inside Poe’s Tavern

  • Explore the beaches. Folly Beach has a fun, hippie vibe. I would also like to explore the Sullivan’s Island beach one day.
  • Tour a plantation. Depending on the season, you can tour Boon Hall Plantation or Magnolia Plantation. Neither plantation was open when I was there, but I plan to go back!
  • Try pralines, benne wafers, and seafood dips (with crab, shrimp, etc.). The flavors of Charleston are delicious!
Charleston City Market

Charleston City Market

  • Shop at the Charleston City Market. You will learn about the trade that used to take place in Charleston and be able to purchase trinkets, accessories, and food to remember your trip.

If and when you get the opportunity, I strongly recommend that you tour Charleston, South Carolina. It may now be my favorite city in the U.S. for how unique and charming it is!

My First Airbnb Experience

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Airbnb is an accommodation option where you stay at a local’s home during your travels. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I first learned about Airbnb in the fall and couldn’t be happier that I did. I have stayed in hostels and homestays while studying abroad, but have never experienced booking a reservation in someone’s home during my regular travels. Over the weekend, my boyfriend and I planned an impromptu trip to Charleston, South Carolina and decided to book our first Airbnb experience. For those of you who are looking to book a trip on a budget and experience your destination like a local, I recommend that you try Airbnb. I have answered questions below about my first Airbnb experience.

Airbnb in West Ashley, a neighborhood near downtown Charleston, South Carolina

Airbnb in West Ashley, a neighborhood near downtown Charleston, South Carolina

1. How does Airbnb work? First, you will need to download the Airbnb app on your smart phone or create an account online. You will need to create a profile with basic details about yourself, including a photo. Then, you can search Airbnb lodging options in your travel destination. You can filter your search by price range, number of guests, arrival date, and listing type (private room, shared room, or entire home). Most lodging options include photos and a profile of the host. You can see reviews of the lodging option and the host, and verify the host’s credibility through links to other credible sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Once you find the option that meets your needs, you can either instant book the reservation or message the host with any questions. The Airbnb app disguises all personal information and has a chat function enabling you to keep in touch with your host and book your travel virtually. Once you book your reservation, you will arrange your arrival time with your host and he/she will greet you, explain house rules, and share insights about your travel destination. I’m sure that the host experience varies per host and per location, but my experience was wonderful to learn more about the whereabouts of Charleston.

2. How safe did you feel during your Airbnb experience? Given the identity verification required by the Airbnb app, I felt very comfortable with my host. There is an element of mutual trust, as your host can be equally worried about you as a guest. Since the app included reviews of both the host and the host location (and the host could see reviews of me), I felt secure that I would be safe. The private room also had a lock for additional security.

3. How often do you see the Airbnb host? My understanding is that this varies from host to host and from location to location. During my experience, the host was there to greet us when we arrived. She gave us a tour of her apartment and spent time sharing her recommendations for restaurants and sightseeing around Charleston. In the morning, she offered a continental breakfast and was even willing to make grits. I was intrigued by the Quaker grits she had in her kitchen (I know I looked like a typical Yankee as I have never had Quaker instant grits, and only had grits in general at Southern restaurants). She was very welcoming and chatted with us about life in Charleston. She even invited us to stay a second night if we wanted to extend our visit to Charleston.

4. What do you wish you would have known before booking your Airbnb reservation? I wish I knew that the Airbnb is truly a homestay and includes amenities as if you were a guest staying at your friend’s home, unlike a hostel. For example, my Airbnb home included shampoo and conditioner, towels, bedding, and breakfast. Most Airbnb options list the amenities that are included, so be sure to check what is offered and available before you pack your bags!

Our Airbnb host had several inspirational quotes throughout her apartment. I loved this one: "Attract the life you want. You get what you expect and ask for."

Our Airbnb host had several inspirational quotes throughout her apartment. I loved this one: “Attract the life you want. You get what you expect and ask for.”

I hope that these insights help you as you consider creating an Airbnb profile and booking your next trip! Feel free to comment here or on Facebook with any questions.

Why Travel? Part Four

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One World 365 uses imagery to provide great insights about the benefits of travel through working, volunteering, and vacationing abroad. Below I captured some of my favorite quotes and images about travel that I have recently found.

I've inserted my name here; will you?

I’ve inserted my name here; will you?

Going to new places = new opportunities and new perspectives

Going to new places = new opportunities and new perspectives

Cleveland Yoga Uptown posted the following photos on Facebook, reinforcing  that if we continue to go on adventures, we will never lose our sense of wonder and we have the opportunity to spread love to the world.

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Do you feel intimidated to visit a new place or to plan a trip on your own? La Bioguia reminds us to believe in ourselves!

"The good luck that enables us to succeed in live is called believing in yourself."

“The good luck that enables us to succeed in life is called believing in yourself.”

As I said in my Why Travel?, Why Travel? Part Two, and Why Travel? Part Three posts, each of these quotes makes the wanderlust in me grow stronger. Don’t hold back- go on another adventure and be inspirNational!

inspirNational Quotes III

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One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was Change Your Life! A Little Book of Big Ideas, by Allen Klein. I am reading the book from cover to cover, but love that it is divided into sections in case I need a quote for a particular situation, such as “be grateful,” “alter your attitude,” and “dream the impossible dream.”

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Below are some of my favorite inspirNational quotes from the book, divided into sections and adding to my previous inspirNational quotes posts (I and II):

Actions speak louder than words. Alter your attitude:

“The most powerful thing you can do to change the world, is to change your own beliefs about the nature of life, people, reality, to something more positive.” -Shakti Gawain

“The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” -William James

“Most people are searching for happiness. They’re looking for it. They’re trying to find it in someone or something outside of themselves. That’s a fundamental mistake. Happiness is something that you are, and it comes from the way you think.” -Wayne Dyer

Be grateful. Believe in miracles:

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you”? -William Arthur Ward

“Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.” -Maurice Setter

“If you count all your assets, you always show a profit.” -Robert Quillen

Cultivate kindness and compassion:

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” -Don Swartz

“Kindess is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain

“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.” -Jesse Jackson

Dream the impossible dream:

“A dream is in the mind of the believer and in the hands of the doer. You are not given a dream without being given the power to make it come true.” -Anonymous

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

“All our dreams can come true – if you have the courage to pursue them.” -Walt Disney

I tweet inspirational quotes and articles often – follow @brittanyvb to see all the quotes and more information about my sustainability work. Also check out my new inspirNational Facebook page – “like” the page to see all of my blog updates and related articles.

I hope these quotes leave you feeling inspired and motivated to start the week. Happy Sunday!

What inspirNational topics do you want to see more of in 2015?

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inspirNational has reached a blog milestone (over 50 posts!) and now it is time to reflect. What inspirNational topics do you want to see more of in 2015? Please fill out the poll below and feel free to leave comments with any additional suggestions.

I look forward to writing more about the topics that you enjoy most! Thank you for supporting my inspirNational blog in 2015 and beyond!