Boston Bucket List

As the end of the of the first semester is coming to an end, there is still so much of Boston that my friends and I have been wanting to explore. My friend group consists of people from all over: two from California, one from Delaware, two from Texas (including me), two from New York, one all the way from London, and one from Boston. So we discussed with our Bostonian friend some of the things he wanted to do and he replied with “done that” multiple times, but he also sometimes replied, “I haven’t done that.” In a group meeting, we all brainstormed the places in Boston we wanted to go to and we decided to make a “Boston Bucket List” that we are determined to finish by the end of freshman year.

Ice Skating in the Frog Pond 

Now that the Frog Pond has opened into an ice skating rink. What better way to celebrate the holiday season than to go ice skating in the Boston Common. They offer student discounts for ice skating admission, but keep in mind there are skate rental prices and if needed locker rentals.

Follow the Freedom Trail

While exploring Boston, at times we have come across the Freedom Trail. So now we are determined to follow the trail. The trail is 2.5 miles long and passes through 16 significant history locations. On the trail, the history of the American Revolution is told through the trail. After learning about the American Revolution in history class, it’ll be fascinating to see some of the sites in person.

Go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

We’ve heard so many good things about the Isabella Stewart Gardner, and as Emerson students, we get free admission. Located in Fenway, this museum offers many art collections and interactive experiences. This museum was created by the vision of Isabella Stewart Gardner and offers a homey yet regal feel. On the website, there is a multitude of special events throughout the months that are perfect for groups of people.

Eat at Wahlburgers

 If you’re like me my friends and me, you love a good burger. After seeing the TV show Wahlburgers and numerous Mark Wahlberg movies, I decided that I must go to Wahlburgers while in Boston. Wahlburgers is located all over Massachusetts, but the location closest to Emerson is in the Fenway area.

Go to the beach

Growing up in Texas, I have experienced Texas beaches. Now I want to see what East Coast beaches. When it gets warmer, my friends and I are planning to head to Carson Beach which is located in South Boston. We chose this beach because of the location and because my friend from Massachusetts recommended it. So I guess I will see if the Massachusetts beach beats Texas beaches (which should not be too hard).

Eat a cannoli at Mike’s Pastries

I have always wanted to try Mike’s Pastries, but I have always been too impatient to stand in the long line. Once I am ready to face the line, I am so excited to try one of the famous cannolis.

Go to a fancy dinner at the Four Seasons

Don’t get me wrong, we love eating at the dining hall every day, but every once in awhile it’s nice to eat out. My friends and I have devised a plan to dress up fancy and indulge in a dinner at the Four Seasons for the night.

Go to a Celtics, Bruins, and/or Red Sox game

After living in Boston, I have definitely hopped on the Boston fandom bandwagon (I even got a Red Sox hat and a Patriots shirt). With some of the greatest teams in the leagues, it would be silly to not take advantage of seeing them play live. My friends and I are planning on attending a Celtics game soon even though we will probably be in the nosebleed section… But hey, it’s all about the experience, right?

Here are just a few items on a list that continues to grow. While we are in college in this amazing city, we need to take advantage of all the city has to offer. It’s still crazy to me that we get to go to school in such an amazing city! I hope that you and your friends can enjoy some of the same adventures that my friends and I plan on going on. For more Boston bucket list ideas, I linked some below. Happy exploring!

Links:

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/boston/things-to-do-in-boston-bucket-list

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2017/05/04/bucket-list-things-boston/Uwe9zM7Kad0nsBvASycc4O/story.html

https://passionsandplaces.com/2016/11/08/the-ultimate-boston-bucket-list/

 

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National Holidays: The Definitive Ranking

It’s November, and you know what that means. The yearly smackdown has arrived. Once more, the weirdly passionate section of the American people has been screaming on the Internet about the respective merits of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When the clock strikes midnight on October 31, some instantly hit play for the first time out of hundreds on Mariah Carey’s seminal hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Others, meanwhile, plead for some well-deserved attention to be directed to Thanksgiving, apparently completely ignorant to the fact that there are exactly zero Thanksgiving-themed Mariah Carey songs. Some people are still talking about Halloween, because people who love Halloween never stop talking about Halloween, but that’s not even a national holiday so it’s completely out of the picture anyway.

There’s only way to solve this issue. And that’s a definitive ranking of every national holiday on the American roster, from worst to best. (It’s a surprising lineup.)

 

Columbus Day – Second Monday in October

Nope x infinity. Nooooooo thank you. Goodbye Christopher. Indigenous People’s Day or bust.

 

Labor Day – First Monday in September

Labor Day will never escape its well-deserved bad rep. It was drilled into every child in (most parts of) America for twelve years: Labor Day is the last day of summer break. Labor Day is for moping, waiting in long lines in Office Depot, and the return of that good ol’ it’s-Sunday-night-at-seven-pm-I-wasted-the-weekend-I-have-a-whole-week-ahead-of-me anxiety.

 

Inauguration Day – January 20 (every 4 years)

Every four years is BS for a holiday, and also nobody gets off from school or work for this, except perhaps some people who work in certain sectors of Washington, D.C. Also an inauguration can be reaaaaaaal hit or miss. To say the least.

 

George Washington’s Birthday – Third Monday in February

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to old GW’s b-day. First, this is the only guy with a birthday marked with a NATIONAL DAY, which is a baller move. But what is really hilarious is that this isn’t actually on his birthday, but the third Monday in February?? Whose idea was that? What purpose does this serve? I have no answers, but this made me giggle and that means it’s getting a boost in the rankings even though it offers absolutely no festivities.

 

New Year’s Day – January 1

Who cares about New Year’s Day? Do people even do anything? New Year’s Eve is where it’s at and we all know it. I guess it’s nice to have the day off for recovery from the night preceding, but that’s not enough to rescue this day from its total boring-ness.

 

Memorial Day – Last Monday in May

Memorial Day is cool because it’s summery. Barbecues and stuff. Also, I guess you can start wearing white again? If you follow societal rules like that and stopped? Not really too sure if that’s an actual thing that people do.

 

Veterans Day – November 11

Always good to pay respect to our veterans and also get a day off from school in mid-November.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Third Monday in January

MLK Day was always really awesome in elementary and middle school. In elementary school the second grade always put on a play (it was two-for-one for MLK Day and the approach of Black History Month) so we got out of class for an assembly. In middle school we watched My Friend Martin a bunch of times. Anyway this day is very important and it’s pretty rad and extremely deserved that it’s a national holiday.

 

Independence Day – July 4

Summertime! Fireworks! Barbecues! Those popsicles where the top bit is cherry and the middle is lemon and the bottom is blue raspberry! Fourth of July is great and involves a lot of red and blue food dyes which is always extremely fun.

 

Thanksgiving Day – Fourth Thursday in November

Yes, this is the moment you have been waiting for. Thanksgiving only lands second place. It’s made it even to second place only for the following reasons: everyone celebrates it; the arts and crafts potential is magnificent; we usually get several days off for it; some of the food is good. (Yes, only some. Turkey is nobody’s favorite poultry and many of the combinations placed on the feasting table are full on embarrassing. Sweet potatoes and marshmallows?? Green beans and cream-based soups??? Maybe I just hate casseroles.)

 

Christmas Day – December 25

I am a huge fan of festivities. That is why this list is essentially ranked based on amount of festivities granted to each day. Christmas is, bare minimum, a month-long holiday. There are entire genres of songs and movies dedicated to it. Every self-respecting season of television has a holiday episode. There are one million recipes that are Christmas-exclusive. Also I love cookies and there is no more cookie-centric holiday in the world.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Or, “National Day of ____” things that I believe should be actual holidays

International Ninja Day (December 5)

National Lumpy Rug Day (May 3)

National Just Because Day (August 27)

National Everything You Do Is Right Day (March 16)

 

Holiday Gifts on a College Budget

The holidays are the time of the year where you want to give presents to your friends, family, pets, teachers, co-workers, and whoever else is special to you. But there may be one thing that’s  stopping you . . . money. Buying gifts for multiple people definitely adds up, so I created a list of presents for your college budget that is perfect for all of your loved ones.

Photo Book

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 Photo books are a great personal gift for someone special in your life. You can purchase an empty photobook and fill the book with pictures or you can create a photo book online (on websites such as Walgreens and Shutterfly). If you choose to purchase an empty photo book, here are some ideas. For a more personal touch, you can fill the majority of the photo slots and then leave some empty to save space for the memories to come. You can also add personal notes and/or captions along with the photos.You can print the photos at your local drugstore, online (such as a Shutterfly), or from your computer.

Cookie in a Jar

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For those who love baking, give the present of a cookie in a jar. Instead of baking cookies, layer all of the ingredients in a mason jar. After you put all of the ingredients of your desired cookie in the jar, add a recipe around the lid with a ribbon for the final touch.

Vintage Shop

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If you want to give clothing as a gift but you can’t afford retail prices, go to a vintage store. The great thing about vintage shopping is how unique all of the pieces are. Vintage shops are also a great place to look for funny gift exchanges such as a white elephant. The garment district is a great place to go vintage shopping.

Make a Card

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A simple and fun way to get into the holiday spirit is to create a card. Whether you hand make, purchase, or create the cards online, this gift is a fairly inexpensive way to give presents to many people. This year my suitemates and I have decided to give our friends a card and add candy. Depending on how much you want to spend per gift you can even add a gift card or anything else that will fit in the envelope.

Coupon Book

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This presentation is one of my personal favorites. One reason I love this gift is it doesn’t cost anything. Ok, I’ll admit, I have used this as a present because I didn’t want to pay for an actual gift for my mom. But in my defense, I did add coupons for a movie date and a spa day, so I knew I was going to have to pay for something eventually. Coupon books are especially great for parents and grandparents, but they are also great for friends too. I still have a full coupon book from a friend that I can’t wait to use.

“Open when..” Letters

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Open when letters are usually known to be for your significant other, but they can be written for anyone. This is especially a great gift if you live far away from a loved one. Some of the envelopes may be titled “Open when you miss me”, “Open when you need to laugh”, or  “Open when you’re sad.” Of course, those are just a few ideas and there are so many more. Ultimately it is completely up to you to determine what you would like to write the letters.

Planner with Fill-in-the-Blank Quotes

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I recently was just about this gift and I am obsessed with it. There is a planner with spots on each of the pages to personalize with your own quotes. If someone ever gave me this present I would automatically start tearing up because of how personal the present is. This is also a great gift to give right before the start of 2018. If you want a personalized gift and don’t mind spending a lot of time writing in the planner, then this is an amazing gift. My personal favorite planners for this gift are Day Designer planners.

Another tip to save money is to do a gift exchange. Instead of your buying gifts for everyone in your friend group, workplace, family, etc., do a gift exchange instead. Now everyone only needs to purchase one gift instead of multiple gifts. There are many different fun ways to do gift exchanges: secret Santa, white elephant, drawing names, and more. I hope that these gift ideas gave you some ways to buy presents this holiday season on your college budget.

Black Friday Shopping Guidelines

Since 1952, Black Friday has become a holiday of its own for the consumers of America. The term was originally used to describe the crash of the U.S gold market in 1869. The term “Black Friday” was later used as a way to refer to the day after Thanksgiving when retailers went “into the black” or made a profit. Today, Black Friday is a day that has turned into a full-out, strategic shopping adventure. Whether you go to Target or Walmart, some sort of calculated strategy needs to be put in place. Here are a few tactics to tackle your Black Friday Shopping:

  1. Make a game plan- A game plan is vital to Black Friday shopping. A game plan includes a shopping list, list of stores you want to visit, and you may even want to include in itinerary. The more organized you are before during this chaotic day, the easier your shopping experience will be.
  2. Figure out your needs and wants- We all have things we need, but we also have things that are more of a want. Now the tricky part is distinguishing the difference between a need and want . . . My personal advice to you is to put the people you are shopping for first, and then put yourself second. Although there will be many tempting items that you will just need try to find the self-control you have deep down and remember the others you are shopping for. By shopping for others on Black Friday, not only will you save money but you will get your Christmas shopping done early! Now you will save money and stress. Of course this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t splurge on something for yourself, but always keep in mind your needs and wants.
  3. Research, research, and research some more- I cannot stress this tip more . . . do your research! Prices fluctuate from every store. One store may have a packaged deal or an exclusive product that you wouldn’t have known about without looking up prices. Also, search for the store policies at the stores you plan on shopping at. Some stores may have limitations for certain items, or some may match the lowest prices of other stores. Doing your research is always advantageous, so research, research, and research some more!
  4. Set a budget- Setting a budget can be a daunting task. Personally, I set a budget with a little bit of “wiggle room” and set it at a the price that I can comfortably spend the most. I do this so I am not tempted to spend too much money, but also so I don’t feel too confined. Make sure you stick to your budget, and make sure it is realistic for your shopping plan. It is definitely okay to underspend, but you may regret overspending.
  5. Decide how dedicated you want to be- There are many levels of Black Friday shoppers. You have the “oh I just want to check out a few stores” shoppers. You have the “I have a list and I know what I want, but it’s okay if I don’t.” Then you have the “I’m camping out all night for this 50 inch, $100 TV” shoppers. Whether you are a spectator or a camper, figure out how dedicated you want to be and then plan accordingly.
  6. Find Apps- Surprisingly enough, there are apps for Black Friday shopping! Disregard my sarcasm, but there are actually three specific apps that I would recommended: ShopSavvy, Black Friday App, and Nifti. These three apps are great tools for your shopping trips. ShopSavvy allows you to scan the barcode of a product to find the best price. Black Friday App shows all the Black Friday deals and also includes store times and information. The app Nifti tracks prices based on historical data to see if it really is a good deal. I would highly recommend downloading at least one of these apps to make your life easier.
  7. Maybe online shopping is a better alternative for you- If none of these tips seem appealing to you, then maybe you should opt for online shopping. There are many Black Friday online deals, but if you simply don’t want to shop the day after Thanksgiving then there’s always Cyber Monday.

I hope these tips will help you with your Black Friday shopping. Best of luck to you and whoever else dares to face the craziness that Black Friday brings.

Reasons to Survive a Boston Winter

I hate winter with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. (This is symbolic of the complete lack of the sun we all know and love, and its replacement with a pale, watery impostor.) Winter is dry. It is cold. All the good stuff dies or hibernates, the latter being a skill I’m attempting to attain through the consumption of approximately one million Reese’s Peanut Butter Trees and a long nap. Now, moving to Boston means not only will the winter itself probably be worse, but so many of the things I love about living here will be brutally taken out by bare minimum four months of bitter, bitter cold.

In an attempt to curb my intense dread, I’ve compiled here a list of the summer-to-winter transformations of some of my favorite Boston places. Maybe this winter won’t be bad. I guess. Especially if this whole hibernation thing goes to plan.

 

  1.  Boston Common Frog Pond

I walk past this shallow, manmade, frog-less body of water every day of my life. Children may or may not be allowed to play in it; it’s difficult to tell because I have seen both a) don’t go in the water signs and b) children in the water. But good news! Instead of just being a sad, empty cement pool, IT WILL TURN INTO AN ICE SKATING RINK.

This is very exciting news, not because I enjoy ice skating, because I do not enjoy anything that makes me fall painfully and publicly only to land on a cold, hard surface, but I do appreciate watching people ice skate significantly more than I appreciate gazing at a cement landscape. Can’t wait until they start freezing water come mid-November.

The Boston Common Frog Pond Ice Skating Rink (rolls off the tongue) also has College Nights! Bring your college ID any Tuesday night (while school is in session) for a reduced ticket price.

 

  1. Boston Common

This isn’t an all-winter-long transformation, but at some point in February 2018, the Boston Common will become a winter wonderland. Albeit one teeming with screaming kids. It’s called the Children’s Winter Festival, and there are slides and refreshments and general wintery glory. Yes, it does say “children’s” in the name, and yes, that does mean it is intended entirely for children, but in past years there have been concurrent events for ALL people, like free skating camps (for all ages!).

Also, if you tell them you’re a child at heart, are they really going to prevent you from entering?

 

  1. The Esplanade

The Esplanade is a beautiful park that runs along the Charles River, and I quite frankly failed to see what its appeal could be in the winter months. Thankfully, the Esplanade website has a list of wintery suggestions, and one of them is snowshoeing. Apparently, snowshoeing is something I have wanted to do for my entire life without being aware of it, because I am VERY EXCITED about this idea. Granted, this, along with other activity suggestions like cross-country skiing, rides on the concept of a lot of snow. That’s already a plus side of winter. But it’s still cool!

Plus, the Esplanade is beautiful and snow is only going to make that fact truer.

 

  1. Sledding

The best transformation of all, I believe, is the transformation of the hellish hills I have to ascend every day into perfect sledding terrain. (This falls apart if I think about what it will be like to still ascend those small mountains when they are covered in snow and ice, but I’m trying to block that out.)

Sledding is one of my favorite parts of winter and the biggest positive I’ve seen thus far of living at the apex of a hilly nightmare is that I can sled with incredible convenience and ease.

 

  1. HOT CHOCOLATE

You may be thinking, “How is this a transformation?” I’ll tell you. It’s a transformation from me ingesting a variety of beverages, such as water, into me just drinking hot chocolate all the time because it is the best liquid in the world. According to the Internet, there are many, many, many prestigious and delicious hot chocolates in the municipality of Boston, like Taza Chocolate Bar’s create your own (they also sell churros!!) and Tatte’s white Belgian hot cocoa.

I would like all of them, please and thank you.

To update: I still hate winter. However, the intensity with which I am dreading it has decreased to some extent. Because now I have snowshoeing and hot chocolate and sledding and watching people fall while skating on my way to class on the brain.

 

Being The Change

The events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last week are nothing short of appalling. Watching the news has made me feel so incredibly sick. I’m upset, angry, and looking to make a change. As a young adult in the world today I am in an important place of power. I have the power to control the future of our nation by speaking up about important issues. I encourage you to do the same because every voice is valuable!

Take an inside look into what happened in Charlottesville by checking out this documentary created by VICE. The footage gives great insight into the minds of some of the individuals involved with the rally and how their actions affected those around them.

I hope this film made you just as upset as it made me. Getting enraged is what will spark the fire to make a change. I wish I could show this film to every single person my age to create a reaction. It is one thing to read a tweet about what happened in Charlottesville, but taking the time to put yourself in the shoes of those who were there when it happened creates a whole differe

This past Saturday there was a free speech rally in the Boston common, and I have never been more proud of my city. Hate was met by an outpouring of love. The counter protest consisted of at least 30,000 individuals marching to fight bigotry and hate. The rally was for the most part peaceful and no extreme acts of violence were reported by the Boston police. There is just as much room for love in this world as there is for hate.

Boston “Free Speech” Counter Protest – Aug. 19, 2017

I was feeling down and upset last week but after Saturday I felt my body fill up with hope. Boston proved that love can overcome hate.

As far as what you can do, reach out to Republican state reps and speak up about the change you wish to see in our government. Every voice is important and speaking up is the best thing you can do at this time. We must bring these issues to the attention of local officials who have the power to invoke greater change. Every individual can impact a bigger change.

Check out this link for more information: https://hastebin.com/tosetacemo.coffeescript

Resist, resist, resist. Combat hate with love. Persevere. There are things going on everyday that inspire me to take action and I hope that more young people will educate themselves and get involved because we are the change.

My Big Greek Vacation- Part 3: Santorini

I think I can safely say I saved the most beautiful place on the planet as the ending for my trip to Greece. Santorini is another island in the Aegean Sea and is primarily known for its sunsets. Many people say it’s the most beautiful place to watch the sunset, and I can’t say I disagree. Even looking back at my pictures I realize that no camera can capture Santorini. It defies technology.

Santorini was very easygoing. We spent most of it lounging around the pool in our hotel or out on the ocean. The ocean cruise was actually the best part of the entire trip. We were on a small ship with about twelve other people for six hours cruising around the shores of Santorini. We got to see the black, red and white sand beaches. There were cliffs made of lumpy volcanic rock due to the fault line right underneath the island. I got to sail right by an active volcano, so that was a little terrifying. The volcano was actually right off the coast of our hotel, so I got used to being near it after a while.

Back to the cruise. For me the best parts of it all were the few stops we made so we could jump into the sea and swim around for some time. It was like swimming in Mykonos only better. The water was crystal clear to the point where I could see fish swimming underneath my feet. One of the stops was at a hot springs by an inactive volcano, because there are actually two volcanos next to Santorini.

Santorini also has a cute town just like Mykonos. This one was called Oia (it sounds like EE-aa), and it’s the most famous in Santorini. It has the same white walls as Chora, but these are rounded with blue domes at the top. Despite the shops and all the great gifts they had to offer, Oia is most known for being the best place to watch the sunset.

Honestly, you could watch the sunset from anywhere and it would be just as beautiful. The view from my hotel was stunning. The first night we were there, I couldn’t stop looking out at the skyline during dinner. The sky looked like a pastel rainbow. That’s the best way I can describe it. The mountains and rocks looked lavender during the sunset too. Then there was the moon coming up opposite the sun, which is something I literally couldn’t capture it on my phone. I could watch it change right before my eyes. When the moon was lowest, it was bright red. The higher it got, I could see it change from red to light orange, when finally to yellow once the sun was totally gone. I really wish I could get a better description for you guys, because it was absolutely surreal.

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Surreal is the word that keeps coming up when I think about Greece. It was the best place I’ve ever been to in my life, and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who hasn’t been there before. You won’t be disappointed.

My Big Greek Vacation- Part 2: Mykonos

From Athens, Mykonos is just a thirty minute plane right away. From the moment I got off the plane, it was clear that the island was significantly different from the mainland. The roads are narrow and some aren’t even paved. The landscape is hilly with dry brown grass and bushes.

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Oh, and it’s windy.

I don’t just mean Chicago-style-windy either. When we went to the beach, the sand and water was blowing in our faces. We had to weigh down our books, towels and anything that weighed less than a cinderblock. I almost lost a 400 page book to the wind multiple times.

Despite the wind, it was still the most gorgeous beach I’ve ever visited. It was amazing really. While the island was dry and arid, the coastlines were absolutely stunning. I took so many pictures of the water that I had to delete a good number of them just to make room for other photos. Even with the pictures, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that there was absolutely no way I’d be able to recapture what it was like to stand there at my hotel and see the view. Swimming in it was even more surreal. I could see right to the bottom it was so clear. The cold water was so refreshing and so salty I could float without a problem. It was really interesting to be able to notice that the water had that much salt in it. It was a lot better than the New York and Florida beaches; I came out of the Aegean Sea feeling almost exfoliated.

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On the opposite side of the island from our hotel is a completely different kind of attraction. It’s the little cobblestone town of Chora. It’s filled with cute shops selling beautiful jewelry, soap, and all the Greek souvenirs you can imagine. The buildings were this nice bright white and they had bold blue shutters that caught my eye. They were small and simple but it was still awesome to see the interesting architecture I’ve never encountered before.

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They have beautiful bougainvilleas all over Greece, but this one in Chora took my breath away.

We did get lost in the town though. Multiple times. It was actually designed that way to confuse invaders, we were told by a local. The streets are all intersecting and you can’t really retrace your steps. Trust me I’ve tried. In a few cases I went in a complete circle. I was happy about getting lost though. Each street was a little different and I managed to find a cool magnet of Socrates while I was there.

Staying in Mykonos was an incredible three days. On the last day, we took a ferry to another Greek island, Santorini. Stay tuned next week for the third and final part of my Greek trip!

How to be an Ethical Shopper on a Budget

Of course, we all want to save the world. We want to end world hunger, war, and animal abuse. But, honestly, being one individual in the middle of over 7 billion people can make you feel really small and helpless. Yeah, there’s the phrase, “It starts with one person,” but can one person really start a worldwide movement and create change?

These are the things I think about when I’m shopping. I think about people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. If they could create such positive change in this world through their confidence, leadership, and determination, why can’t I? However, I understand that I, like many others in this world, want change, but don’t have the time or resources to commit my life to the change. Alas, this brings me to the topic of ethical shopping. As a fairly broke college student living in an expensive city, it’s not so easy for me to exercise ethical shopping. I want to shop at the brands that I know have the same morals I do, but my wallet doesn’t necessarily agree with that. This is what leads many people in my demographic to the world of fast fashion; stores like Forever 21 and Primark who produce clothes rapidly and sell them for cheap prices. It seems like a great deal for people who want style on a low budget, but fast fashion companies are able to sell their clothes for so little due to the unethical working conditions of employees and wasteful disposal of clothes, among other issues.

However, it is possible to shop ethically on a budget, and here’s how:

Thrifting

One of the worst parts about fast fashion brands is that, when trends come and go, so do the clothes. Piles and piles of clothes are thrown out, and this trash is extremely harmful to our environment. A way to avoid this problem, without emptying your bank account on expensive brand clothing, is to thrift! Shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops has become much more popular recently. There’s something very cool to us millennials about purchasing “vintage” apparel and items. It’s a stylish look, but it also helps us prevent tons of waste! Rather than throwing out those old clothes, people donated or sold them to these stores who are helping pass these clothes along. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And the best part about shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops is that items are often sold for much cheaper than their original selling prices, due to the fact that they’ve been previously worn or used. All the better! You can save tons of money and still get some awesome new clothes, all while contributing to saving the environment.

Research

An important part of understanding ethical shopping is research. It’s difficult to know which of your beloved brands are ethical and which aren’t without doing some good old-fashioned research. You can find out a lot about a brand, including employee wages, where the items are produced, working conditions, and environmental impact. Again, it’s hard to find a perfect brand who gets an A+ in all these categories, while still being affordable. However, it’s all about baby steps. While you may not be able to afford a brand like that, you could look into brands who are pledging to improve. For example, H&M used to be considered a fast fashion brand (and still technically might be). However, last year, H&M worked hard to research ways to become more sustainable. They put out a new line called H&M Conscious, and all the clothes were produced with sustainably-sourced cotton. While this cotton only represents 43 percent of their total cotton use, their goal is to have 100 percent of their cotton come from sustainable sources by 2020. Companies like this, who are still affordable, but who are making strides towards more ethical production, can be good choices for people who want to shop ethically on a budget.

DIY

One of the cheapest ways to be an ethical shopper is to make your own clothes! If you’re someone who is creative and would be willing to put in the effort and time into making their own clothes, than this is perfect for you! Just as with cooking, making your own clothes ensures that all the materials and production were done as ethically as possible. Plenty of arts and crafts stores sell materials like cloth, yarn, thread, sewing machines, and buttons, and it could make for a fun home project. However, if you’re not necessarily the artsy type, you could always buy homemade clothes from other sources. Websites like Etsy specialize in handmade products sold by normal people. You can often personalize the product to be exactly what you want. It’s a less expensive way to ensure that your product is being created by an ethical source. In addition, you know that your money is going to a good cause: a hard-working individual like yourself, rather than a multimillion-dollar, greedy corporation.

All in all, it’s not impossible to be an ethical shopper on a low budget. You have plenty of options, and it’s all about starting small and making strides. It may feel like your one action makes no difference in the big scheme of things, but it’s all about conversation. Talking to your family and friends about the changes you’re making to your shopping habits can inspire them to do the same! While you may not feel as prominent in this movement as, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement, you can feel confident that a chain reaction has begun.

My Big Greek Vacation- Pt 1: Athens

My family is Greek. We’ve always wanted to visit Greece and experience the culture of our family and so we finally booked a two week vacation and headed over. I’ve just returned from said trip to Greece and I can safely say it’s the best vacation I’ve ever taken in my life. This is a country everyone needs to see before they die. From their islands to the mainland, Greece is stunning.

It’s the third most mountainous country in Europe, something I didn’t know until I got there. The capitol city Athens is actually in a valley surrounded by mountains on three sides with the sea on the fourth. It was also very dry and hot. It didn’t rain once while we were there but there was always a nice breeze even when the temperature in Athens reached above 100 degrees.

In all honesty, Athens itself isn’t pretty. It’s home to about five million of Greece’s eleven million people, and the buildings are crowded and littered in graffiti. In other words, Athens is like a regular city. However, it does have one major twist. The ancient Acropolis sits a few hundred feet above the city right in the middle of them all. Seriously, I could see the Parthenon from my hotel room.

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The Acropolis from my hotel window.

It was a real hike to get up to the Acropolis. My family and I had to stop and rest before finally coming face to face with the ruins that are thousands of years older than the USA. There are two main ruins up on top of the Acropolis. The big draw is the surreal Parthenon. This is the temple for the goddess Athena, who gifted the ancient Athenians and thus won the right to have the city named after her (according to mythology, that is). The other is a smaller but still gorgeous temple dedicated to Poseidon, another favorite of the Ancient Athenians.

Now I’m a writer, but overall I can say that everything in Greece I saw challenged me to even attempt to describe how out of this world the entire experience was. This feeling started at the Parthenon. It’s exactly like the pictures, but it’s so huge when standing next to it. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that someone built this. Ancient Greeks used perfect mathematics to form a giant temple that still stands today. Of course significant portions are missing and reconstruction efforts are taking place, it still felt amazing to stare up at these wide columns and symmetrical design.

The view from the Acropolis is also amazing. As the center of the city both today and in ancient times, you can see out over the whole city on all sides. I could see the Theatre of Dionysus, a theatre I was excited to see after learning all about Greek theatre at Emerson. I love Ancient Greek literature, so seeing the giant amphitheater where they would put on some of the most famous tragedies was, sorry to use the word again, surreal.

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The view from the top of the Acropolis
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Theatre of Dionysus! The ancient Greeks obviously didn’t have that screen or those modern chairs down there, haha.

Athens was such a new cultural experience that I won’t forget until the day I die. From the delicious gyros and fresh food to the after-dinner shots that comes customary after every meal, I think I discovered a whole new kind of eating experience to take back to America.

But, this was only the beginning. My family and I also visited popular Greek islands Mykonos and Santorini after Athens. Each had their own amazing and unique qualities, and I’ll tell you all about them soon!

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Just hanging out by the Parthenon