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We’re in Chicago!


We arrived in Chicago and our first step was to get situated in our hostel, Urban Holiday Lofts.  A great place to stay, very comfortable and secure. Our plans include visits to the Art Institute of Chicago and of course a stop by Millennium Park to see the Bean. Now go explore.


Tourist or Traveler?

This week I pose a question, a travelers conundrum. It seems that many people who go from the U.S. to foreign lands want an experience that is unlike anything they have witnessed at home. People want to see spears and loin cloths, hear unusual tongues and eat strange animals, let’s call these people tourists. Tourists want photos and souvenirs, and because of this they are also usually willing to spend money. Money is what everyone in the world wants, and if tourists have it, then many places will give them what they want. In many countries this is not a huge deal, pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower, pizza and wine from an Italian restaurant. Sometimes however the desires of the tourist can have devastating effects on local people. I like to say that tourism can “freeze” a population of people and prevent them from growing in the direction they want. Take Ghana for example, tourist want to see raw nature and mans struggle against the wild. There are people who cater to this desire, offering tourists glimpses into the lives of “real” Ghanians, their ceremonies and their customs. What the tourists want however is not Ghana today, they want to see Ghana 200 years ago, when it was a more “pure” culture, and the business people capitalizing on this desire and not showing the true Ghana, but a caricature of its past, freezing it in a bygone era. This is true of many places around the globe, where tourism is a major source of income, and the tourist is happy because they got the pictures they wanted and can tell the stories they dreamed of telling. I ask you this, why be a tourist? Why not be a traveler, be a person who wants to visit new places to see what they are actually like. There is no more “pure” culture, don’t look for it and be weary if you come across it. Everyone has been influenced by everyone and we all share aspects of our culture. Go into places where locals shop, eat and drink.

A local market in Accra, Ghana

A local market – Accra, Ghana

Don’t walk down the street with all the trinkets, but go to the place where real citizens shop. Visiting a foreign place is not about getting the perfect picture or the shot glass to put on your shelf, it’s about learning and expanding your understanding of the world around you. Now go out and explore.



I’m not a huge fan of surprises, good or bad. For this reason, I like to plan out my every move and try to have my ducks in a row before doing everything. But I’ve learned that trying to religiously stick to my plans is a mistake. One problem is that it is literally impossible to plan out ever scenario when traveling. Sure, you can bring an umbrella, extra money, and print out a detailed itinerary, but the chances of you encountering a snag in your plan are pretty good.

We walked for 2 hours to visit this place and then it was closed! - Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia in Manaus, Manaus

We walked for 2 hours to visit this place and then it was closed! – Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia in Manaus, Manaus

And when your plans become muddled, it’s good to realize that wandering around aimlessly in a foreign city can actually be a lot of fun. Keep in mind things that most cities have: markets, parks, museums, religious centers, government buildings. If you wander around long enough, you’ll find something fun and interesting to do, something that you had no idea existed.

Long exposure of a party

While in Japan we randomly came across this cherry blossom party of university students on a small island in the middle of a river – Kyoto, Japan

So when you’re traveling abroad, try to live in the moment and don’t try to plan every little detail of your trip.


Fast Food Around the World

I could never have expected the insane quantity of KFCs around the globe, I saw the Colonel more then I saw Ronald McDonald.

KFC sign

KFC – Guangxi, China

I have often traveled with people who don’t want to eat at a fast food chain because they “want to experience what local people eat.” Well, the restaurant is there because local people eat there.  The next time you’re in a foreign location, go into a chain that you know and look around, I would bet that most of the people in there are not tourists, and it may be the most genuinely “local” meal you ever eat. International chain restaurants are just another result of globalization, and an indicator that there is no “pure culture” anymore; everyone has been impacted by everyone else. I agree that while traveling one should try to get traditional foods or local specialties, food is a great way to get immersed in a culture. I just want you to keep an open mind while you travel and think about what the location really is like, and McDonalds and KFC may really are a part of that culture, whether you want it to be, or not. While in Japan Adam, Emily and I stopped at a McDonald’s in a train station. Below is a link to our experience. It was interesting to see the differences in their menu, not unlike the discussion of the Quarter Pounder with cheese being called a “Royale with Cheese” in France in the film Pulp Fiction.

What are your thoughts on fast food in other countries? Would you ever eat at one?