36 hours in Chicago

Chicago was a big city in many ways. It was large in diameter, height and history.

It was also a strange city. The transit (train) ran on a bridge over the road and through the buildings, which is very different from the UK where the railway and stations tend to be situated away from the main centre.

However, it was a beautiful city. Riding the tour boat we were able to see a significant range of the buildings, from industrialism to post modernism and the famous Hartshorne Plunkard architect firm. The height of the buildings were unbelievable! And as Chicago is known as the Windy City, the Willis building is designed to sway three feet in any direction!

Besides from the buildings, Chicago is also well known for it’s pizza, therefore I was obligated to try some! And it was very good. It wasn’t chewy like a lot of American pizza, which I liked!

In the evening we wanted to see Chicago by night. It was even more breathtaking. A lot of the buildings were lit up and the atmosphere in the bar we went in was great too!

Overall, Chicago was great but unless you like architecture, there’s not much there too see. I enjoyed my 36 hours in Chicago, and maybe if I could have I would stretch this to 48 or 72. Although I would not need to spend more time than this here.


“There’s no place like home” Dorothy, the Wizard of Oz

New Orleans is such a unique place. The people are different to the rest of the states. They’re very clever in the way they make you give them money. There’s no fear here. They’ll try anything with no care for what will happen because their main priority is getting money for themselves and their family. But they’re proud of who they are despite their means of income.

This sense of pride is evident all over the city. From the homeless to the rich. From the bartenders to the drunk tourists. There’s a sense of belonging. And the reason for it? The music.

Whether you listen to jazz and blues or not, in New Orleans you love it. Music brings people from all over the world together through singing and dancing. It’s so much fun. No one cares what you look like because 1) most people are too drunk to care let alone remember, and 2) everyone goes out to party anyway.

Bourbon street is designed for the tourists with every bar, restaurant and club having great deals to entice you in to party. And it works. We had so much fun dancing and singing along.

Frenchman Street, on the other hand, is where the “locals” prefer to party. At the weekend, more well known bands play, however, the music during the week is still amazing and includes anything from upbeat jazz, to mellow blues. It’s definitely better than Justin Beiber or Drake, but that’s just my personal opinion!

The feeling of belonging and looking after yourself/ loved ones can be concluded as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of people lost their homes, belongings and loved ones and the city is still rebuilding after the devastation.

Even though they’ve got a homeless problem, are under sea level and have run down streets in the ninth ward that have not recovered from the hurricane of 2005, everyone is proud to call this their home.

From speaking to the residents of New Orleans, they’ve either never moved, or if they have they moved back because there’s no where as good to live as here, and there’s no better feeling than when you come me home.

I left my heart in San Francisco 

I’ve fallen in love. San Francisco was such a pleasant surprise. It has so much culture. As the new technology capital it has everything from Chinatown, Japantown to the Italian and Spanish areas as well as a 1960s/70s neighbourhood.

For a city it is quite small, 7 miles by 7 miles, and is very different to the rest of California for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it’s a peninsula meaning it’s a lot cooler and windier than the rest of California. However, this enables it to have many beautiful views.

Secondly, it holds many records. It contains the biggest park in the US, Golden Gate Bridge Park.

As well as the crookedest street in the US, Lombard Street.

Not forgetting the most photographed bridge in the world, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

Not only does San Francisco hold many records, it also has a lot of history such as Alcatraz, the federal prison on an island inhabiting America’s most dangerous criminals.

And Fisherman’s Wharf which gained its’ name in the late 1800s when Italian fisherman came to the city to take advantage of the gold rush.

More recent history includes Haight-Ashbury which is famous for the hipster/ hippie neighbourhood, containing many vintage clothes, records and Tibetan stores.

As well as being home to Jimmi Hendrix’s house.

Last but not least, San Francisco is home to a number of sea lions, making the pier even more popular with the tourists!

Overall, San Francisco is definitely worth visiting if you are interested in a variety of cultures, historical monuments and beautiful views. The only downside is the steep hills and the hundreds of homeless people. But if you’re prepared to deal with the hills and donate the odd dollar, San Francisco is the place for you.

What happens in Vegas… goes on the internet!

Las Vegas was so much fun! We arrived at the hostel at night, checked in and booked a Grand Canyon West Rim tour for 6am the next day so went to bed, despite the fact I was too excited to sleep!

The 5am start was painful. The coach picked us up from the front of the hostel at 6am and dropped us off at the north of the boulevard where we were transferred onto the coach to the Canyon.

The coach driver made the journey very entertaining, although having an interactive coach ride was a bit of a cultural difference. In Britain the coach driver doesn’t tend to talk to the passengers, just at them, which made our journey to the Canyon a bit uncomfortable but fun all the same.

During the journey, the driver informed us of all the history and interesting facts about Las Vegas, such as when different areas were built and why, as well as pointing out all the celebrity houses.

The first stop we came to was Hoover Dam. The views were stunning! However, it was sad to hear about all the men that lost and risked their lives to build it. As well as the men, the Dam dog lost his life from being run over and was buried onsite.

The second stop was at a small desert village which was very different to the culture to anything I had seen. In the coach, a video was played informing us of the people of Las Vegas’ purpose and some of the changes it had gone through. For example, a lot of the residents helped advertise atomic testing to win the Cold War and the change of laws under the Presidency of Ronald Reagan.

After 5 hours we arrived at the Canyon and my goodness it did not disappoint! The views extended for miles. The first stop at the West Rim we went to was Eagle Point, named after the eagle shape of the Canyon.

As well as the eagle, another shape that could be picked out was a dog lying down.

At Eagle Point, there was also a Native American village to look around and learn about which was really good too.

After a lunch break, we got the shuttle bus to the Guano stop which provided an even more spectacular 260 degree view of the Canyon when we hiked up a small hill.

The scenery was incredible. The Earth is truly an amazing place!

On the way back to Vegas, we drove along the famous Route 66 which was really quiet and had a stop at “Last Stop”. Sadly we didn’t see any aliens.

We arrived back at the hostel around 5.30 and got ready to hit the strip. It was so much fun! From riding a Gondola at The Venetian to Spanish dancing outside Caeser’s Palace, there is so much to do besides the classic slot machines. The atmosphere was unlike anything I had experienced. It was so lively and energetic. The costumes were also incredible! Everyone was there to be free and have fun, and we definitely had fun judging by how we felt the next morning!

Unfortunately we had to check out by 11am, so as soon as we were organised, we got a hangover cure and went into Downtown.

Despite being there during the day and the heat, the energy levels were still as high as the night before with many still drinking and gambling.

But it didn’t matter what time it was, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Well, it used to until the internet and social media was invented!

Los Angeles, CA

After a long 6 hour flight we finally arrived in LA. Stupidly, we didn’t research public transportation to the hostel so had to pay a taxi. To be honest I thought it would be more!

The hostel looked amazing. There was a bar, restaurant, free breakfast and a rooftop pool with a bar! We were so excited!

However, when we got to our room, the beds were all messed up. There were locks on our lockers and they had sold out of locks for us to use. The staff were really apologetic and quickly sorted us out with a new room so we could freshen up and enjoy the rooftop bar before going to bed before a busy day ahead.

We woke around 7.30, got ready and had breakfast. By the time we had sorted everything out it was 10am and try to start the challenge that was finding the city tour bus. The street names were so confusing! But after 45 minutes of walking in circles and asking numerous people for directions, we were on our way to Hollywood!

Firstly, we did a lot of walking looking at all the stars, getting stopped to do certain tours and taking pictures. We then did a bit of souvenir and gift shopping followed by lunch, where I had my first American McDonalds consisting of a side salad, smoothie and oatmeal with fruit and maple.

After lunch, we got on another tour bus which took us around Beverly Hills, Fairfax village, some cientology venues and the paramount studios. It was so good!

Afterwards, we had more of a walk along the stars then headed into downtown for a bite to eat before having a drink on the roof.

The second and last day we went to Venice Beach to see some other friends that we worked with. It was really nice just to escape the busyness of the city and relax on the sand listening to the waves. We had a bit of a walk around the area before stopping for some food and heading back to the hostel to get ready for our flight to Las Vegas.

LA summary:
Lots of history and entertainment to see if that’s what you are interested in. The city smelt bad and the people are weird. It’s very expensive but worth it if you like shopping, entertainment and the beach or you’re trying to make it in the entertainment industry.

Leaving work and embarking on your travel adventures

Finally that time has come. The graft is over and you’re free to explore.

However, its not as easy as you thought it would be when you begun the program. Yes, you are now on your own time. Yes, you can do what you want. But first you have to say goodbye. 

Three months may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things but it has been a significant part of your life. Your accommodation has become your home. Strangers have become your family and your job has become your life. 

All the friends you’ve made and the adventures you’ve had are now just memories and photographs. You wonder how the summer went so fast? 

But new adventures await. There are more countries and cultures to discover. Yes goodbye is the hardest word to say. But its never really a goodbye. Firstly, there’s social media to stay I’m contact. But most importantly, the people you’ve met, and the journeys you’ve been on have shaped you into the person you are today and nothing can change that or take it away. 

The sad emotions you’re feeling will be short lived. Every so often you’ll feel sadness and miss these individuals, but at the same time you’ll be travelling. You’ll finally be doing what you came here to do. You’ll be making new memories and friends, and be having the time of your life. 

But don’t forget those you’ve met. Hopefully one day you’ll meet again. Maybe you’ll go and work back there, or visit them on holiday. Or maybe they’ll come and visit you?

Goodbye is not the end, especially in this day and age. Its the beginning of a new adventure. It’s a “see you later” or “see you in another form”. Enjoy your travels and future, but don’t forget those that have shaped you this summer. 

Saving the J-1 Program

The world is becoming a very sad and isolating place. There are 7 billion people on this Earth that we all share, yet we are becoming more and more restricted to how much of it we can use. This week President Trump is trying to end the J-1 visa program. This may not mean much to some, but for many this visa opens up so many opportunities and provides a considerable number of jobs, not only in the US, but across the world. This includes roles regarding sponsorship companies and international programmes that organise the experience. As well as this, a lot of resorts and businesses rely on J-1 employees to function during their peak seasons. 

Economic benefits are not the only reason to keep the J-1 visa.

By employing J-1 staff in the US, these individuals gain a great cultural experience, not only of the USA, but of the countries of their colleagues. For example, I now have more knowledge of Eastern European countries, the Philippines, State Palestine and China, to name but a few. 

Not only is it a cultural experience for J-1 individuals, but it is also a cultural experience for the citizens of the US as they also learn about the variety of cultures and countries from those that come over to work with them.

By learning and gaining a better understanding about the various cultures and countries, more contests and differences can be resolved, taking a step closer to world peace. These worldwide connections are also beneficial in terms of business, travel, the economy, health research and medication. 

Based on these reasons I cannot understand President Trumps’ decision to end the J-1 program. It improves international relations, international communication and the economy. Without this program I would not have met so many amazing people I now condider family and gained a greater understanding of cultures and the world we live in.