A Letter to Boston

Dear Boston,

I’m leaving you today. I suppose we both knew this would be the end result. But there are so many things I’ve loved about you. I wanted to let you Know a few of them.

The history. There’s history everywhere. Which means there’s ample opportunity to learn. And that’s my sole aim. To learn as much as I possibly can during my brief time on earth. 

The museums. Boston is a city of museums. This of course is right in line with the history. Museums are about educating, and it seems that Boston is doing a wonderful job of educating.

Education. I’m from Houston. There are a number of universities located within the city. At least one is highly ranked among all universities in the country. But Houston simply doesn’t have the university presence Boston does. Which leads me to believe that the city is a hub for obtaining knowledge. Boston University. Northeastern. MIT. Harvard. I mean, wow. And yes, I realize Harvard is actually in Cambridge but SHH.

The diversity. Again, I’m from Houston. A city regularly touted as the most diverse city in the country. And heck, maybe it is. But everywhere I went in Boston I saw it on display. I heard more languages spoken than I can possibly count. In Houston I regularly hear two. English and Spanish. In eight days in Boston I probably heard 10.

But at the end of our brief time together there was certainly some negative. The roads. The roads here are terrible. And what’s with those weird three way intersections with no stop lights or anything? Are you asking for car accidents to happen?

But this isn’t about being negative. We had a spectacular eight day relationship. Maybe we can still be friends?

Sincerely,

A Wannabe World Traveler

John Guillen

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Boston: Day 7

I began my day by making the short drive to Concord, MA and visiting the Concord Museum. Though relatively small, the museum had some great information and exhibits. I didn’t know so many prominent authors had ties to the small city. Louisa May Alcott. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Henry David Thoreau. And others.

I followed with a trip to Minute Man National Park about a like away. The park is rather large, but the focal point for me was the Old North Bridge. This was the site of the battle of Lexington and Concord. There’s a statue of a minute man, a statue to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle, and an English gravesite. One of the more interesting places I’ve been to on this trip.

I then made the short drive into Lexington, MA to visit Buckman Tavern. This was where members of the rebellion waited for the British to arrive just prior to that first battle. It’s very small, but on the second floor there’s a new exhibit on 18th century social media. It gives such great perspective because we think we have so many advancements in how news is spread, but in reality all we’ve done is speed up the process a bit. The exhibit compares Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and even fake news to the different methods used during the 18th century. A great exhibit. And that was my day.

I planned on visiting the Louisa May Alcott house and Ralph Waldo Emerson House, but one was closed and the other closed very early in the day. Too bad.

Boston: Day 6

Ugh. Today was not the most productive day. I began the day by picking up my rental car. But it didn’t go smoothly. At first they wouldn’t give me the car because they said Equifax declined it or denied it through their system even though the score requirement was well below what my score actually is. When I called customer service he told me he could cancel the previous reservation and start a new one. I’d pay $217 for four days instead of the $90 I originally paid. Not happening. Eventually the woman at the counter figured it out and I got the car after almost an hour.

I began my day with a 60 mile drive to Springfield to visit the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It wasn’t worth the time or the $24 admission fee. It seems like they put in the bare minimum as far as exhibits and information. There’s a basketball court that takes up most of the first floor. Seems like a giant waste of space to me.

Followed up with a trip to Springfield Museums. It’s four museums located adjacent to one another around a Dr. Seuss sculpture garden. Yes, a Dr. Seuss sculpture garden. Honestly, the sculptures were pretty great. The Dr. Seuss museum is opening here later this year.

The first museum of the four I went to was the Museum of Science. I’d hardly call it a museum. It was mostly dioramas. Which are nice, but an entire museum made of them isn’t worth the price of admission. Then moved on to the Museum of Fine Arts. A much needed pleasant surprise. They had an exhibit on loan from the Smithsonian. I think it was called Jeweled Up. It was regular everyday objects JEWELED UP. Absolutely stunning.

I planned on ending the day at Six Flags New England. I love roller coasters and it had become a nice day outside. I went to the main gate and told them I have a Go Boston card. Which grants me free admission. I was told by two workers that the people who deal with my card had left at 5:00. It was 5:19. The card is extremely simple. I pull it up on my phone. They scan. That’s it. But they said no. The alternative was I pay $63.99. Absolutely no chance of that happening. I left. And that was my day.

Boston: Day 5

I began the day with the Walk Through History tour along the Freedom Trail. The guide was in full costume and had lots information to share. It wasn’t even that bad that it started raining on us.

I followed with a brief trip to the New England Aquarium. It wasn’t high on my list so I visited for less than 90 minutes. The main attraction was the whale watch I was planning to take part in. It was going to be my first time on a boat. Of course it was canceled. So I walked across the street and watched two features at the IMAX theater. One on whales and the other on the Galapagos Islands.

I followed with another trip to Faneuil Hall. I ate and got to see three different street performers. All different acts, but all extremely entertaining. And that was my day. Today I pick up my rental car to visit some things a little outside the city.

I’m about halfway through my trip. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photos tomorrow. Stay tuned!

I’m off!

When I was much younger (nearly 20 years ago) I went on the vacation of a lifetime. Disney World. For something like three weeks. The experience was nice, but I was so young that I was limited in what I could actually do. And no roller coasters.

Today the vacation of a lifetime happens a second time. Eight days in Boston. As you can see my interests have changed as I’ve grown into an adult. Disney World is about magic. It’s about enjoying being a kid. It’s about escape. Boston? To some those things may also apply. To me it’s about history. The birth of this great, flawed nation I love with all my heart. It’s about growth. Learning. And Red Sox – Yankees doesn’t hurt anything. ☺

In the few short years I’ve been an adult I’ve wanted to travel the world. What better way to learn than from other people, cultures, and places? There’s so much the world has to offer to stay in one place all the time.

So I’m not. I’m not a multimillionaire. I don’t have a bank account with $50k in it. But I have a good paying job with a company that encourages its employees to take time away from work. I make more than enough to take one big trip a year, and if I really focus on my finances I can squeeze two trips out of a single calendar year without changing much of what I already do.

Last year I went to DC for only four days and it was INCREDIBLE. Guys, who cares what I say about books? If there’s one thing you take from your time reading my blog let it be this:

There are few things we’re able to do in our short time on earth that are as rewarding as traveling. I cannot encourage you to travel enough. Your reasons may be different than mine, but there’s really no reason not to take a trip every now and then. Cost. I know it’s expensive. Buy tickets way in advance. Save for months. It’ll be a sacrifice. But it’ll be worth it. I promise you.

On “Thirteen Reasons Why”

SPOILERS AHEAD

I posted yesterday about starting the Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why. The series is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Jay Asher.

I watched all 13 episodes in two days. I’ve not read the book, but after watching the first season I imagine the book is incredible.

The themes of the story include suicide, bullying, and rape. There’s more but this post would be 10,000 words if I discussed all of them.

Hannah Baker commits suicide after a series of events leads her to believe her life is no longer worth living. One event was a picture of her in an unflattering position sent around her school. Another was that she witnessed her friend get raped. Another was her own rape by the same student. The final event was that her counselor was unhelpful in her final reach for help.

Hannah records 13 tapes describing the things that were done to her in the time leading up to her suicide. Those tapes are given to the people mentioned on them after her death.

What’s most devastating about the story is that it isn’t really fiction. Rape and sexual assault may not happen at every middle and high school, but bullying? Yes. Cyberbullying? Yes. Verbal abuse? Yes.

Kids and teens are brutal. There’s no reason to question this. How many people don’t talk about their time in high school or college because they’re ashamed of the things they were doing at the time?

We have a president on tape bragging about sexual assault. What’s worse is 60+ million people STILL voted for him. It’s hard to address serious topics like sexual assault and rape if it’s being normalized.

No form of bullying is ever okay. No form of sexual assault is ever okay. No rape is ever okay. Depression and anxiety can be incredibly difficult things to deal with on your own. If you or someone you know is ever having urges to self-harm or commit suicide, then talk. Talk to a friend. Talk to a family member. Talk to a teacher. Talk to someone. Because then that burden is no longer on the shoulders of one individual.

You can speak to someone anonymously 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

This story is so much more than a story. It’s a wake up call to people who downplay the consequences of bullying and sexual violence. Why is it so hard to believe that people can push others to believe that death is the only solution to their pain and angst? Why is it so hard to believe that people who commit suicide were failed by people, policies, and institutions? Why is it so hard to DISCUSS suicide?

Just a couple of years ago someone told me they were having suicidal thoughts. But that person wasn’t nearby. I couldn’t just get in my car and go help. I told that person to speak with someone. Any one. I never told them, but I was terrified. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do enough. That I might text the wrong thing and make things worse. I don’t know for sure how that person ultimately handled their depression, but I do know they’re doing quite well now.

This story is the heartbreaking stories we see on the news every week. But it serves to show us all that we are not alone in our struggles. Even when things are at their absolute worst, someone will be there. The title of the book refers to 13 reasons why Hannah took her life. But it could just as easily refer to 13 people or things that could have saved it. Every human life is precious. Every single one. Yet we find ourselves valuing some more than others, and not valuing others at all.

This book is immensely popular. Please tell me your thoughts.

A Pleasant Surprise

I’m not always the biggest fan of literary adaptations, although there are definitely exceptions. Yesterday afternoon I opened up Netflix to see if there was any documentary I might be interested in watching. Before I even browsed the documentaries I came across something else. Thirteen Reasons Why.

I may be mistaken, but I think this book is assigned in some schools in my area. I’ve never read it but I know it’s still popular a decade after publication. I had no idea what the book was about. Then I watched the first episode.

What I’ve watched so far (6 episodes) reminds me of Looking for Alaska. There’s a death. And everyone is trying to piece together what happened.

I’ve enjoyed the series. I’ll always enjoy a book that hits on relevant topics. Suicide prevention and bullying will always be important topics to stay informed about, and those two things are at the forefront of this book.

Have you read the book or watched the Netflix series? Thoughts?