Where Should I Go Later This Afternoon?

Where Should I Go Later This Afternoon?

There are almost 200 countries in the world and I want to see them all. From the Coliseum in Rome to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to the Gobi desert in China to the hills of Scotland, there is something beautiful in every single country. The hardest part is deciding which place to explore, which place to lose apart of myself in, should I go to Beijing, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh, Osaka or Bangkok? The opportunities are endless.

On my morning commutes on the “L” train in Chicago I have had perfect daydreaming conditions: lifeless trees, snow covered everything, cold wind, etc. These daydreams always revert back to one thing: what if I got off at the Jackson red line stop, got on the Blue Line to O’Hare and left? I wouldn’t have much. A few wrinkled ones, maybe a five in my wallet, a debit card, a credit card, a ticket stub from a Sigur Rós concert, the clothes on my back and whatever book I decided to grab before I left my apartment. Today would be Independent People by Haldor Laxness (don’t actually ask me about the book though, I haven’t read it). Getting on the Blue Line train and getting off at O’Hare is easy. Deciding where to go is not. Should I go to Sevilla, Spain or Buenos Aires, Argentina? Should I go to Amsterdam, The Netherlands or to Helsinki, Finland? What about Asia? What about Australia? Why not Russia? Before I get ahead of myself I will stop and present something I like to call: “Where should I go later this afternoon?”

A quick disclaimer: money is not an issue (no one thinks about a budget in a daydream), I might be making up flights and even accessible airports, my parents, friends and girlfriend are totally okay with me leaving with a one-way purchase.

New Zealand’s North Island: I’m thinking that I will get in Auckland at around 7 AM. Find a hostel to stay at, drop off my bag (singular) and go to the Bay of Plenty. There, I meet a local who teaches me how to surf, how hard can it be? After I realize I actually won’t lose a leg to a shark, I learn a few things. I do prefer the land though. For lunch I stop by one of the nearby gardens and eat some avocados and kiwis. I take a quick cat nap (3 hours) on the beach and head back to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. And because it has been a long day learning how to surf and napping on the beach, I decide that I deserve a little reward so I head to a wine bar and taste some local wines.The next day I head south to Hamilton-Waikato because I want to day dream again and wonder what life is like in Middle-earth. Another stop would include Rotura on the Pacific Rim of Fire, which is a geothermal hotspot and the home of the Te Arawa people. I’ll also check out Eastland, where the Europeans and the native Maori first met on the island (I can also surf and drink wine at a vineyard here, too). I’ll soon head down to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital and second largest city at the southern tip of the island. Wellington, a culturally rich destination has many museums, theaters and art galleries worth seeing. Wellington also has a ferry that connects the North and South Islands in case I want to go skiing.

South Africa: I know, I know, how can I just say an entire country, especially a country that is incredibly diverse both culturally and geographically and is twice the size of Texas? I almost didn’t include South Africa for the sole reason that I couldn’t decide what to talk about. Should I talk about Cape Town, the beautiful coastal city in the south where you can go on a cable car ride and get a bird’s eye view of the scenery? What about the natural parks where I can see elephants, lions, or giraffes in their natural habitat? I surely can’t miss out on Johannesburg, South Africa’s capital city. What about the townships such as Soweto, where many impoverished South Africans live? After all, Nelson Mandela came from a township. Speaking of him, I should probably go to Robben Island, where he was incarcerated for almost 30 years. Wait, I think I just told you why to go. Well, for what it’s worth, I think I’ll start my trip on the Kalahari listening to Paul Simon’s album Graceland.

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: There is a common theme here: all of these places are nicer than winter in Chicago. Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s second largest city and is only getting larger. This summer, the city is set to host many World Cup matches including the final. In 2016 Rio is hosting many events for the Summer Olympics. The city is rapidly continuing to advance both economically and socially under President Dilma Rouseff, Brazil’s first female president (pretty cool, huh?). Rio is set in a bay with tons of beaches, where hopefully I will find that Girl from Ipanema. The famous Christ the Redeemer statue is in Rio and when visiting the monument I might as well take an aerial helicopter tour of the city. If I time it just right, I should be able to catch the tail end of Carnaval and enjoy the rich artistic history of the city (the musical genres of Bossa Nova and Samba both trace their roots back to Rio). Comida a Kilo is something I’ll be sure to look out for. It is a style of restaurant in which you pay for the food by the weight. Which is great because, I always wanted to see how much weight I could gain by one plate of food! You know, I might just visit enough beaches, drink enough água de coco and dance to enough Samba to stay until June and catch a few World Cup matches and see Neymar represent his homeland. Side note: don’t go in August, it’s the coldest month with an average low of 66 degrees Farenheit.

Stockholm, Sweden: Before I talk about Stockholm, I want to say some things about Sweden. Sweden is actively trying to cease the use of oil, in the entire country. About 48% of their energy is renewable. Swedes are forced to buy plastic bags at the grocery store to discourage use. It is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world—mothers and fathers are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave. There are food holidays such as Våffeldagen (Waffle Day) on March 25th. Eighty-five percent of the population lives in urban areas. IKEA and H&M are both Swedish gifts to the world and Swedes have a life expectancy of 83. All in all, Sweden is cool, really, really cool. At the heart of all this progress is Stockholm, home to 22% of the Swedish population. It is built upon 14 different Islands in the Southeast portion of the country where daylight in the middle of summer can last up to 18 hours. As an avid biker, I’ll be sure to rent a bike and ride it along one of the many paths that connect the city to the nearby parks. Stockholm is home to several different Art Universities and has a vibrant artistic scene. While there I’ll stop by the Stockholm marathon (I won’t be running, remember all that food in Brazil?), Stockholm Pride and the Stockholm Jazz Festival. Stockholm has a highly accessible transportation system both within and outside the city and from there I can easily go to Umeå, one of the European Capitals of Culture of 2014. Or from there I could go to Norrbotten County, which is entirely in the Arctic Circle and has accessible viewing of the Northern Lights.



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