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Getting There: Traveling by Bus in the U.S.



This article was originally published on by Alaina Kiesel. Download Tiplr here.

“Wait. You did what?”

That’s the typical response I receive when I tell friends and family about my travels to and from Burlington, North Carolina to Sedalia, Missouri last summer.

I was headed to visit a dear friend and experience the famous Missouri State Fair! No, I didn’t opt for the four hour $400 flight; I definitely didn’t go for the $400 45-hour train ride; and though tempting, I didn’t road-trip the fourteen hour drive knowing that my poor 2004 Subaru Forester might not survive. So I went with the best option I could come up with. I took the bus. The Greyhound bus. Nine of them, actually. Four one way and five the other.

Clip from the 1995 comedy “Stuart Saves His Family”

Sounds like a nightmare right? While it had its good and bad moments, traveling by bus is an experience I’d highly recommend. If you’re already used to extensive bus travel throughout Europe or Asia, the Greyhound buses might seem like luxury to you with its cushioned seats and personal outlets. Before this adventure, I had a few experiences with transport that could only attempt to compare: hours in a group van throughout southeast India; four to five hour trips from Upstate New York to Manhattan; a couple of hours on the public bus from small Tuscan town Poggibonsi to central Florence . I had only an inkling of what I was in for before embarking on 25+ hours of extreme temperatures, body odor, gas station snacks, new sights, and inspiring stories.

Despite long hours and the occasional smelly passenger, riding the bus was the perfect way to pass through multiple cities, save money, meet really interesting people, finish a good book and take SO MANY NAPS all the while making my way to my destination.

There’s something thrilling about driving through a new city, an old town maybe. But there is even more splendor in gazing out the window as an observer possessing an ability that one would never have from the distance of the driver’s seat or from an airplane. You are not looking out at the road or the clouds or rooftops, but at the lives and idiosyncrasies of each cispeal place. The beauty of the bus is that when it stops, you also gain the ability to become part of that place, even if just for a moment.

Greyhound Station in Tennessee / Photo Credit: Brent Moore

Because of large chunks of time between some arrivals and departures, I was able to catch a fiddle band at one of Nashville ’s great venues, walk through downtown Little Rock, and enjoy a beer at a couple of pubs. On the bus, in the stations, and in local bars between transfers, I spoke with people from all over the country: an LA native, Cheesecake Factory Chef itching to get home to his baby girl after a business trip; a young man moving himself down to a new university after a tough year, a father picking up his entire life in Florida to be closer to his struggling daughters in Connecticut; to name just a few.

My experience was humbling and exciting, though as with any adventure, there are things I’d wish I’d known or had done differently.

So here are some of my tips for any fellow bus travelers:

  1. Wear Layers: 9/10 times the bus will be colder than it is hot. The bus drivers are cognizent of the fact that many close, hot bodies together can cause unwanted smells so he or she will often keep the air on for the duration of the trip. It can get VERY cold, so whether it’s an extra sweatshirt, long socks, or even a blanket (yes, people do it), be prepared.
  2. Be Early: It’s ideal to be able to get your pick of seats. I preferred to sit closer to the front, away from the restroom, and next to a window. If I was able to, I also always checked for a working outlet in or near my seat.
  3. Plan According to the Itinerary: When I was planning my trip, I carefully noted the amount of time that I’d have between each transfer to see what I would have time for in between. A bathroom break? Lunch? A full on city tour? It helped to look at the bus stations on a map in relation to the rest of the city/restaurants/amenities. I learned that many of the bus stations are not central to town and tend to be in not so great areas (as a young woman traveling alone, there were a few moments when I felt slightly unsafe). Make sure to be aware of the time of day you’ll be at these stops. I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk solo from the Nashville station at night. I ended up paying $5 to Uber just a couple of blocks away to 3rd and Lindsley Bar & Grill.
  4. Helpful Items: Portable phone chargers are great! If you are traveling solo, having access to a working phone especially at night is important. A Reusable water bottle was my life saver because there were always water fountains around in the stations and I didn’t have to spend money or look for shops/vending machines. A journal is the best way to record your journey. I ended up typing notes in my phone while on the bus and then writing in my journal at rest stops and between transfers. Write down observations, interactions, all sensations! The amazing part of travel isn’t just the destination, it’s about getting there.

[Alaina Kiesel | Editorial Assistant Intern | North Carolina & New York, USA]

Originally posted 2017-06-18 10:41:35.

Also published on Medium.


Love It, Leave It: The Miami Edition



Hi There! I’m Erin Oliveri — a sarcastic, yet unexpectedly friendly native New Yorker. My obsession with travel might be borderline unhealthy, but I’ve learned to combat this affliction with my pre-flight multivitamin. I’ve been to more than 35 countries and 6 continents, exploring the finest food and drink establishments a city has to offer.

In each city, there are those “can’t miss” hot spots that locals and tourists alike are queuing up around the block for. But, let’s be honest, many of those are overrated. I’m here to let you know what’s worth the hype and what’s not. And, maybe, just maybe, there are some under the radar places that should be on your checklist instead.

Love It, Leave It: Miami Edition

Ah, the 305. It seems like Miami is an ever-bustling scene that seamlessly transitions from beautifully buff and bronzed sunseekers during the day to slick suits, stilettos, celebrity sightings and nonstop revelry at velvet-roped South Beach clubs. Somewhere between the beach and the dancefloor, it’d be advisable to hit one (or a few) restaurants; otherwise, you may not make it to last call. With hundreds of restaurants to to snag a reservation at, you have to be careful not to fall victim to the tourist-ridden, glitzy beach spots just because they’re conveniently located.

Love It: Wynwood.

When a friend of mine took me to Wynwood for the first time, I was a bit bothered that I hadn’t discovered this hipster, art-obsessed mecca earlier. The area is most well-known for its epic, hand-painted and graffitied walls. Just search #wynwoodwalls on Instagram and you’ll get the picture, quite literally. The reason why most travelers might miss this constantly evolving community is that it’s a slight trek from the beach. From the iconic Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach to the main drag of Wynwood, it’s about a 20-minute drive (or Uber, let’s get real about it).

But, much like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the hipster scene also churns out culinary works of art that compliment any budget (yes, even if only old movie stubs line your Velcro wallet). Let’s start with the budget-friendly joints – Coyo & KUSH. Coyo, a bustling Mexican spot on 2nd Avenue (where you typically start Wynwood excursion) dishes out reasonably priced, flavor-filled tacos, and also houses a hidden speakeasy in the back. Wait—is that possible? Yep. Go there. And KUSH by Lokal, sitting on the outskirts of Wynwood (awkwardly straddling the train tracks), has tons of local craft brews that wash down substantially sized, award-winning burgers. The Johnny Utah – which I had to try – is smothered in a homemade sauce and topped with a hearty handful of pastrami.

If you can tap into an expense account or you just saved up for one top-notch dinner, pull up a chair at Alter. This warehouse-turned-fine-dining-hot-spot is tasting-menu driven. Choose from the five or seven courses for $69 or $89. But, if you’re going all out, the ‘full chef’s experience’ comes in at $165. Bold flavors and artistically-plated entrees ensure the food tastes as good as it looks.

To keep you there all night long, Wynwood has microbreweries on what seems like every other street. From the popular Concrete Beach Brewery, with the kitschy “Drink art. Make Beer.” slogan, to the smaller J. Wakefield Brewing, decked out with the owner’s favorite Star Wars and superhero memorabilia, you’d be crazy to leave this trendy community without trying out a few taps.

Leave It: Lincoln Road Mall.

“The Beach” – Miami or South – is where nearly every tourist stays. With miles of soft sand surrounded by hotels, restaurants and clubs, dropping your bags here isn’t a question, it’s an innate decision. Yes, while one of these spots should be your designated ‘home base’ spot, venturing out a bit for your meals (and liquid refreshments) will be the highlight of your trip. The quintessential tourist trap, which I myself fell victim to and would certainly not blame you if you’ve been, is Lincoln Road. I don’t have many regrets in life friends, but this is certainly one of them. Jam packed with chain restaurants and shops, this road is one you may as well walk blindfolded down, since foot traffic moves at a snail’s pace. While shuffling down this mini-mall-esque street, you’ll see some names that might seem vaguely familiar: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Rosa Mexicano, SUSHISAMBA, ad nauseam. I kind of live by the motto that if you can eat dinner while staring at a Crocs store, you might want to re-evaluate some of your life decisions. How did I get here? Where did I go wrong? (All questions to ask your therapist in next week’s session.)

The week prior to my trip, my parents had gone to Miami and told me a horror story, brought to you by the aforementioned SUSHISAMBA. As far as chains go, this is a fairly reliable joint for slightly overpriced sushi (we have a couple in Manhattan). But, the service at its Lincoln Road locale was nightmarish – incorrect orders and exorbitant food wait times. Of course I didn’t dare step food in this establishment, but headed over to a meat-centric eatery aptly named Meat Market. Hello again, horrendous service. These restaurants are so overcrowded, and with a slim wait staff that has to service both indoor and outdoor tables, creating the “can you grab our waiter?” effect. You know it well. When you sit down, look at the menus, have been ready to order for 15 minutes, and no waiter is in sight. You start tapping bus boys, hostesses, even other patrons, just dying for someone to jot down your steak tartare appetizer. By the time the food is set down on the table, you’re so ravenous that cardboard dusted in truffle salt sounds appealing. The service – or lack thereof – just destroys the whole dining experience. Head to Lincoln Road if you need a few $10 tank tops from H&M, not if you’re looking for a quality dining experience.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 19:40:13.

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Rainbows Everywhere: Atlanta Pride 2017



June has come to a close, but just because Pride month stops doesn’t mean the LGBT+ community does. Whether you’re still sporting a rainbow shirt every day or reminiscing about the pride-react emoji on Facebook, pride doesn’t take a break. But how do you keep the celebration going?

Whether you’re queer or just an ally for the cause, pride festivals are an amazing celebration of love and equality for people from all walks of life. This year, Atlanta Pride¹ is yet again pulling all the stops to top last year’s festival and parade. With main events starting Friday, October 7, this year is sure to be just as massive, positive, and more powerful than ever. And thanks to the city of Atlanta, the streets are more colorful than ever, with the city’s June decision to paint it’s crosswalks with permanent rainbows². In memory of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims, the crosswalks are a way to remember the tragedy and why we need Pride parades now more than ever. Now you can’t just show off your pride, you can walk with pride too!  

You can spend your weekend visiting booths and food trucks at Piedmont Park, finding the hottest clubs to dance in, or just walking around, enjoying the sunshine and the smiling faces of people who want love and equality just like you. Atlanta Pride is a huge event, and you won’t find a sense of community quite like this anywhere else.

According to Atlanta Pride’s website, musical talent on Saturday features artists such as Kiiara, Zara Larsson, and Jody Watley & Shalamar Reloaded; Sunday includes performances from Starlight Cabaret, Deven Green (sponsored by David Atlanta), and DJ Citizen Jane. With all of this diverse talent, pride weekend in Atlanta is sure to be a wild party and a celebration of love like the city has never seen.

The weekend also features its various marches, including the Dyke March, the Trans March, and of course, the Pride Parade (sponsored by Delta Airlines). After the parade on Sunday, be sure to stick around Piedmont Park to revisit the booths, listen to music in the grass, and spend time with your friends or significant other. It’s an action-packed weekend but worth it for the chance to show your pride and support the rest of the LGBT+ community all in one place.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 09:58:52.

Also published on Medium.

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Donald Trump’s Failure to Declare Pride Month Proclamation is ‘Dissappointing’ and But Not So Surprising




President Donald Trump has still not yet (or maybe never will) issue a proclamation for Pride Month. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community groups call it ‘deeply dissapointing’ but not so surprising. It is a paradox to have former President Barack Obama issue a federal proclamation every year dating back to 2011, and seeing no recognition at this time.

Congressional Democrats are now criticizing the President for not showing any acknowledgment of June being LGBT Pride month. Sources say that Seventy-two congressional Democrats on Friday criticized Donald Trump for refusing to issue a proclamation. Fifty-three House Democrats signed a letter, while 19 senators joined a second letter, for Trump to take action. The effort in the house was led by New Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross, while Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led in the senate.

“The White House’s decision to remain silent about Pride Month after eight consecutive years of presidential recognition sends a troubling message to the LGBT community that your administration is not committed to advancing equality for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge you to honor your campaign promise to be a ‘real friend’ of the LGBT community by issuing a proclamation and supporting lasting change and progress through policies that advance LGBT rights,” the letter states.

Ivanka Trump was the only Trump family member to recognize LGBT month with a series of tweets. The first daughter’s tweet said that she, “wishes everyone a joyful #Pride2017. This month we celebrate and honor the #LGBTQ community.”

“I am proud to support my LGBTQ friends and the LGBTQ Americans who have made immense contributions to our society and economy,” she said in another tweet, regarding the subject.

No one in the LGBT community was having it with Ivanka Trump for wishing a ‘joyful’ Pride this year. For instance, The Advocate which is a predominant gay magazine, had a few words for her.

“No rainbow hashtag can fix what the Trump administration is doing.”

Other well known gay social media’s like celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton responded to the tweet with his twitter account.

“Who is this ‘we’ you talk about? Because your father isn’t celebrating us – that’s for damn sure!!” Hilton said.

Ivanka is usually labeled as complicit as her father by the LGBTQ community. In NBC News and elsewhere showed that Donald Trump received 14 percent of the LGBT vote against Hillary Clinton’s 78 percent.

During last year’s election Donald Trump positioned himself as a pro-LGBT Republican. On the campaign trail Trump promised he’d be “better for the gays” than his opponent Hillary Clinton. The president even made history by mentioning LGBT issues during his acceptance speech at the Republican National convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

In February, Trump rolled back protections for transgender students which allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. It started the movement of “Trans equality now.”

Another attack Trump did to the community was when he rolled back protections in May by signing an executive order relative to religious liberty that pro-LGBT organizations say will only open the doors for further discrimination against gay americans.

Now, Trump broke the tradition at the start of Pride Month this year by not declaring a proclamation. Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, called “deeply disappointing.”

In order to prevent the LGBT movement from losing ground after the most pro-LGBT White House in history under President Barack Obama, veteran activist and director of Rise and Resist, Ken Kidd says leaders like himself need to remain involved and continue to make their voices heard.

“We should celebrate the heritage of Pride and the gains that we’ve made. But we also need to stand and fight to hang onto them and fight for our future,” the longtime New York City activist said.

Originally posted 2017-07-01 18:55:58.

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