How to do Chicago on a Budget

On your way to Chicago but only have a little money and a few days? Want to explore this historic city and soak up the culture, nightlife, and tourism all on a limited time and budget? Have no fear! Chicago is a unique and cool city, definitely one to see. Here’s what to see if you only have a few days and the cheapest ways to enjoy yourself.

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Millenium Park

If you’ve only got a few days, make sure you get to Millennium Park! I rode into Union Station and while it is a bit of a walk, it’s possible to get to Millennium Park by walking. Chicago is pretty walking-friendly, and if you get tired there are tons of Ubers driving around and the attractions are so close that rides are very cheap.

Millenium Park is home to Crown Fountain (pictured above), The Bean, Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus classical music performances and more. You can listen to music and see these attractions for free. Millennium Park is home to Chicago’s iconic trademarks, it’s beautiful, nice to walk through, and free.

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Buckingham Fountain

Located in the center of Grant Park and open since 1927, the Buckingham Fountain is a beautiful piece of architecture that’s completely free to view and easy to walk to.

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Go to the Top of a Tall Building

Part of the Chicago experience, right? The go-to here is the famous Willis Tower. But, the Willis Tower does cost money to experience. Although, if you feel like paying, you can go out on the skydeck which is a small glass room protruding from the Willis Tower that you can step out onto and look at the city hundreds of feet below. If you’d like the tall tower experience but would prefer a free option, try the John Hancock Building! On my first Chicago trip I went up to the top of the Willis Tower and it was a great experience. However, on this trip we opted for the free John Hancock Center, which was also memorable. It’s a 100-story 1,128 ft. skyscraper completely free to enter. At the top is a restaurant and bar, surrounded by glass walls that allow you to overlook the city while you dine. However, if you’re super cheap (like me!) you can ride to the top for the view and sneak back down without buying a thing!

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The Riverwalk

The riverwalk is quickly becoming a hot tourism spot in Chicago. Lined with restaurants and shops, the Chicago River goes straight through the city and hosts walking tours, boat rides, and beautiful scenery. I went on a “Chicago’s Finest Tours” walking tour which was exquisite. 90 minutes walking, lots of great history and facts, and a fun boat ride, plus the tour guide was enthusiastic and funny. While this tour wasn’t free, you can still walk through the riverwalk free of charge.

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Deep Dish Pizza

This is an essential part of the Chicago experience. There is authentic deep dish pizza everywhere, and each time I’ve visited Chicago I’ve eaten at a different spot. That being said, you really can’t go wrong anywhere. Go ahead and splurge on your pizza–trust me.

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This concludes the cheap selection! Although they are pricey, Chicago offers some of the best art museums, natural history museum, aquarium, and space and industry museum. Certain venues hold cheaper days/nights and if you’d like to go to the big three (Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum of Natural History, and the Art Institute of Chicago) you can buy passes that bundle the three and are cheaper than buying individual passes. While these passes aren’t exactly thrifty, if you have the means to go to at least one attraction you will not regret it.

Have fun in Chicago!

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Hiking Down into One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World: the Grand Canyon

Hello all! Hope you had a relaxing Veteran’s Day long weekend.

As I previously posted, I spent mine road tripping, camping, and hiking down into the Grand Canyon! Here are a few things I learned that can help you plan your own trip…

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#1 November is definitely a good time to go. We were a little worried it might be too cold, but the temperature was actually perfect. Nice and crisp in the morning and downright warm in the daytime

#2 The Canyon has a wonderful little camping spot that was excellent! Be sure to reserve a spot at any campground before your trip, as they fill up. We reserved one four days ahead of time, which worked out fine. You will arrive at your campground, get a place to park and set up your tent, equipped with a fire pit and picnic table. There are also showers (8 minutes, hot water, $2) and laundry services. The best part of the campground is access to the shuttles. The shuttles transport you all around the grounds- from your campsite, to the visitors’ center, the different lodges, restaurants, and of course, the many different trails. Visitors’ center opens up at 8 am, and the staff is extremely helpful in helping you decide which trail you’d like to do.

#3 Get an early start. First of all, the sunrise over the Grand Canyon is magnificent. Second of all, there are far less people out and about at 8 am, than at noon. We started our hike at 8 am, which was perfect because there were some other hikers around (helped us feel safe) but the trails were mostly empty and we were able to enjoy the sights by ourselves. When we finished our hike at noon, carloads of people were just arriving. Plus, it got pretty hot by noon, and you’ll definitely want cooler temperatures and fog overhead to do your hiking.

#4 Definitely bring a backpack and pack multiple waters and snacks with you. Even if you’re not planning a strenuous hike, these trails are intense. It’s very easy going down… little harder coming back up! But, completely worth it. We did the South Kaibab Trail, which turned out perfectly. We are in no means professional hikers, so if you’re looking for a minimal workout and to get into some good Canyon depth, South Kaibab may work for you. The staff at the visitors’ center was really helpful in determining this.

#5 Pack for different temperatures! Layers are a must. I started the hike wearing sweats, a long sleeve shirt, sweater, and vest. I finished the hike in a sports bra and leggings. I also slept in many layers, but walked around during the day in jeans and a t-shirt. So, bring multiple options! It will definitely help you stay comfortable.

Our trip to the Canyon was epic. We drove for eight hours starting in San Diego and headed east. We got to drive through rural valleys, hills, and rocky landscapes. We stumbled upon some huge sand dunes and climbed up them, watching drivers try to catch each other in dune buggies below us.

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Winterhaven, CA
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Winterhaven, CA

Essential to any road trip; we stopped for dinner at a Western-themed diner filled with locals. Had a great meal, and, of course, homemade pie.

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Calico’s Restaurant

We slept overnight in our campground and watched the sunrise at 7 am the next morning. The Canyon was vaster than I could have ever imagined. The colors of the rock transform throughout the day, and the sunlight gives them life. Watching the sun slowly illuminate every rock, crevice, and dip as far as my eye could see was incredible to witness.

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Sunrise, Mather Point

We had our breakfast at a cafe next to the visitors’ center. Delicious coffee! All ready to go.

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When you first start your hike you look down into the canyon and think, that’ll take forever to get to the bottom of. It looks impossible, but the further down you go, little by little, it actually takes no time at all. And soon, you’re halfway down without even realizing it.

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Inner Canyon, South Kaibab Trail

The dirt was bright red, and the walls of rock around me were pink from the sun, and light green from far away trees. Each line and divot looked meticulously crafted by wind and other elements. Focusing on each focal point; a tree ahead you, a cliff up ahead, in the distance all you can see is Canyon surrounding you.

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Inner Canyon

No echoes. No nearby chatter (if you go early enough). Just silence. Complete tranquility, as you witness this colossal masterpiece, exquisite by simply existing. Untouched, undisturbed.

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A few hours after our hike, we returned to the isolated spot to watch the sunset. The dark night sky and moon enclosed the canyon, painting new colors. In the morning, we returned to the Canyon, just to say goodbye.

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Sunset, Yaki Point

We drove home a different way than we had come, and passed by many small rural towns. Had to stop at (another) diner, and made it back in good time.

The Grand Canyon was incredible. What was your experience like?

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More pictures featured on my Instagram

Upcoming Trip to the Grand Canyon!

Hi everyone!

I am currently planning a camping/ hiking/ road trip to the Grand Canyon to take place over the upcoming long Veterans Day weekend. I live in San Diego and the drive will be 8 hours. I’ve reserved a campground in the Village of the Grand Canyon, and am planning to take a shuttle to the trails I choose to hike.

Look for updates on my trip! I’ll be sharing photos, resources, and how YOU can plan your own visit!

Happy adventuring 🙂

5 Ways Eastern and Western Cultures Compare and Contrast

Hi! My name is Bry, and this is my guest post for littleadventuresblogger. After studying abroad in India last semester and studying abroad in Thailand this semester, I’ve noticed some of the key cultural differences and similarities between the East and West and wanted to share them! My main blogging is primarily travel photoblogging, but I also enjoy urban life and the things that come with that such as art, food, music, and more!

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Grandpa, Ko Lan, Thailand

Respect and Collectivism

 

In most Western cultures, independence and individuality are idealized. We are expected to stray from our parents at a young age, with some students going to college preparatory boarding schools. In many European countries, students will take a gap year in which they travel by themselves before attending college. In contrast, family is prioritized much more in Eastern cultures, with most college students living at home if their campus is located nearby. In Western culture, it is typical for families to place their elders in facilities where someone else looks over them, whereas in Eastern culture elders are given the utmost respect and are taken care of by their children.

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Lotus Temple, Trivandrum, India

Spirituality

 

The link between culture and religion in Eastern society is much more prevalent than that of most Western society. In Thailand, most people are Buddhist like their parents; in India, Hindu; in Malaysia, Muslim. In the United States and many European countries, people do not share the same views as their parents, and this often leads to a lack of spirituality and direction.

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Hell, MBK, Bangkok, Thailand

Millennial Behavior

 

It is interesting studying in Thailand- a developing nation which is starting to take cues from America in fashion and technological habits. Similarly as in the United States, most teenagers are addicted to their cell phones, although less so here. People are more quiet with people they do not know, but will generally talk to others, whereas in much of America people are more likely to judge each other. So, while in Thailand people are generally more friendly, there is a similar millennial trend in America in which people use their cell phones rather than talking to each other.

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Jazzie, Munnar, India

Selfies

 

Yes! With Westernization and technological advances, the selfie and social media applications such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook are huge in many Eastern countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and India (although banned in China).

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Almina, Kerala, India

Female Rights

 

In most Eastern cultures, womens’ priority is taking care of the family, and sacrificing professional life to rear children. Women in the West are much more liberated and free to decide her priorities both professionally and personally, such as picking her career or when to marry or even bear children.

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Som, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Management of Emotions

 

In the West, people usually do not smile very often, and it is very common for people to openly express their anger or frustration through yelling, fights, frowns, etc. In the East, even if you are unhappy, it is expected for you to give your best smile regardless instead of dwelling on what is making you unhappy.

Want to hear more about travel that makes you think? Head to my Instagram and my blog.

Where Have I Traveled That I Could Live?

This post was a guest post I did for another travel blogger’s site, but I liked it so much I decided to put it up here too! 😉

When you get back home from a big adventure abroad, everyone always asks you, “What was your favorite place?” As a traveler, you and I both know this is an unanswerable question. I’d always say things like, “I like this place best for this… this one for this…” Or, “This place was most beautiful… this place was most fun,” to deflect questions like this. I almost feel guilty saying one spot is better than another, so before I dive in, let me say that all of Europe (my most recent trip) is exquisite. The food, culture, architecture, and history make it a unique and special continent. However, one country in particular that stood out to me was France, and this is because of many reasons.

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Breakfast at home

I was lucky. I got to experience the fast-paced, city-life of France, and the slow countryside, both as a tourist and as a local. I went to Paris when I was backpacking; I stayed in an outdoor community of artists and actors and slept in a tent in the dead center of the city. I got breakfast in a café, and watched people working and bustling to their destinations, Although Paris is a city; it’s different from an American city. People still take their time, are extremely friendly and respectful, and every building is so architecturally unique and detailed that you think it must be a palace before you look closer and find out it’s a McDonald’s. I loved Paris. I could picture myself working there and grabbing a morning coffee and pastry while on the job. There is no shortage of things to do in Paris, whether you like the arts, history, sports, fashion, entertainment, or natural outdoor beauty. This city has it all.

On the flipside, I was also extremely lucky to spend a weekend with some family in the rural commune of Touffailles in Southern France. If you are ever in Southern France or want to experience the slow, countryside-feel of France, I cannot recommend this place enough. I grocery shopped at a market with local vendors selling their fresh catches of seafood and homegrown melons and vegetables. I went to small cafes sprinkled alongside cobblestone paths. I hiked up tall hills that overlooked neighboring towns and communes. The unique thing about this area is that it was occupied centuries ago, so almost all of the towns are built on tops of hills because in ancient times they needed to be built high in order to ward off and better defend against attacking intruders. History is everywhere here. My first day there I got a coffee and scone at a café, that was placed casually in the same plaza as an 11th century abbey. Wow. Drinking my coffee I got to go into the abbey and see antiquated stained-glass windows and gold decorations. I remember thinking; I could totally live like this. Walk down the hill to the town’s bakery every morning, say hello to neighbors in the close knit community where everyone knows everyone, go to the market at noon, spend my Tuesday evenings eating snails and duck, drinking local sweet white wine, and dancing at the Marché Gourmands in the Lauzerte square.

Many people in France have an apartment in Paris, where they spend Monday through Friday, working and living in the real life. And then they also have a family home in the countryside where they spend leisurely weekends basking in the sun and dining out. Well, that’s pretty much my dream! I loved every city I went to in Europe, but I’ve got to say, the French really know what they’re doing.

What I learned from Backpacking in Europe

This summer I went on a backpacking adventure through Europe. I had never traveled without my parents before, and all I had was a backpack, limited Spanish, and my friend. The two of us took on multiple means of transportation, major cities, tiny towns, and proved to our families and ourselves that two, 20-year-old female college students with zero traveling experience can navigate, finance, and travel through Europe.

How to Pack

I took my brother’s camping backpack with me, which had about seven pockets, 13 zippers, and towered above my head. I sifted through numerous travel blogs before leaving on my trip, trying to find out what I needed for six weeks abroad and how I could carry it all with me. One of the best pieces of advice I found out there is to make sure every article of clothing you bring goes with everything else in your bag. In other words, if you have a shirt that is so cute but only looks good with one specific pair of jeans, don’t bring it. You’re going to be so short on luggage room, only bring items you wear often, are comfortable in, and go with each other. Also, bring little travel bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and whatever shower necessities you like. We stayed in hostels, (even tents) and discount places won’t provide essentials like these. Finally, invest in a super comfortable, durable pair of hiking sandals! I used a cheaper version of Birk’s and they worked perfectly for me. The last thing you want is to be crawling through Rome because your feet are blistered.

How to Budget

Financing your own travels as a broke college student is hard, but not impossible! We primarily used hostels.com to book our lodgings, which turned out really well. However, if you’re going to travel on the cheap, you have to truly commit yourself to it. Both my friend and I were ready to be uncomfortable, do anything to save money, and were focused on using our money to see more places rather than stay in luxurious hotels. To some people, staying over night in Paris in a tiny tent on the ground with an outdoor bathroom sounds terrible! And that’s ok. Be honest with yourself about what you want, because otherwise being less comfortable than you had intended will ruin your trip. You can also save on museums and tours by researching before you get there, to find out student discounts. In Europe, many places give discounts to under-26-year-olds. For food, we splurged on a big, authentic meal once a day. We’d eat cheap breakfasts, like fruit and bread (typical European breakfast) and then go all out for lunch or dinner. That way, we’d get a taste of every country without spending $20 three times a day on meals. You will spend the most money on transportation and lodging. Research hostel prices and determine how many nights you can afford to stay in a city, and plan accordingly with travel expenses. Flying between European countries is often cheaper (and faster) than trains, and staying in hostels outside of the city is cheaper than staying in the heart of it.

You Can’t Plan Everything

You can’t, we tried. Do plan out as much as you can control, but be ok with the fact that some of your plans are going to fall through and you will be met with obstacles. Backpacking or traveling on your own is different than a vacation; it takes some effort, planning, and you will learn as much about traveling as you do about yourself. We had some transportation issues. In Italy especially, buses and trains are usually late, and this caused as a few schedule complications. But as you go, you’ll learn to adapt to challenges and fix problems quickly. Traveling with the mindset of, “I will do the research and do my best to prevent problems for myself, but understand they will arise anyway” is the best way to go.

You Can Do It

You really can! Don’t be afraid! Our parent and friends thought we were crazy. I promise, we had absolutely ZERO traveling experience, but we were able to travel by ferry, car, bus, train, and plane. We visited seven countries. We saw historical marvels of the world, tasted authentic cuisine, played tourist and immersed ourselves with locals. I’m also someone who, before this trip, couldn’t read a map. Now, I’m confident in my abilities to get myself anywhere. It will be scary, stressful, and hard at times, but those are the times you will learn and grow the most. Our ongoing joke was that we were forced to learn “hello,” “excuse me,” and “exit,” in every language we encountered, mostly taught to us by navigating our way through the underground metros. Traveling transformed my worldview, confidence, and capabilities. It can change yours too 🙂