Lately, I've been feeling nostalgic about family vacations we took when I was a kid. While reminiscing about meeting Mickey Mouse at Disneyworld (my childhood dream come true), I decided it was time for another trip.
Now that I'm a bit older, it was time to expand my horizons to a whole other continent—Europe! And not just one city or even one country. I wanted to see as many places as I could within my limited time-off and tight budget.
Once the decision was made, I was excited, but I had no idea where to start. Planning a trip to the grocery store is daunting, so navigating my way through several countries in a few weeks seemed almost impossible. Not to mention, my only knowledge of Europe came from travel photos I had seen while enviously scrolling through my ex-friend's Instagrams.
I started with my favorite part: researching and determining which cities to visit. Once I'd chosen them, my first instinct was to check available flights. But it didn't take me long to figure out that traveling everywhere by plane would be massively expensive.
Then, I remembered a company that kept cropping up on travel guides: Omio. I thought it was probably just another site that claimed to flog the most affordable flights while actually charging more than the providers.
But when I checked their site, I discovered Omio not only helps you book cheap flights, it shows alternative travel options, like trains and buses. When I entered my departure date from each city, Omio clearly displayed every possible route of travel and the prices.
The site has filters so that I could quickly identify the fastest and cheapest routes. Omio's low prices are even cheaper than what I'd seen on travel guides and I liked the transparency.
Traveling by the quickest course meant I could maximize my time in some cities. If I chose to travel cheaply to other cities, it gave me a bigger budget for museum fares, guided tours, and swanky restaurants.
Omio accommodated my personal travel needs and priorities perfectly, and the whole process was super simple. I was thrilled to see that if I took the train from Brussels to Paris I could fit Amsterdam into my itinerary, too!
Thankfully, I downloaded all my train, bus, and flight tickets to the Omio mobile app. You have no idea how comforting this was, knowing I had easy access to all my tickets in one place. Because I could view my travel dates and times so easily, I made a detailed schedule for my entire trip. And when the day finally came for me to jet off, I was prepared and so excited.
Throughout Europe, I received regular updates. Rather than constantly checking each provider individually for information or possible delays, Omio alerted me. Plus, there was added comfort knowing that if I had a problem with any of the providers, Omio would help me get a refund.
Traveling to another continent is potentially scary, but Omio's informative and accessible service eased my nerves. I never imagined that planning such an extensive trip could be so simple. Thanks to Omio, my vacation was unforgettable.
I recently found out Omio is doing a $10 referral program, so I'm telling all my friends how painless traveling with Omio can be. I recommend it to anyone who is planning on traveling, whether it's to one destination or many. You can thank me later.
UPDATE: The folks at Omio are extending a special offer to our readers: Follow this link to book your next trip with Omio.
Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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