Travel Diary 2016: Chicago to Acadia National Park.

*I wrote this blog back in January and never uploaded it*

As it snows outside my window, I am immediately filled with travel memories.. to times of warmer weather and adventuring; to one time in particular that happened about six months ago.

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Suburbs of Chicago are freezing in January.

This time last year, I was sitting with my boyfriend Tom planning where in the world we should go for a summer trip. We danced around with the idea of visiting Seattle. We got so far as to planning an entire trip on roadtrippers.com called “West Coast Roadtrip” (original, I know): it was the real deal. But, that trip came to a close when we realized just how far Washington was via driving (28 hours, 2,060 miles to be exact).

So, we did what any people who had absolutely no idea where to go would do.. we pulled up Google maps. We really had this attraction to the New England region, especially the seaside. After a bunch of searching, searching again and searching one more time, we decided on visiting Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Once we had the destination, it was all about where to go. We had to worry about what car to take (we ended up taking my very small, very cute Hyundai Accent), how much gas would cost, what cities we would stop at for the night and make sure we got to Acadia in just a few days. It took a while, but we had everything completely planned and by the time June hit, we were ready to go.

From the suburbs of Chicago, we embarked to our first destination: the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. There are a few things I learned while driving to Niagara: 1. The highway in Canada was essentially one very long, boring road. 2. Nobody is as excited as you are to go to Tim Horton’s. 3. Crossing into Canada from the U.S. will take a little while.

We did eventually get to Niagara after an all-day drive. It was absolutely beautiful and I now understand the hype. We stayed for the night we got there, plus the whole next day and left the following morning. We did basically every touristy thing you can do and had a great time.

We did something called Cave of the Winds where you get to take an elevator down to the base of the falls and walk around. There is a part of it where you are standing right next to the waterfall and the water slams you. It was great.

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After standing under Niagara on Cave of the Winds

Of course, we also did the Maid of the Mist. I would definitely recommend doing Cave of the Winds OVER Maid of the Mist, since the majority of the time on the “Maid” was spent trying not to freeze to death and attempting to see through the very thick mist (it doesn’t have it’s name for NOTHIN’). Both were amazing though.

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On the Maid of the Mist

After our day and a quarter of exploring Niagara (and 10 m we were onto our next destination. This one was really just a “we need to sleep somewhere” stop: Keene, New Hampshire. It turned out to be a pleasant stay. On the way to Keene, we made a lunch stop in Syracuse, NY, which I was a big fan of! We ate at a place called Funk N’ Waffles (it was on Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives) where they had a turkey dinner waffle. It sounds gross, but I promise it was amazing.

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Jive TURKEY (Not Tuerkey) from Funk N’ Waffles

Later that day, driving into New Hampshire was when our roadtrip views started to get beautiful. Upstate New York was started the hills, and from there we were driving through essentially small mountain ranges in Vermont. Vermont is the prettiest, most natural looking place I have ever been in the U.S. If you ever have to drive through it for any reason.. do it.  I am still wishing that I could drive through that area again.

In Vermont, we came across a small shop on the side of the road that sold honey and maple syrup, so naturally we got both.. and I have never had anything as good as either of those in my whole life. 10/10 recommend driving to Vermont just for some maple syrup.

We did eventually get to Keene, NH, where we stayed the night. My favorite moment from Keene was when we went to get some Panera for dinner and they had a lobster roll on the menu. As midwesterners, we were shocked, and told the Panera employee who couldn’t believe we didn’t have it on the menu in Chicago. Basically, this was when our trip started to feel very New Englandy.

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Side of the road in Vermont

The next morning we packed back into the car and headed towards our real destination, our cozy AirBNB in Lamoine, ME (right outside of Bar Harbor). We drove a lot on this trip, so much that it started to just seem natural to sit in a car for 9 hours a day. When we entered Maine, I really wanted to see the ocean, we pulled off at a random, small beach community and walked down to touch the water. It was a crappy, rainy, cloudy day.. but it was incredible to me.

We were planning to stop in Portland, ME for lunch and spending a few  hours looking around, but we got hungry before that and ended up in the town of Kennebunkport. It was pouring rain, we were a little bit hangry and sick of driving, but we had lunch at a small little restaurant. Tom got his first lobster roll there, which he thought was the best one ever, but he hadn’t tried any others yet in Maine.

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Our lovely Airbnb.

Later that afternoon, we finally got to our AirBNB. It was a long, long road to get there, but we did and it felt incredible. That night we drove into the town of Bar Harbor and had dinner at an Irish pub at sunset overlooking the bay. It was there that we found Bar Harbor Tom:

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The next week was filled with a ton of adventure, from exploring downtown Bar Harbor, to taking a trolly all the way to the top of Cadillac Mountain, we truly got the (probably touristy) Maine experience. I’ll let this picture slide show take you through what we experienced:

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Here is a video from Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park. This place was so amazing:

This was our first big adventure together. It was honestly fantastic and much better than we even hoped. If you ever get the chance to get out to Bar Harbor, I highly suggest it.

Our trip took place from the middle to end of June. The weather was in the 60’s-70’s, so it’s nice, but don’t expect this to be a beach vacation.

Let me know where your favorite place to travel is in the comments.


 

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My Anxiety Story: Raw + Real

I have anxiety and panic disorders.

I wanted to lay that out right away (if the title of this post didn’t already tell you) because this whole post is going to be me honestly and completely explaining my life with those disorders.

If you’re not interested in my personal story, that’s okay, but don’t think that you should be ignorant and uninformed on this illness. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 MILLION PEOPLE have to deal with this on a daily basis. That’s right. 18% of the population. That means at least 4-5 people in a class of 30.

It’s important to understand that just because people suffer from anxiety, panic and depression does not mean that they are ‘crazy’. It is as uncontrollable as getting the flu and if we had our way we wouldn’t go through this at all.

Open your eyes and accept.

Since I was very, very small, as soon as I can remember, I’ve had irrational fears. I was afraid of (just to name a few) clowns, doctors, dentists and dogs. When I was young, most of the fears were understandable. I could easily get away with my episodes because it was still cute. But, like everyone, I got older.. and I didn’t outgrow my fears.

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I went into elementary school and I was fairly social. I had a good amount of friends and did well academically. But, there were still moments where I was afraid. Around this time is when I learned how to hide what was happening to me. It was so helpful and eventually I could talk myself out of the panic. I did well for a few years into middle school.

This is when it started getting worse. I was afraid of almost everything and hardly anyone could understand. In turn, I pushed myself away from most people other than my close friends (most of who I met in jr. high) so no one could see me freak out. I figured if I isolated myself, maybe it would go away. I feared going into classrooms with a large amount of peers because I felt everyone could tell I was panicking. It was an awful, traumatic cycle. Thankfully, I found an amazing circle of friends who understood and would calm me. I finished Jr. High feeling pretty good. I was excited for high school to start.

My Freshman year of high school was not bad at all. I had a really good time and felt secure and happy. I listened to the music I liked, wore dumb clothes and hung out with my friends (typical 14/15 year old). It was almost like all my anxiety had been pushed back on the shelf. Of course, I had random panic sometimes, but often music was my ultimate medication (not cheesy, it’s true).

But, then Sophomore year came. It all started up again. I feared going to class, driving and just about everything else. It was total torture. I would start hypervenilating in the middle of a quiet class and make an excuse for the nurse to let me go home, because ‘anxiety attack’ was not a valid illness. Often, she would tell me to have a mint and sit down. I was at the nurse probably 2-3 days a week; they knew me by name.

Junior year wasn’t any better. It was probably my darkest point in terms of depression taking me over. My grades were suffering from missing school, everyone was talking about college and I was terrified. For a while, I didn’t know if i’d be able to get into any colleges. This added even more stress. Overall, It was a year of full on panic.

Senior year the panic again slipped away. My grades went way up, I got into some more artsy programs and started totally focusing on my writing. I had wanted to be a writer since I was young and it felt so achievable then. This, I believe, boosted my confidence and helped me push through my year and graduate. Graduation was an amazing day for me; I made it out of the place that I had such awful memories with (panic related, everything else was fine).

The first few years of college went very well for me. I started working out, lost a good amount of weight and finally felt like myself. I had been stress-eating for comfort for a long time. I started attending Columbia College and felt completely at home. Freshman and Sophomore year zoomed by.

Last year, everything started to come to a halt. My panic attacks were back. I had to take a semester off from Columbia in the fall due to some financial reasons (Columbia is so expensive). I think this took a toll on me emotionally. My world I had created for myself in the city was essentially taken from me. I laid low, worked at home and went to community college. I was just okay.

Then, Spring 2015 I decided to go back to Columbia. I moved in with a friend downtown, which turned out to be a very poisonous environment. I was stressed. I had to leave that apartment and move back home to commute daily. I did it and finished the semester, but there were days where I had to leave class, go to the bathroom and splash myself in the face because I ‘couldn’t breathe’. This was also a time where I was still drinking black coffee, which I now know was an awful decision.

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Fast forward to now and I’m dealing with my panic now more than ever. I have never in my life taken any medication of talked to anyone outside of family or friends about my disorders. I’ve always been a big believer in natural remedies. I tried yoga, which did help but turned out to be crazy expensive. I did all the breathing techniques; these still help. The last few weeks have been back-to-back panic attacks. I’ll tell you what happened to me yesterday:

I was on the train heading into the city for my first day of class. It was around an hour and a half ride, stopping at every stop, and I was just browsing Twitter and Instagram.. totally relaxed. Then, out of no where, about an hour into the ride, I started fully panicking. This is an extremely terrifying experience to deal with while you’re alone. I was numb, couldn’t breathe, blacking out and crying. How I got off the train is a total blur. I remember running to the elevator and then sitting in a corner hyperventilating. I couldn’t go to my first day of class.

For the first time in my whole life of dealing with this, I knew I needed to see a doctor. I have finally accepted help and medication to get myself under control and get my life back in order.

The next few months will be a trial in helping myself. I can’t say I’m not worried that it may not help, but i’m hoping for the best.

I hope that maybe sharing my story, and struggles, will help at least one person, somewhere. I don’t want it to be a secret. Why should my illness have to be pushed to the side and ignored?

I am not crazy. I am not any less human.

These issues are very important to me. As a person who suffers daily, I want to see a more positive shift in the treatment of people with mental illness. I think there should be more done in schools for young people, and more care for people of all ages.

I want the stigma ended, truly.

Anxiety, Panic and Depression don’t just go away. We can’t just stop.