Holocaust Memorial Day: Why it’s Important to Keep on Remembering

Today, January 27th, is International Holocaust Memorial Day. Chosen specifically on the day that the death camp Auschwitz was liberated many years ago, the day is a time of remembrance for all genocides, throughout our recent history.

It is scary to think that the concept of a ‘holocaust’ or the act of genocide did not end with the liberation of Nazi-run death camps, and the consequent persecution of many of the perpetrators. A lot of intelligent, well-read people, still do not understand the horrors that later occurred in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia, for example.

Genocide has devastated millions of people throughout history, and continues to affect the lives of relatives and friends, of the loved ones they lost. We might pride ourselves as a society now capable of spotting the ‘warning signs’ of a genocidal regime. How can such acts go amiss and ignored, with things like social media and the news covering every corner of the globe? The sad thing is, it does.

During my first year of university, I took a class called ‘The Holocaust in History’. While most of the module was focused on the Nazi persecution of European Jews, and other alleged ‘undesirables’, the last class focused on the question ‘is the Holocaust unique?’ Of course, every death is unique. Every life touches different people in a different way, and their death cannot be compared in this respect. However, we then preceded to look at more recent genocides, those that Western society has either ignored, or not given much attention to. This idea of pigeon-holing a group of people, and preying upon them from a position of power, is not new. When things get tough, society needs a scapegoat.

This brings me to my main point, and title: why it’s important to keep on remembering. Genocide is current: it is now, and it has not been eradicated. I’m sure we’re all aware of the Trump/Hitler comparisons that have been dominating the media since his arrival into the mainstream. In just a week of being in office, and in control of one of the most powerful nations on the planet, the bills, policies, and even just verbal statements he has made are ludicrously scary. Hitler didn’t marginalise the Jews overnight; it took years of propaganda and conditioning his people to make them feel like it was a valid thing to do, to place them in ghettos, and then later work and death camps. Already Trump is calling for immigrants to be ‘registered’ separately if that have committed a crime, saying that millions voted illegally, and has guaranteed his promise of a wall along the Mexican border. Sound familiar?

Today, perhaps more than ever, it is especially important to take this time to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Whilst it may be uncomfortable and upsetting, it is essential to realise that this is unfortunately something that humanity as a whole is capable of, not just one person acting alone.

For more information visit hmd.org.uk

 

Should you Travel with Anxiety? And if so, how?!

Suffering with anxiety is hard enough when you have a stable, permanent environment; if you choose to travel, you then face a ton of obstacles that the ‘regular’ traveler may not encounter, or even consider. However, many people nowadays are recognizing the importance of not letting their mental illness control their decisions, opting to take the difficult path and venture on out into the world…with a few trusted tips, of course.

Whilst I’m no medical expert, I’ve suffered enough with anxiety, depression, and other related issues, whilst on the road and at home, to form an understanding of what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t. However, this is purely down to my own experiences, and it is important to discover for yourselves how best to integrate your own love of traveling with your anxiety, making sure you are safe and well.

Sometimes, the hardest thing I’ve had to do is to admit that I can’t do something. I just can’t go on this trip, can’t do that activity, etc. Whilst everyone else around you encourages you not to let it ‘beat’ you, sometimes it is just safer and more beneficial to your health to take it easy, and say no. There have been a couple of times where I have listened to this advice and been better for it, but there have also been times when I have succumbed to peer pressure and ending up feeling so much worse. Only you know your own state of mind and well-being. Deep down, you will now exactly when it is time to sit something out, take some time to focus on yourself, and save yourself the stress that often comes with planning a trip, being away, and undertaking a new experience.

Hopefully though, there will be many more times when you feel you are well enough to say ‘screw you anxiety!’ and take the plunge. Nerves hit everyone before they go off on an adventure, whether it be in the form of excitement or genuine worry, so you’re definitely not alone in those feelings anyway.

Deciding what type of travel style is best for you really helps if you have decided to go away. There are pros and cons to both, it really is just a case of personal taste. Myself, I prefer to travel slowly, focusing on a country or area for a longer period of time and settling into some sort of routine, getting to know the area/people around me. I feel that it puts me at ease, allows me to calm down, and I feel secure knowing I have a bed or place to go back to, if my anxiety or depression does get the better of me one day.

However, lots of people prefer to travel much quicker, often due to lack of money and/or time. Besides these two reasons, spending just a few days in each place may also have mental health and anxiety benefits; you are always active, keeping your mind and body occupied. This type of traveling is usually seen on group tours too, which can also help with the planning side of trip, or if you’re a first time traveler. I’ve been on a couple of organised tours, and whilst they are fast-paced and you are often exhausted at the end, the ease of undertaking the trip largely outweighs this. On the other hand, they are not great if you just need a day to yourself to relax, or if you do begin to feel anxious/down and need some time to recover, as there usually isn’t any.

No matter what type of travel style you opt for, anxiety attacks and low moods can strike at any time, as fellow sufferers will know. Having a plan of action in place if this does happen is therefore a great thing to organize before you embark. Again, what you do will vary person to person, but if you really are stuck for ideas and can’t pinpoint what makes your anxiety/depression better, a friend recently told me about her use of a ‘mental health first aid kit’. She takes this on every trip she goes on, carrying it in her rucksack in case of emergencies. In it, she has pictures and letters from home, coloring books and pens, and calming herbal teas. Something like this is a great idea, and again can be personalized and altered to you. I usually carry a sketchpad and pencils in my bag, as I find drawing distracts me and calms me down, if I do need to take a minute for myself during a trip.

The main thing to take from this is to listen to your mind and body. If you don’t feel ready for a trip, don’t do it, or scale it back somehow. Decide on a traveling style that is right for you, not just what your friends are into. And finally, have in a place some sort of back-up if you do begin to feel yourself getting anxious. Anxiety and travel can actually go hand-in-hand quite harmoniously, if you are careful, kind to yourself, and (most importantly) remember to enjoy it!

Later this year, I will be moving to Vietnam to teach English, something that this time last year I could not have imagined myself doing. However, I’ve taken some time recovering and focusing on myself getting better, and am pleased to say that I’m looking forward to the trip with (mostly!) minimal worry. Of course I am aware that I’ll most likely get anxious or sad or at least something during the move and transition (and will definitely make sure I am prepared for that!)…but it just goes to show, that you don’t need to let your anxiety stop you from traveling, taking new jobs, and doing something outrageous!

Cultural Traditions with a Twist

Living in Tucson has definitely opened my eyes to a few new traditions that I hadn’t experienced before. Most of us in England are already familiar with the typical American holidays – 4th of July, Thanksgiving. And we can all name some of the standard American societal behaviour – football games, burger bars, smores, hanging a flag in every classroom… However, as most of you may know, Tucson has a large Mexican population. Being only an hour away from the Mexican border, it has become one of the famous border cities where their community is thriving.

Consequently, many of the Mexican cultural traditions and holidays have also been carried across the border. Over the many years they have adapted into something unique, in which they are neither traditionally Mexican nor fully integrated into American culture. Instead, we are presented with a wonderful hybrid of what happens when two alternate societies come together.

Last weekend, I managed to witness two perfect examples of this ‘culture clashing’. Friday night, I was exposed to the odd and intriguing art of ‘Lucha Libre’, in other words, Mexican wrestling. You may have seen images of the brightly coloured masks around the internet – the sport has definitely gained popularity in recent years. Whilst I may not have fully been sold on it as a leisure activity (it is definitely more of a ‘guys’ thing), it was interesting to watch and highly entertaining. Rather than focus on the fights, it is more about the ‘show’ – the introducing of the competitors; the bad-mouthing of each-other; the staged flips; the extravagant costumes. Everything is an act, intended to shock and amuse the audience…and shocked and amused I certainly was.

A couple of days later was Tucson’s biggest festival – ‘Dia de los Muertos’ (Day of the Dead). Again, images of the colourful skull have circulated around American and European culture, but many people do not know of its origins in the festival. The festival is intended to celebrate the dead ancestors of Mexican families, and all those who wish to join in. In fact, many of the groups walking in the parade were American, showing the adaptation and diversity of what was once a traditional Mexican festivity. On the final night there is an All Souls Procession, which I had the pleasure of attending. People gathered, dressed up in traditional costume, carrying photos of their deceased loved ones (pets included), and walked in a truly spectacular parade. At the end, a concert-type thing takes place, in which a huge urn filled with messages for the deceased is burnt. The whole thing was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. In actual fact, the Tucson parade is the biggest in the U.S.A. and bigger than most in Mexico…although this is most likely because nowhere else besides Tucson celebrates it to such extremity.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The blend of cultures in Tucson is something I’m not sure I’ll ever get over. I think it probably mostly stems from having such a lack of Mexican presence in the U.K. –a lot of my classmates can speak Spanish, and have knowledge of Mexican-American culture. It’s sad to admit that most of what I understood about Mexican immigrants came from movies and stereotypes! Thankfully, I am lucky to have spent four months in a city that has not only taught me about the standard American culture, but a little about the Mexican-American way of life too.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The Weird & Wonderful: Roswell, New Mexico, U.S.A.

Famed for its large number of U.F.O sightings, Roswell is certainly one of the strangest, yet most interesting cities I have visited.

In 1947, ‘The Roswell Incident’ put the city on the map. Many believe that a U.F.O. crash landed just outside, although this has never been officially confirmed. Still, speculation runs high, and since then others have come forward claiming to have seen strange objects in the sky and had their own alien encounters.

Whatever you believe, you can’t help but be fascinated by Roswell’s devotion to their extra-terrestrial roots. I visited during summer last year, as part of a cross-country U.S.A. road trip. The main street, where the famous U.F.O. museum is, is littered with gift shops selling all kinds of alien memorabilia. The city has thrived off of their speculative history, making it feel almost like a shrine to all things Martian.

The museum itself is actually nothing special. As you can imagine, there is little evidence to support the existence of aliens, so the exhibits are mostly blurry pictures of strange figures in the sky, or hand-written testimonies from ‘abductees’. These were quite interesting to read though – you almost question yourself and your previous beliefs when you read something so emotive and moving.

The main alien portrayed in the museum (in statue form, of course), were the common ‘greys’. These are your typical, big-headed, big eyed, tall and skinny looking alien, the ones that people claim to have come into contact with most. An exhibit showing a dissection of a grey was displayed in the museum, trying to be as realistic as it possibly could.

In earlier days, perhaps the museum would have been more of a shock, an eye-opener and something that people visit in order to learn something about U.F.O.’s and aliens. The fact that the museum has the only ‘U.F.O. library’ means this was probably true. However nowadays, fascination has given way to scepticism and fact. Personally, I was just visiting in order to discover what people thought was true, rather than be swayed myself. You also can’t help but wonder whether Roswell has simply played on its image as the ‘alien capital’ of the world, thus persuading others to fabricate similar sightings. Nevertheless, it remains somewhere that I believe you should definitely visit if you’re passing near the area. The atmosphere is eerie and the amount of ‘greys’ plastered all over the city will make you feel like you have indeed left planet Earth.

BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend Norwich

It was the most talked about event of the bank holiday weekend, and it happened in my university’s back garden! Last weekend, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend came to…Norwich.

Compared to previous locations such as Glasgow and Hackney, many questioned why the famous event was held in such a seemingly sleepy city. Tucked away in the East of England, Norwich is typically known for farmers, mustard, and…incest. However, as a proud student of UEA, I have to say I have fallen in love with this unique city in the 2 years I’ve been here.

It was still weird to imagine the likes of Taylor Swift, Muse, Foo Fighters and Florence + the Machine gracing us with their presence. But there they were, rocking on stage, just minutes away from the beloved LCR.

Despite not initially having tickets for either event (yes, I fell asleep), thanks to a lovely lady who gave me her extra ticket, I managed to make it to the Saturday of the festival. I hadn’t been to a festival in almost two years, and was so excited to be surrounded by a buzzing atmosphere and carefree attitude. The great thing about festivals is that you can pretty much act how you want and get away with it (within reason, of course). After 3 red bulls, I was well and truly ready to dance myself sore, which I’m pleased to say I did. I also woke up the next day with a sore throat – the classic sign of a festival done right.

Muse and Florence + the Machine were headlining on Saturday, which I managed to see both of. I also caught 5 Seconds of Summer (which I fan-girled so much over), The Vaccines, Circa Waves (my new love), Years and Years, and Hozier. It was a great day of discovering new music, whilst also succumbing to some guilty pleasures and enjoying a classic song or two (Florence, I’m looking at you). Despite Muse being one of the biggest bands ever, I am shamed to say that I am not familiar with their music. However, they were truly amazing. You didn’t need to know the words to every song to see how talented these guys are, the main singer and bassist in particular had incredible skills that I’ve never before witnessed live. I definitely have a new found appreciation for them.

As well as amazing music, I also had an assortment of yummy festival food. Although festivals are famed for booze and getting smashed, I prefer to put myself in a food coma, rather than an alcohol induced one….besides, it’s much cheaper! I had chilli cheese nachos (mmmm), a waffle with chocolate sauce and marshmallows (mmmm) and cheesy chips (OK now I’m just hungry). They also had a risotto stall, which I’m rather gutted I didn’t get to visit – it would have been the ultimate hipster lunch.

As you can tell, I had a pretty good time…not bad for a free festival anyway! Norwich became the talk of the country, finally being recognised for the cool, hip city it (mostly) is. I’m now even more of a proud resident…thank you BBC Radio 1 for a fab weekend!

a blog new world…

Welcome!

I recently decided to start a blog – I know, very exciting. Careers advisors and seminar leaders seem to be pushing this whole blog blog blog idea so I thought, hey why not give it shot? Even if I do end up talking to myself…

Here you’ll find all the details of my past and future adventures around the globe. I’m a student at the moment, so bear in mind that I may not be jetting off every month or so. Therefore, when my budget does unfortunately tie my feet the ground, you’ll instead be bombarded with other travel-related comments – trip planning, responses to travel stories, that kind of thing.

So far, I’ve been rather lucky in where I’ve visited and the experiences I’ve had – a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon isn’t something everyone can say they’ve done after all (yes, I’m gloating). I’ll be sharing all of this on here, and I’m also off on a year abroad to Tucson then Sydney in August…watch this space!