Statement: Humor Travel Life is meant to focus on combining humor, life stories, and information all under the umbrella theme of travel. That being said, sometimes it is necessary to change gears a little in order to bring awareness to important issues. This is not a topic of politics; It is about humanity and how necessary it is to help those in need. Human trafficking may seem like it has nothing to do with travel, but in fact, the two intersect more often than we realize. Please take a moment to read about an organization whose work to fight human trafficking inspired me to write this article.
On January 29, 2018, the i-5 Freedom Network held its second annual Big Cheese auction in San Clemente, a coastal suburban community in California’s upscale South Orange County. The i-5 Freedom Network is a training and advocacy organization that aims to bring together the community and business leaders to actively engage in the fight against human trafficking. Although local to San Clemente, the organization reaches out to other cities throughout Orange County and California. By focusing on specific goals that include community awareness, training, corporate engagement, and legislative advocacy, i-5 has helped highlight an issue that far too often goes unnoticed, along with active steps to help combat it.
An additional key component of i-5’s mission is survivor empowerment. Brenda Wells, founder and executive director of i-5, was made aware of the human trafficking epidemic in Orange County, and while she learned a lot from research and meetings on the issue, she felt that these meetings provided no real-world tools or opportunities to actually make a difference. Wells, who is also an instructor with Dale Carnegie’s Orange County division, believed that the skills acquired through Dale Carnegie’s training program would not only help her create a successful organization to fight human trafficking but also be effective in helping survivors. The Big Cheese auction’s focus was to raise money to sponsor survivors to enroll in the Dale Carnegie program. Wells stresses, however, that the courses do not substitute as therapy but instead are aimed at enabling survivors to become strong communicators and establish goals for themselves. Another part of the training includes delivering presentations, as many survivors express interest in sharing their story with others through motivational speaking. One such survivor, Jaimee, was a speaker at i-5’s auction and was one of the first to go through the Dale Carnegie program after coming out of human trafficking. Jaimee, who has created her own initiative to support fellow survivors, spoke of the success she found through this collaboration between Dale Carnegie and i-5. Dale Carnegie Orange County CEO Geri Cerkovnik, who was also a guest speaker at the auction, added, “It’s so hard to get them out of that world that it’s important to give them the skillsets that make them successful and not afraid.”
Visiting San Clemente, without much knowledge of the statistics of human trafficking, it would seem surprising to discover that this small, affluent community would also be a location disposed to such a problem, but Wells emphasized that it exists throughout the United States wherever the demand may be. People who are willing to purchase and take part in human trafficking include those from all demographics and incomes.
While most people may associate trafficking for sex-related purposes, labor trafficking actually represents a major portion of this underworld. Many times, people may hire someone to do housework through an agency, without knowing that the agency is actually sending trafficked laborers. In the United States, 80 percent of trafficked labor is foreign nationals, while 80 percent of sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens, many of which include minors.
Because trafficking victims may travel frequently, airline employees have been in training for signs and behavior to be aware of. The work of i-5 intends to extend that awareness and training to the hospitality industry, where they can also regularly encounter trafficking victims. Wells also suggests specific ways the public can aide in helping the fight against human trafficking. One of those is to add the hotline number 888-3737-888 into your phone, so that when you see something suspicious you can quickly report it. Other ways include using your consumer dollars to support fair trade companies who do not engage in trafficked labor, as well as checking in with hotels in your area about their knowledge on the issue as a call to action to compel them to be better trained in this.
Human trafficking is vastly overlooked in our society because much of it is under the radar. The truth is that it is all around us in our communities, even places you’d least expect. The more we are conscious of it though, the better the chance we have to prevent new victims from falling into this world and helping to get current victims out of it. For the people who are fortunate enough to make it out though, it is also just as important to give them a chance at empowering themselves for a better life ahead. For more information on the i-5 Freedom Network visit their official website at: https://www.i5freedomnetwork.org/
A perk of the east coast United States is access to some really fantastic historic cities. Case in point: Philadelphia.
A mere 2-hour bus ride from New York City, this city is probably the most historic in relation to the Founding Fathers and the beginnings of the United States as an independent nation. Because of this, it makes for a fascinating trip, especially if you enjoy history. Personally, history has always been a favorite subject of mine since school, so I knew Philadelphia – or Philly – would be an exciting visit.
I took the Megabus from New York City bright and early at 6:50 a.m. and was in the heart of Philly by 9:00 a.m. Another perk? The trip only cost me $14 round trip! Budget travel for the win! If you are taking a bus to Philadelphia, make sure to book the route that drops you off and picks you up at Independence Hall. That’s the heart of where all the tourist sites like the Liberty Bell, Declaration of Independence, etc. are going to be.
After getting off the bus, I walked over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the famous Rocky steps are. If you’re familiar with the iconic film Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone, then you’ll recall him running up those stairs to the “Gonna Fly Now” tune. And yes, you can bet there were plenty of tourists running up those stairs. One guy even had the music to accompany it. The Rocky steps are the only major site that is not in the main area. It’s a bit of a walk – but totally doable – from Independence Hall. I’d say somewhere between 1 and 2 miles. When you get there though, be mindful of people standing around offering to take pictures of you. Sometimes this can be a way for people to try and snatch your phone or demand money for taking your picture. If you are traveling on your own, try looking for another group of tourists to take your photo. There’s also a Rocky statue next to the museum as well that you can get photos with.
After snapping a few pics at the Rocky statue, I walked back to the Independence Hall neighborhood. Like in Washington D.C., Philly offers travelers a lot of free things to see and do. I kid you not, the only thing I spent money on that day was a Philly Cheese Steak (more to come on that later…)
Once I was back near Independence Hall, I went over to the Liberty Bell first. There’s a short line and you go through security, but it’s pretty low key. If you can, try to see Philly’s historic sites on a weekday, especially if you go during the summer. Even on a Thursday, which is when I went, there are locations that can get busy.
After the Liberty Bell, I hit up Independence Hall. This building was built in the 1700s and is the location where Congress was first held. It is also where the Declaration of Independence was signed and is now on display. Insert your Nicolas Cage jokes here.
Although Independence Hall is free, the part of the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed requires ticket reservations. Note: you do not need a ticket to actually see the Declaration of Independence though. The document itself is in another area at Independence Hall. Needless to say, I did not know about the need for tickets. The good news is that even if you do not get a ticket beforehand, you can still see other parts of Independence Hall and come back around 4:45 p.m. to get in line to see where the Declaration was signed. At that point tickets are not required. As it turned out, a lot of people forget that whole ticket thing. When I came back later in the day to line up, it ended up being an hour and a half wait to finally get in the room. It was worth the wait, but if you want to avoid long lines, get a ticket.
Tour guides are also at Independence Hall to tell you about the history of what went down there, which makes the experience all the more interesting.
Other spots I saw during the day included the Betsy Ross House and Benjamin Franklin’s grave. You do need to pay to get inside the Betsy Ross House, but you can still see the outside of it if you don’t feel like the paying. The same goes for Ben Franklin’s grave. His grave is visible from the street, but in order to enter inside the cemetery, you need to pay.
Next to Independence Hall are a bunch of other historic – and gorgeous – 18th century buildings. I went inside New Hall, which was the first headquarters of the U.S. military after gaining independence. I also went inside Carpenters’ Hall, which was the meeting location for the First Continental Congress in 1774. The first and second banks of the United States are also cool to check out while in the area. The layout of this area of Philadelphia is absolutely stunning. A beautiful park space surrounds these historic 18th century buildings. If you need a quick break, go sit on a bench and enjoy the scenery. It’s especially pretty on a warm, sunny day.
Now about that Philly Cheese Steak…
This is the one food item you have to try when you’re in Philadelphia. I went over to the Old City area, which is right near Independence Hall. It’s a neat place to walk around. This is the part of Philly that features cute coffee shops, stores, restaurants, etc.
I was determined to have a Philly Cheese Steak for lunch and decided on a local spot called Fezziwig’s Sweet Shoppe on 3rd Street. Don’t let the title fool you though. While they indeed have great desserts, they also have a terrific Philly Cheese Steak. It’s costs $9.50, but with tax is just over $10. It’s a big sandwich too. I couldn’t finish the whole thing, but two people could easily share just one Philly Cheese Steak. The best part though is the service. They are really nice!
Philadelphia is the perfect day trip, because you can easily conquer the city in one day. I definitely gave myself more than enough time. By 7 p.m. I was basically just trying to kill time – in the form of recording myself doing the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air rap. I think I had waited my whole life for that moment…
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com