International travel is a popular passion for many Boothies and if I had a plan to visit any location in the world, I’m sure I could find a classmate who could give me a recommendation in the area. So, when I read in our class GroupMe that a small group of my classmates were interested in taking a weekend road trip to the Cleveland/Akron, Ohio area over the 4th of July weekend, I was honestly shocked. “With all the travel opportunities available here, why on EARTH would anyone want to visit Cleveland or Akron?” I thought to myself.
However, like any other Clevelander, I’m passionate about where I’m from and could show them things they wouldn’t find on a travel site. I conveniently did not yet have plans for the weekend, so I immediately offered to be their tour guide.
After doing a preliminary search for AirBnbs to stay at and not having much luck, I suggested we all stay at my parents’ house (after running it by my mother first) in Brecksville, a suburb located directly between downtown Cleveland and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and everyone embraced the idea.
It wasn’t until after the plan was set I had realized I only really knew two out of the six other people on the trip, and one I had only briefly met. I’m sure most people would be hesitant to invite people they haven’t met into their family’s home, but I have grown a huge sense of trust in the Booth community over my first year here, and knew that I would be hard-pressed to find someone at this school who I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing to my family’s home. I viewed this as a great opportunity to get to know a few more classmates whose paths I have not yet crossed. It was also a great opportunity to introduce my family to the diversity I encounter every day at Booth—just in this small group, we had two people from India, one person from Australia, and one person originally from Iran.
Another reason I was drawn to going on the trip was because the main focus was to hike the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a place with many areas I have not yet explored myself. We ended up hitting Brandywine Falls, the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, the Ritchie Ledges, and Blue Hen Falls, most of which I had not seen even though I’d lived here for 22 years. As for the rest of the weekend’s itinerary, that was left up to me.
The first thing I wanted to show them was the new East Bank of the Flats, an area of Cleveland popular in the mid-90s that has since been revitalized with new waterfront bars and restaurants as a part of a billion-dollar project. At Punch Bowl Social we ran into a local legend known to most as “Super Pimp.”
I also was not going to let them leave without completing a Swensons run and trying a Galley Boy. In my obviously biased opinion, this place has the best burgers in the world (definitely better than the West Coast’s In-N-Out). Jason acted like a veteran as he concocted a custom milkshake of his own, Blueberry and Banana. Most of the group wanted to check out Cedar Point, America’s best amusement park for roller coasters, so we headed to Sandusky one day. Since I have been there plenty of times, we split up and I decided to continue a little further to Put-in-Bay for the afternoon while they rode multiple roller coasters, three of which have been labeled the tallest roller coaster in the world at different points in time.
Outside of those Cleveland area staples, we also spent some time hanging around my house, playing ping pong and pool, cooking s’mores and hot dogs around the campfire, and even climbing out of my bedroom window and onto my roof to watch fireworks from the Brecksville fair. We also had dinner downtown at Merwin’s Wharf with my brother and his girlfriend.
Towards the end of the weekend, as we were sitting around the campfire, my classmates were asking me how they could best thank my parents for their hospitality over the weekend. I looked around the lawn and noticed unopened bags of mulch laying everywhere. Knowing my father, I knew there would be no better way to thank him, as well as my brothers, than for them to wake up and see the large mulch job that they were planning on doing completely finished. Everyone woke up early in the morning the day we had planned to leave, put on a pair of work gloves, and began opening and spreading mulch, even though none of them have ever done that before. Everyone was so eager to help, and my parents and brothers were incredibly happy to see that their huge chore was eliminated.
Before and after working for our rent
Looking back it was one of my more memorable experiences of my first year, even though it occurred when classes weren’t even in session. The fact that I could integrate a group of six other students, including four I had gotten to know on the trip, from four different countries seamlessly into my home was yet another reminder of how incredibly happy I am to have found a community like we have here at Booth.
While there are countless opportunities to travel internationally while here at Booth, this post should serve as a reminder that there are plenty of people here looking to rent a couple cars and explore the continental US, and no matter if you know them or not, you’re invited.