As this is a travel blog, all my posts thus far have been dedicated to places to which I have traveled. However, it’s high time that I dedicate a few words to the city I live and work in 6 months out of the year: Washington, DC.
To say I love DC is putting it lightly.
This city, for reasons both explainable and not, has completely captivated me.
I first moved here last February. After a 7 month backpacking stint around Europe, it was time to return stateside to find some legal work and pay back a bit of the debt I had incurred. Originally I thought I’d just move home, make as much money as possible, and then hit the road again for another international tour. However, the idea of living in my parent’s basement and working a minimum wage job (even temporarily) was completely unappealing. Thus, I decided to make my return to the USA an adventure in itself by moving to a city I had never before visited. …And there begins my romance with Washington, DC. So what is it about the Federal District that I love so much?
Here are 6 reasons it’s my favorite city in the country:
There’s a reason DC is known as the city of young professionals. The average age is 35 — a median number that includes all those long serving government officials. I don’t even really notice just how young the public is anymore, but I had a friend from New York in town a few weeks ago, and she was very quick to point out all the doll faces in the crowd. Living in a young city means there are lots of activities available to those who fall in the mid-twenties to mid-thirties age range — which makes it easy to find fun things to do and even easier to find people to do those fun things with.
DC is beautiful. As far as cities go, it is very clean, with lots of greenery. There are tons of parks, and the city definitely spends a fare dollar keeping up the countless trees and flowers. As the capital of the United States, DC is expected to uphold a certain standard of beauty in acting as the face (so to speak) on America. Thus, DC residents are able to benefit from the countless dollars poured into the appearance of the city. Many visitors to DC remark that the city reminds them of cities in Europe. In reality, it was actually designed by a Parisian man, Pierre L’Enfant, who was hired by George Washington to survey and lay out DC…and as someone who is partial to European architecture, I am more than content with this truth.
DC is quite the cross-cultural melting pot; there are people of every ethnic background, sexual orientation, political leaning, etc. No, DC is not as culturally multifarious as NYC, and yes, there are definitely issues that divide people based on these differences — but in general, the simple fact that these differences exist make for a more interesting city.
The thing I love most about traveling is meeting people who are different than me. Sure, I meet a ton of people I completely disagree with and whom I’d rather smother with my sleep sack than spend any amount of time listening to. HOWEVER, if engaging with people who hold different convictions doesn’t transform your own beliefs, then such an interaction should at least make your beliefs even stronger.
Being that DC is so small (less than 70 square miles), it’s super easy to navigate around the city and totally unnecessary to own a car. The same could be said about residents of NYC. However, because of the vastness of that city, it takes twice as long (if not longer) to get from point A to point B compared to DC. The two cities may have similar public transportation systems and a population of residence who like to walk, but the mere size of the former means that it takes much longer to get anywhere.
The public transportation system here in DC is unbeatable. Sure, if you ask a local DC resident their thoughts concerning the metro, they’ll probably spout out some curse words and provide a long list of ways it could be improved, but generally, it’s very clean and efficient…and expensive as shit (okay, I had to, I am a resident after all).
If you don’t have time to wait for a bus or train, you can take a cab to basically any part of the city for less than $30. Not cheap, but as long as your not setting off for a pilgrimage across the Potomac, you won’t totally break the bank by hiring a taxi to take you around town.
Finally, you can always walk or ride a bike to your destination. Remember how I said DC is beautiful? Go ahead and take a stroll to your final destination. With that being said, DC is not by any means the safest city, so make sure the area you’re strolling through is secure and well lit.
Need I say more?
To be able to stand where Dr. King stood when he gave his “I have a dream speech,” or take a seat in the theater where Abraham Lincoln was shot, or even just peer through the fence at the White House knowing full well that Barack and Michelle are just inside is pretty amazing. There are more memorials in this city than I can count.
Of course, I’m pretty lucky. Because of my job, I get to visit these sites on a weekly basis. However, most DC residents don’t indulge in these “touristy” activities on a regular (or even semi regular) basis. I’d be willing to bet that most of my friends don’t go down to the National Mall more than once or twice a year. Nonetheless, just knowing I live in a place that has played witness to moments that have shaped our country (and parts of the world) is quite cool.
I saved the best for last. Why do I love DC so much? Because of its commitment to activism. People come to DC with the hope of changing the world. Whether it be through protests, working in the non-profit sector, employment in a think tank, or in Congress, people in DC are motivated to make a difference. They are opinionated and determined. As I’ve already stated, there are a lot of people who are trying to make changes that I don’t personally agree with. However, the fact that they are out there, actively pursuing their First Amendment rights is something to be respected.
Last week I was on a 4 day tour with a group of 5th graders from Seattle. On our 3rd day we stopped outside of the Supreme Court to witness the large rally formed outside. That day, the Supreme Court Justices were discussing the constitutionality of Prop 8, which deals specifically with banning gay marriage in California. There were hundreds of people waving rainbow flags and holding signs that read things like “Equal Justice for All!” However, there was also a large group brandishing posters that said, “A Child Does Best with a Mom and Dad” and shouting out various biblical versus that offered alleged proof of the blasphemy of same-sex marriage.
The atmosphere was tense, and the kids and I stood entranced by all that was happening around us. After a few minutes, it was time to continue the tour elsewhere, so we began our descent down Capitol Hill. As we walked, one little boy ran to the front to chat with me. He said that he had two dads, and that he couldn’t wait to call them that night to tell them what he had seen. He then asked me a simple question:
“Do you think that moment will be remembered in history?”
I said yes.
Whether these 2 Supreme Court cases involving gay marriage change the rights given to same-sex couples is yet to be determined. However, there’s no denying that moments like this one change the future…and DC is full of moments like this.
I know that DC is not without its faults; I could probably list just as many negatives as I could positives. However, it is my favorite city in the United States.