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This post was authored by a guest contributor.

What You’re Paying for When Hiring a Skilled Contractor

Have you been wanting to create an addition onto your home or business; or do you need to repair damage that was caused by a fire, storm, or other natural disaster? If you can relate to these situations, you will more than likely require the services of a professional contractor to oversee the construction or repairs to your property.

When you hand over your hard-earned money to a contractor, you want the project to go as smooth as possible. You do not want there to be any issues. After all, you are depending on this person’s knowledge and skill to make sure that your house or place of business is safe for people to live or work in. Here are some examples of the qualities you are paying for when you hire a skilled contractor, and why these qualities are so important.

Peace of Mind

When a skilled contractor is overseeing the work being done on your property, you can have the peace of mind that the project will be done correctly the first time. Construction projects aren’t cheap, and with so much money wrapped up into any given project, having a highly qualified contractor at the helm will make you sleep much better at night.

Vast Knowledge of Construction

If a contractor is experienced enough, they will know all of the ins and outs of the industry. For example, a contractor should know how to build stairs for a deck and how to easily plan and execute the process should you need those built. Looking for that contractor with a wealth of knowledge? You can start your search for a skilled contractor and get a free quote for their services by visiting http://renovationexperts.com/.

Quality of Work

For obvious reasons, you do not want to have a contractor return to your home or business to fix something that was not done properly in the first place. When a contractor is experienced, they will be able to notice any potential problems at the time of their initial work, preventing them from becoming bigger issues down the road.

Many Years of Experience

When you a hire a contractor who has been around the block, they will have experienced many different situations during the many construction projects they have worked over the years. All of this experience means that they will know what to do and what not to do when various situations arise during the construction process. Having a contractor in charge of your project who has been in the business for many years is extremely valuable.

Have you ever hired a contractor before? What piece of advice would you give someone just beginning the process of finding a skilled contractor?

Top photo: usacehq/Flickr

9 Choice Restaurants to Frequent in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth, the fifth largest city in Texas and the 17th largest in the US, is situated in North Central Texas. The city covers 350 square miles and serves as the seat of Tarrant County. Fort Worth is made up of about 800,000 people, and here are nine choice restaurants made popular by its inhabitants and a must visit for any tourist.

1. Taco Heads

It is no secret that the taco market is pretty competitive, but Taco Heads is a step above the rest. With fresh salsa, delicious tortillas, and tastiest toppings to go with, you will for sure become a regular after your first trip to this restaurant.

2. Pizza Snob

When what you want is pizza, few places can satisfy your craving like Pizza Snob. They use the freshest ingredients and top their pizzas with creative combinations that include caramelized pineapple, rosemary, goat cheese, and candied jalapenos. Just one slice from this place and you won’t regret why you came.

3. Vivo 53

Vivo 53 specializes in Italian cuisine. They have it all — pasta, homemade meatballs, and pizza. The local favorites include spicy sausage pizza and truffle fettuccine. For a full experience, pair your meal with a glass of sparkling wine.

4. Shinjuku Station

There is no doubt that Shinjuku Station is the best joint in town for Japanese cuisine. They of course have great sushi, but other must-try options include ceviche, ramen bowls, and sake steamed mussels. One visit to this restaurant and you will be recommending it to your friends.

5. Lee’s Grilled Cheese

Lee’s Grilled Cheese brings the most delicious food directly into your mouth! They have a grilled cheese sandwich menu that you wouldn’t have been able to come up in your wildest dreams. How does a cheddar mac n’ cheese sandwich loaded with mustard pork and black forest ham sound? You also must try their peanut butter and jelly grillers. If you are interested in something tasty and cheesy, this is the right place for you.

6. Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak has locations in several cities across the country, but in Fort Worth they cater to the local tastes of their patrons, and they have awesome steaks. What puts them in their own league from other steakhouses is how complete their menu is. They have options like jalapeno mac n’ cheese, a wide selection of seafood, and even chili-glazed calamari. Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak satisfies a wide variety of tastes.

7. Rodeo Goat

Bringing bar food to a new level, Rodeo Goat has exactly what you need during a night out with your friends and family. Some of the recommendations include Tabasco mayo, chorizo, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and fried eggs. They also have locally renowned “cheese fries surprise” topped with chili, jalapenos, bacon, ranch, and cheese, which makes for an excellent appetizer that everyone can enjoy.

8. Smokey’s BBQ

When it comes to smoking meat, the competition is stiff — especially in Texas — but Smokey’s BBQ serves up some of the very best. They have all the classics available, as well as other popular items like brisket, sausage links, and ribs with a dash of jalapeno. If you’re a fan of meat, then head to Smokey’s and settle into a massive rack of ribs. You’ll be glad you did.

9. Grace

Grace is more upscale than the rest of this list, but if you are looking for an experience and not just a meal, this is the place to go. They have a focus on revamping American favorites, and their chefs won’t let you down. Among the recommended delicacies are the Lobster Agnolotti and Duroc Pork.

Traveling to Texas? Fort Worth hotels will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression. Remember, when scouring for accommodations it is always best to go with a place that is reputable. In Fort Worth, that’s the Ashton Hotel, where you know you will be safe and secure throughout your stay and only have to worry about getting into Smokey’s before they run out of brisket.

Perfect Pool Party Themes for Summer

If you’re planning a summer party, the pool is an obvious choice for venue. Partying by the pool allows you to bask in the warm weather while reducing the need for providing built-in entertainment.  From planning to cleanup, there are many opportunities to get creative with an alfresco poolside gathering, whether you dive into an elaborate theme or keep it relatively simple.

Invitations

pool party invitation
Martha Celebrations Summer Pool Party
Besides including the basics — date, time, location, and any other important details — your invitations should get your guests excited about your event. Introduce your theme with the type of invitations you choose. Cards shaped like flipflops or sunglasses are perfect for a general beach theme, while pineapples are great for a luau, and margarita glasses work well for an over-21 event.

Entertainment

Music is an absolute must for any pool party. Create a playlist that matches your theme and sets the tone for your bash. Classics from the 50s and 60s set a whimsical, retro tone. Beach-themed dance music is appropriate for an evening event. If children will be included, be sure to add a few songs with them in mind. A waterproof Bluetooth speaker is the perfect sound system for a pool party, keeping the music right in the mix and eliminating the need to set up any complicated equipment.

You can either let the fun take shape on its own, with the pool as the focal point, or plan some games in advance. Water polo or volleyball are obvious choices, as are classic beach-themed games like the limbo. For kids, a few pool-based rounds of Simon Says can be fun, although kids will tend to engage each other in games of their own design with minimal adult intervention.

Decorations

summer party decor
James Merrell/Martha Celebrations Summer Pool Party
Transform your backyard into a beautiful coastal setting for an awesome beach party. Your decorations don’t have to be elaborate or costly to be imaginative and fun. String paper lanterns and nets around the edges of the pool area, float a couple of inflatable sea creatures or beach balls, and use dollar store sand buckets to hold napkins or utensils. Use colored glass bottles and scattered seashells for easy centerpieces. For a more sophisticated look, float candles in the pool during a dinner at sunset and then remove them when everyone is ready to dive in.

Food

Finger food and disposable dishes and utensils are the order of the day for a pool party. Broken glass and bare feet are a combination sure to put a damper on your guests’ fun. Luckily, even paper plates and plastic cups are available in a variety of designs from whimsical to sophisticated to match any pool party theme. What you serve on them can also run the gamut in terms of complexity. Ceviche is a fresh, delicious, and classy choice for a more upscale gathering. For a laid-back affair, chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, and fresh fruit and vegetables can suffice. Cupcakes decorated with colored sugar “sand” and miniature paper umbrellas add an easy seaside touch to dessert. Slushy drinks are always a popular option, whether of the non-alcoholic variety for an all-ages gathering or spiked for an adults-only event.

The most important decision you’ll make is the decision to host your party. A pool party is a guaranteed good time no matter what the theme or level of complexity.

Top photo: shandopics/Flickr

Any Age is Suitable for Dating

During secondary education years some couples have paired off, but prospective dates are numerous simply because proximity places the potential pool of partners within a contained area. As people progress through their 20s and 30s, the numbers steadily decrease as singles regularly become doubles. However, single people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s or beyond shouldn’t be discouraged about dating. Technology has vastly improved the probability for meeting a special someone to share your life’s adventures.

Age Has Nothing to Do With Craving Companionship

Demanding careers that interfere with personal relationships, a spouse or lifelong partner’s dead, divorce, or a long-term relationship split are some of the reasons people find themselves alone in their later years. But once life settles down, craving companionship isn’t atypical. After all, humans are programmed as social creatures. We yearn for closeness. Sharing adventures adds a dimension of pleasure that doesn’t exist without that personal someone at your side. Instead of settling for days of unwanted solitude, internet dating sites for mature adults have begun to spring up across the world wide web.

Dating Sites for Your Mature Years

The internet has opened the world. It has also opened your home town. You may have walked past or met someone on several occasions but had no idea how interesting they are or that they’re single. Take this scenario:

Mary and John wait at the same train platform every day, but don’t progress conversation beyond a polite good day nod. They are both fifty-something, live alone, and crave someone to share their time with. Each one timidly decides to enter the somewhat daunting world of online dating, perhaps using a site like singleandmature.com. Before they know it, they’ve connected and once they realize they’re so close, they share a good laugh. They soon learn that chronological age doesn’t matter; whatever your age, having someone to do things with makes everything that much sweeter.

Narrowed Criteria

Deciding to join a site for mature adults specifically narrows the clientele to your age group and interests. Children may be grown, retirement has been reached or is looming, and you are ready for postponed rewards like travel. The advantage of knowing upfront others are looking for someone within your age range and other demographics hopefully eliminates doubts about compatibility. The decades you have both lived through create a cohesive bond for things like music, movies, and appreciation for your — and each other’s — accomplishments. A few online interchanges will have you soon knowing if you share common interests, such as boating, visiting museums, gardening, or any number of activities that bring you pleasure.

Be Honest

Once you have made the decision to try an online dating site, be honest. Don’t fudge on your age or proclaim interests merely to get a date. If the site has an option to post photos, use one less than a month old. You may not realize how much you may change in a year, but the camera — and your contacts — will. Also, instead of using only a headshot, consider posting action photos.

Once you get started, online dating can be rewarding. Your success will soon have you referring your friends to “…my favourite over 50 dating site…”

Top photo: safari_vacation/Flickr

The Spanish You Need for the Vacation You Want

When you want to go beyond the all-inclusive resort and explore the real culture of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or any other Spanish-speaking country, you need to know at least a few key phrases in Spanish. Sure, almost everyone who works at Cancun hotels speaks enough English to answer your questions, but once you set out for more remote locations, all bets are off. Adventurous travelers should master the basics to communicate with the locals for a truly amazing vacation.

Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Most locals are friendly towards a tourist who is obviously trying to reach out in Spanish, even if pronunciation and vocabulary are limited. Use these phrases to be polite and you’ll find that more people will be willing to help you:

  • Hola: Hello
  • Por favor: Please
  • Gracias: Thank you
  • ¿Podría ayudarme?: Could you help me?

Getting Directions

Asking for directions is easy; it’s understanding them that’s a challenge. Knowing the basics helps, but it’s best to get someone to draw you a map while they explain so that you have a visual you can take with you. Keep a notebook and pen on-hand at all times; you’ll be glad you did!

  • ¿Dónde está ___?: Where is ___?
  • Norte: North
  • Este: East
  • Sur: South
  • Oeste: West
  • A la izquierda de ___: To the left of ___.
  • A la derecha de ___: To the right of ___.
  • Calle: Street
  • Sigue: Keep going
  • ¿Podría darme direcciones?: Could you give me directions?
  • ¿Podría dibujar un mapa?: Could you draw a map?

Paying for Things

It’s helpful to know at least numbers one through 10 and a few things about the local currency to get you through a transaction in a small town. Writing numerals helps smooth over misunderstandings with higher numbers and exchange rates.

  • ¿Cuánto cuesta ___?: How much does ___ cost?
  • ¿Acepta tarjeta de crédito?: Do you accept credit cards?
  • Intercambio: Exchange; exchange rate
  • Precio: Price
  • Cero: Zero
  • Uno: One
  • Dos: Two
  • Tres: Three
  • Cuatro: Four
  • Cinco: Five
  • Seis: Six
  • Siete: Seven
  • Ocho: Eight
  • Nueve: Nine
  • Diez: Ten
  • Punto: Point (as in decimal point, for making change)

Sampling Local Cuisine

Perhaps the best reason to explore small towns and hidden gems is to sample truly authentic local cuisine. It’s a good idea to research popular dishes before you leave, but here are the most useful terms:

  • ¿Qué ingredientes hay en ___?: What ingredients are in ___?
  • Leche: Milk
  • Agua: Water
  • Vino: Wine
  • Cerveza: Beer
  • Pollo: Chicken
  • Bistec: Steak
  • Puerco: Pork
  • Ensalada: Salad
  • Maiz: Corn
  • Arroz: Rice
  • Frijoles: Beans
  • Verduras: Vegetables
  • Fruta: Fruit
  • Postre: Dessert

Start Practicing

Once you book your hotel in Buenos Aires or San Juan, it’s time to work on your pronunciation. Google Translate offers pronunciation examples for every phrase imaginable and can help you find country-specific words. An app like Duolingo is a fun way to start memorizing useful Spanish terms, and Word Lens can help you with advanced street sign and menu reading once you get to your destination.

Let Hipmunk help you get there so you can enjoy your Spanish adventure!

This post was published by Fiona Moriarty on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on July 17, 2015 and has been republished with permission.

Top photo: stefano60/Flickr

Protect You and Your Unborn Child’s Health — 5 Things to Consider

Being pregnant can be a stressful time for a new mother. There is a lot to worry about, and at the top of most mother’s lists of worries is the health and well-being of their baby. To protect your child during those pivotal nine months, you are going to need to make the best health decisions possible and take proper precautions. Below are five things you should consider in order to protect you and your unborn child’s health.

1. Prenatal Checkups

One thing you should certainly do during your pregnancy is receive prenatal checkups. A prenatal checkup occurs when a pregnant woman visits the doctor so that certain tests can be performed to confirm the health status of both mother and baby.

Tests that may be conducted for the mother include checking blood pressure and performing a pap smear to test for cervical cancer. Once the pregnancy has reached the second trimester, the doctor will check the baby’s heartbeat as well as its position inside the mother. As the pregnancy proceeds, blood tests and ultrasounds may be performed. If you are considered to be having a high-risk pregnancy, then a specialist like Dr. Gilbert Webb will be needed to care for you throughout the stages of pregnancy and birth. All of this is necessary to ensure that the baby is healthy and the mother will have the ability to safely give birth.

2. Risk Factors

Certain mothers are at more risk of having birth complications than others. Part of being a responsible mother is knowing whether or not you are at risk. Things that could result in a high risk pregnancy include the age of the mother, sexually transmitted diseases, and other medical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. Other risks can develop during the pregnancy, such as multiple fetuses or premature labor.

3. Rest

Getting enough rest is very important for the health of both the mother and child. During the beginning of pregnancy, the mother will feel a lot of fatigue due to the influx of hormones into her body. However, this fatigue has a purpose. It’s the body’s natural way of telling the mother to take it slow. For your baby to be healthy, you need to be getting a few extra hours of sleep. Take as many naps as you need. If backaches keep you awake at night, consider sleeping on your side instead.

4. Diet

Being a responsible pregnant mother means making the right food choices so that the baby receives proper nutrition. It also means avoiding foods and drinks that could harm the child. A healthy diet for a pregnant mother should include things like fiber-rich whole grain bread, iron-rich foods such as spinach, foods that contain iodine like cottage cheese, and Vitamin C-rich juices.

Overall, pregnancy is not the time to diet. You need to be getting the right mix of vitamins and nutrients. Foods and drinks that should be avoided because they could be harmful to the baby include alcohol, caffeinated drinks, sushi, deli meats, green tea, and anything containing raw meat or eggs.

5. Pelvic Exercises

During pregnancy, extra pressure is placed on the muscles at the base of the mother’s pelvis. These muscles are important because they help support the vagina, bladder, and other important organs. This extra pressure can lead to problems like incontinence, which can result in accidental, sudden urination. However, you can help strengthen these muscles and prevent this condition by performing pelvic floor exercises. These same exercises can also help ensure that you are more easily able to use these muscles while giving birth.

Being a parent can be scary, but if you receive the proper medical assistance, eat right, perform the right kind of exercise, and get enough rest, you can certainly increase your chances of having a safe and healthy pregnancy.

This guest post was contributed by Brooke Chaplan, a freelance writer and blogger who lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. Brooke loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. Follow Brooke on Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

Top photo: alphaone/Flickr

Weinenfrei: Pay What You Want in Berlin

Jurgen Strumpf never used to think of himself as an entrepreneur. He didn’t even regard himself as a businessman. He was a wine seller who liked to invite his friends over to his shop for wine tastings and some food. He couldn’t bear to charge them full price, so instead he asked them to pay what they could afford. Very quickly, this concept of Pay What You Want became a Berlin institution.

The Wine Bars

Jurgen Strumpf owns two Pay What You Want wine bars in the city: The Forum and Perlin. With paintings by the owner on the walls and the kind of furniture you would find in a 1950’s German living room scattered throughout, both create a homey feeling unlike any other bar in the city. The main difference between them is their clientele. Perlin is popular with the locals and has only 40 seats, so you have to book in advance. The Forum is far bigger, catering to the tourists that flood in from the nearby hotels in Berlin, especially the Mitte district. The Forum is a lot rowdier than Perlin.

The Concept

When you walk through the door from 8PM onward, you pay only two euros for a wine glass, which you can refill with as much red and white wine as your stomach and head can handle. The catch? At the end of your night you throw what you think you owe into a huge tip jar at the entrance.

The Menu

In keeping with their laid back attitudes, neither bar has a set menu. The menu is usually decided on that day and one thing that’s for certain is that any food served will be fresh and organic. The wines, all brought in from a nearby weinerei, or wine shop, include Spanish Tempranillo and Bavarian prosecco. There’s also a popular house wine from Strumpf’s hometown of Franken.

Weinenfrei, like so much of Berlin, does not discriminate. Whether you are staying in an expensive Berlin hotel such as Das Stue or a budget Berlin hotel like Mark Apart, at Strumpf’s bars anyone can afford a quality night out and a true cultural experience.

Top photo: uchansichan.com

When You’re at the End of Your Rope with Your Troubled Teen

teen boy

You feel like a bomb has gone off in your home and it is impossible to pick up the pieces. Your teenager is out of control, going out at all hours, running with a crowd that spells ‘trouble.’ You have found evidence of drinking and drug use and when you confront them, they react with violence. The police have already been to your home a few times due to domestic disputes. You don’t want to lay a hand on your child, but you feel threatened. Something has got to give. You fear for your teen’s life if something doesn’t change, but you don’t know what to do.

Find Out Where Your Teen is Going

If your teenager has a cellphone, you can track where they are at all times with a little help from the phone company. Otherwise, pay attention. Watch your teen closely, and when possible, follow them from a distance or hire someone who can. It may seem extreme, but you need to know exactly what is going on before you can come up with solutions. Get proof of what your teen is doing in order to form a plan of action.

Allow the Authorities to Handle the Situation

If your child is picked up by police for getting in trouble, don’t bail them out. Let them stay at the police station and wait it out for the night. It’s tough love, but it could make a world of difference. They need to realize that there are serious consequences for their actions. You might see them turn around if they realize that their life is heading in the wrong direction and you’re not there to bail them out of the trouble they get into.

Try Boot Camp for Teenagers

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Turn to a facility like the Wood Creek Academy, a therapeutic boarding school and teen wilderness program for young men. Consider a boot camp program that is intense and places your child in a supportive, yet restrictive environment. Remove access from all sources of temptation and negative influences. Your troubled teen needs to take charge of their life and recognize the fact that they are headed for a dead end. With the assistance of professionals, your teen will band together with other young people who are also struggling. You need to act swiftly before it is too late in order to set your teenager on the right path again.

4 Awesome Spots to Eat Sushi in Honolulu

sushi
whiterose_kana/Flickr

There is so much to do in Honolulu — the capital city of Hawaii, located on the island of Oahu. People come from all over to swim, sunbathe, surf, stay in Honolulu’s famous beach hotels — like the legendary Moana Surfrider — and learn more about Hawaiian history. There are countless places to eat great sushi in Honolulu, and we’ve rounded up some of the best.

1. Doraku

Located just around the corner from the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk on Kalakaua Ave., locals and visitors alike agree that Doraku may have the island’s best sushi. An outpost of a restaurant originally started in Southern Florida, Doraku serves upscale sushi in a Japanese gastropub environment. The restaurant has a selection of sushi rolls, but regulars of the restaurant say you must try the Nigiri and Sashimi — the fish here is just too fresh to pass up.

2. Tokoname Sushi Bar and Restaurant

Tokoname, located near the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is an excellent choice of sushi restaurant in Honolulu. Tokoname offers quality sushi in a quiet and cozy atmosphere — all at an affordable price. If you want to learn more about different neighborhoods in Honolulu and escape to a place that feels truly local, there’s no better sushi spot than Tokoname. The restaurant offers a full bar that stays open late for students in the area, so make sure you try one of their signature cocktails.

3. Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar

Sansei is a restaurant dedicated completely to seafood. The sushi they serve is touted to be some of the best in all of Hawaii, and there are additional locations on Maui and the Big Island. They tout their special rolls like the Kapalua Butterfly Roll, made up of salmon, crab, fresh shiromi, and veggies in a crisp deep-fried panko crust, and the crab salad handroll. Come to Sansei, right around the corner from Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach, for a vibrant and relaxed atmosphere.

4. Hakone

Located at the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki is Hakone, a sushi restaurant that is known for its food and its views. The restaurant serves up an extensive menu of high-quality sushi in an elegant atmosphere. What makes the dining experience at Hakone so unique, however, is the idyllic view of the Ala Wai Harbor that patrons can enjoy as they dine.

Given its proximity to the ocean, it’s no surprise that Honolulu’s sushi is a culinary draw for visitors to the town. The fish served at the best sushi restaurants in town is so fresh, it is often pulled out of the water the same day it is served!

4 Reasons You Should Experience the Arts Scene in Singapore

Singapore
leonid_yaitsky/Flickr

In January of 2015, Singapore celebrated 50 years of its independence. This time frame renders the country ripe for momentum in its arts scene — still young enough in its independence to exude that fresh, liberated energy through arts and culture, yet mature and modern enough to have something to say. From galleries and museums to festivals and art hotels, here are some of the key reasons you should take the time to experience Singapore’s evolving arts scene.

1. Incredible National Museums

Singapore has five national museums for the art lover to tour and appreciate. They include the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), the 8Q SAM extension for multi-disciplinary, community-oriented art, the Peranakan Museum, the National Museum of Singapore, and the Asian Civilizations Museum. Each of these five major museums brings a different flavor to Singapore’s arts scene, showcasing unique facets of the country from both historical and cultural perspectives.

2. Minor Museums and Galleries

In addition to these five main national museums, there are at least 15 other smaller museums, plus dozens of compelling public and private art galleries located in Singapore. Exhibitions range from visual art and sculpture to performance art that will rock your senses.

3. The Singapore Arts Festival

This annual festival lasts for a month in late summer each year and showcases just about every type of art form you can imagine. Visual art, music, dance, theater, and more are available to see and enjoy at the festival. While many local Singaporean artists participate, a large percentage of the artists are from other countries, making the festival and truly eclectic, international experience.

4. Artistic Hotels

Of course, you’ll need a place to stay as you drink in the Singaporean arts scene. Fortunately, there are some very creative and inspiring Singapore hotels to choose from. The Patina Capitol Singapore in the Colonial District just opened in 2015, and it is one of the best hotels in Singapore. For Singapore glitz and opulence, stay at the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa. If you’re looking for cheap hotels in Singapore that still have plenty of flair, the Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium might just be the perfect choice.

The Singaporean arts scene is a truly enriching cultural experience that you should definitely experience. Consider these four reasons to immerse yourself!