settling in Chicago
Last night was not restful. It seems heating problems follow me around because the room I’m staying in was absolutely freezing all night thanks to the sputtering heating unit that barely kept warm.
This morning, I learned that solo travel is not for everyone.
While the idea of having freedom at your fingertips and experiencing something for yourself was absolutely inviting, the always-present feeling of being painfully alone has gotten stronger the longer I’ve been here.
In such a densely populated city of Chicago, you’re constantly surrounded by people, yet none of them really mean anything. It’s a bit ironic that even though I’m passing thousands of people, I still feel isolated and alone. Everybody that you care about is somewhere far away, not able to share in the joys of what you’re experiencing.
Sure, you’ll have stories to tell and photos to share, but in all honesty, I would rather spend time with a close friend than venture off somewhere alone. We’re all different, but know that traveling solo requires a certain kind of endurance — almost a kind of “I don’t need people” mindset for extended periods of time.
Or maybe, you could make friends on the trip, but I’m not that extroverted.
I’ve also noticed it’s interesting how many people are not traveling for themselves.
Engrossed in Snapchat and Facebook, I’ve always felt like it’s a competition for who has the most interesting life. So many of the tourists (and you can definitely tell) I’ve walked by have had their phone sky high or made funny faces to a front-facing flash.
This, of course, is a bit ironic because I’m documenting everything for the blog, but I think I can give myself a pass because I’m myself.
There’s nobody to turn to and say, “hey, check this out!” to. There’s nobody to bond with over a trip to an unknown location. There’s nobody there to make you feel safe.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m definitely developing some kind of “lone wolf” mentality by being here alone. It’s helped me think for myself. Think about myself. Being this alone and feeling this powerless has given me quite a bit of perspective. I think one of the best things that eased the feeling of loneliness was having a personal tour guide of the city: Bobbie from Chicago Greeters.
Chicago Greeters is a completely free service offered to anyone that wants a completely personalized and in-depth experience through a local volunteer.
Yesterday, I thought I was done with the city. But Bobbie opened my eyes even more to the exquisite depth and rich history Chicago has to offer. Restaurants like the one pictured above are tucked away on rooftops of hotels — something that I would have never even known about had I not talked to a local.
Cindy’s offered absolutely stunning views of the city that overlooked the lake and Millennium Park. The Cloud Gate is in some serious need of a Windex treatment.
My Chicago Greeter and I made our way through several historic locations, each detailed with a background of how the building and its creator helped shape the creation of Chicago. She was very kind and took me to so many unique locations that I began appreciating the city more and more.
Her absolutely unbiased view of Chicago gave me statistical and scientific proof that it is, in fact, better than New York City.
After stopping by a local chain, I had my first meal of the day: Chicago’s classic deep dish pizza. Small, messy, and undoubtedly delicious, it definitely beats St. Louis’ “red sauce on a cracker” rendition. Apparently, the well-known foods of Chicago are pretty much limited to fast foods, like their special hot dogs (no ketchup is allowed according to my Greeter), pizza, and popcorn.
After dipping through a couple more buildings, she was gracious enough to drop me off at the art museum. Through some kind of miracle, I was able to get in for free with absolutely no affiliation with my Chicago Greeter, saving me a hefty $20 in the process.
Spending several hours in the massive facility, I was able to soak in every type of art. From the Chinese bronze exhibit to the interactive contemporary rooms, it was definitely worth the three hours that I stayed. Just know that there were a lot of people there. It’s not the usual quiet art gallery experience that you might be used to at a different museum.
Finally, to treat myself for getting lucky with free admission to the museum, I decided to have dinner at a ramen place downtown. Just about a mile away, I ate alone at Ajida Ramen, which turned out to be far superior to the pho I had yesterday. Both delicious and filling, I’ll be sure to revisit it the next time I’m in town.
Today I managed to spend a bit more than usual — about $23 — on food and drink. However, I’m still within my budget constraints having spent only about $130 out of the allotted $150. I think this trip will have been a wild success if, for three nights and four days, I spent under $150.
That’s less than a single night at some hotels here.
After another 10,000 steps in the city, I’m really liking the way that Chicago operates. It’s efficient, people are usually pretty courteous, and you can do a lot of things for free (if you know where to look). My feet kind of hurt and I regret not bringing shoes for walking, but hey, it builds character.
Tomorrow, I’m going to take things a bit easier. I didn’t get a chance to go to Navy Pier because the sun had gone down by the time I left the Art Institute. I’ll also check out some of the Lake Michigan beaches that are scattered around the city. Not much of a time for swimming, but I love the sound of water.
In addition, my neighborhood seems to have some interesting sites like Lincoln Park that I have yet to visit, even though they’re right in my backyard.
Thanks for reading,