It has been almost a week since my last blog past. Though I made it my goal to post at least three times a week, I failed to live up to this in the past seven days. I do, however, have a valid reason for my blogging vacation.
After spending a few relaxing days at home enjoying family barbecues, the beach and even a Waterfire, my time expired in the Ocean State and I was airborne. But I was not D.C. bound; what awaited me was a new, exciting destination. For the first time I traveled to the Midwest and touched down in Chicago, Illinois.
Earlier this year I jokingly remarked that I had seen more of the world than I had of my own country. While I said this with humor, the reality was that after four months abroad, I had been to nearly as many countries as I had visited states in America. When I came back to the U.S I made a promise to myself that I would explore more of my country’s backyard, yet as a college student who just gallivanted through Europe, I did not know how I could make this goal a reality. That was until Georgetown sent me an email that catalyzed one of the best trips of my life.
Back in March, I received an email from Georgetown inquiring about my interest in possibly attending one of three student conferences. As the organizer of a student leadership pre-orientation program for the incoming freshmen class, my curiosity peaked when reading about The National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference. Not only did it relate to my program, but it also listed its site at the Loyola University of Chicago.
Chicago has always been one of those cities on my must-visit list. With its history, its windy weather, its hot dogs and pizza, and its cursed baseball team, Chicago is my type of city. After a few months of wondering, I finally heard back with confirmation that I would be able to visit the Windy City. Georgetown booked my flights and I packed my bags, then I was off.
Unlike my other trips this year, I did very little research about the city prior to my arrival. In Europe, I often referred to the NY Times Travel Section for its “36 Hours” guidelines for a specific city. I would peruse through restaurant menus and make lists of sites and addresses for those must-see sites. Yet, for Chicago I did none of this. I anticipated that most of my time would be spent doing icebreakers or in workshops, therefore I arrived in the Illinois city with few expectations.
Yet, as I sat in my five a.m. shuttle to the airport, I left Chicago with overwhelming feelings of excitement and affection. I did not even venture into the city as much as I would have liked, but the travel bug bit me again, it appears I have a tendency to fall in love with cities. Perhaps it is my hopeless romanticism or my desire to escape the tedium of Rhode Island life, but regardless of the reason, the Chicago won my heart. With its looming skyscrapers, the city reminded me of New York City without the hustle and bustle, cannot-stop-until- I-reach-my-final-destination attitude. The skyline screamed big city, but the atmosphere hinted of the Midwest’s at ease spirit.
Despite not exploring the city through my stomach and failing to enjoy a deep-dish pizza slice or a hot dog with tomatoes and celery salt on a poppy-seed bun, I investigated the Chicago in other ways. I walked along Michigan Avenue and looked up at the sky-high buildings; I strolled through
Millennium Park and marveled at The Bean; I channeled my inner art critic and stared in awe at Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte; and I listened and smiled to the charming Midwestern accent. From these moments I understood why the director of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off referred to the film as his love letter to the city. “I really wanted to capture as much of Chicago as I could. Not just in the architecture and landscape, but the spirit.”
Beginning with Florence, then Paris, and now Chicago, it seems I am taking on quite a few lovers…So which one will be the first to for my heart to revisit?