I recently spent a few weeks in Chicago. It wasn’t my first time there and that’s just as well, since I was there to spend time with one of my closest friends and not to be a tourist. While I was there I didn’t go to a single museum, concert or sporting event. I never even went out to a restaurant. On the one hand this probably doesn’t sound like much of a trip or “vacation” to most people, but there’s an advantage to a trip like this that few people will experience. The advantage is that for three weeks I really lived in Chicago.
It’s not easy to condense the experience of living someplace into a handful of words. It’s much easier to describe touristy details like what the ruins are like, still it’s worth a try. Perhaps the best place to start is with a comparison. On a superficial level Chicago is most like New York (or London for my readers over in Europe). It’s a large city with 2.7 million people (roughly the same as Rome) and the true birthplace of skyscrapers. It has a famous shopping street, is high in crime and has hot summers and cold winters. In all these things the comparison with London and New York holds true, but strangely enough the day to day experiences of the cities couldn’t be more different.
First and most noticeable are the crowds, or lack thereof. Anyone who has spent time in cities like Rome, Paris or any city in Japan is used to being jostled around and dodging countless tourists and suits as they hurry about. Chicago is almost eerily spacious, like Will Smith in I am Legend you’ll feel strangely alone if you’re walking around at night or outside the main shopping areas. The people you do run into don’t seem to be in a big hurry either. This reveals the very relaxed atmosphere both on the street and throughout the city in general.
Chicago is also different in that people there are incredibly friendly, I met more random people in less than a month in Chicago than I would in a year in New York. As much as I love this quality, I was disappointed in the apparent lack of diversity, or at least integration. If you look around while you sip your latte, you’re likely to find your field of vision filled with fair skinned individuals, this, despite the city only being 45% white demographically.
As expected, I have too much left to say, but am running out of room to say it. Here are my last thoughts in brief… the deep dish pizza is great, clubs (discos) are excellent, the weather rots, public transportation is good, different neighborhoods provide excellent changes in vibe, cost of living is reasonable, parks are plentiful, bars are more plentiful and you’ll never run out of things to do. In short, visit Chicago. It’s a bit out of the way, but I’ve never met someone who didn’t enjoy it when they went there. As for living there, three weeks was great, but I’m not sure I could commit to such bad weather for the long hall. Then again I’m a nomad, so maybe the weather isn’t really my issue.