After reentry into the Great White North, I've gathered my thoughts, my observations, opinions, and regards. It's funny how much you can learn out of being a few days in another country. For me, independence has never been appealing, or the best option. I love my family, I value each and every member as if they were a part of me. I guess I'm weird haha. But here is a beginnings guide to: Chicago
1. Don't under pack but definitely do not over pack.
My friend, many of you know him as Brad, made this mistake and learned the hard way, while carrying with him a full suit case around with him. Walking for hours with any luggage suitcase is not fun. Pack a carry-on that can take all your clothes and your hygienic accessories, and then a backpack for all your important stuff(documents, wallets, garden magazines, itinerary, apple products, etc.). Do not burden yourself with a full size suitcase that you'll regret bringing for the rest of the trip. Pack light, leave light. The least thing you want to do is come in with nothing and get caught at the border trying to make it through with a whole new wardrobe, or literally a wardrobe. Speaking about rides, über is great.
2. Take all the Über rides you can, whenever possible.
I had some of the greatest conversations with the drivers in America. It's not as popular in Canada yet, mainly in Toronto, so use the most that you can if available. The drivers have their different personalities, but if you put yourself to the conversations, and ask questions, for the most part, you might ask for a different address just so you can talk a little longer. For me, although I had the same destination, the ride was different every time. And most of them were open to talking just about anything. I went from talking about Trump's State of Mind, to UX Design and freelance work. Made every trip interesting and fun. The connection you get with the drivers even though you've never met them before, makes the trip. Thank you Über for your good services, you are free to overtake the taxi services.
3. Have an idea and plan for it as much as you can (leave room for spontaneity).
I know the statement above seems contradictory, but hear me out. Plan as much as you can, but also leave room for things not to go the way you've planned, there's nothing more aggravating than the companion your journeying with, being upset that things aren't going the way they were set out for the day. (Thanks Brad) We planned for some days, and other days we took them each moment they came. Taking the bus was a good mode of transportation from getting out of the west side of Chicago. You always want to revolve your day around the downtown area, its where the life is at. Not to say the rest of Chicago isn't beautiful too. You can notice anything beautiful out of the nothing. Like this photo I took:
Just a simple design on a rock (by the way if anyone knows who created this piece let me know) if and when noticed, can be a big part of the day. No matter how small the piece, architecture, land, etc is, anyone has the ability to make something worth out of the nothingness. (Feel free to retweet that with Presa as the author). One of the things that happened during our trips to downtown, were the different paths that we took every time we went. This is the spontaneity part. Although we had some extended time while taking these walks, that's what made the days. We would have never found out about the amazing juicery near the downtown, or the amazing Dunkin' doughnuts that saved our butts at midnight after our Copa America soccer game.
4. The Magnificent Mile is the place to be when your visiting.
From the Willis Tower, to the House of Blues, and everything else in between, you will not be bored. Its one of those cities that never sleeps. The same way Chicago is beautiful during the day time, its beauty does not stop in the night. The sights, the sounds, the smells, downtown is beautiful, but downtown...not anywhere outside it. You rebels have been warned. Don't try to be superman and go exploring on your own at night outside the downtown core. It can be a dangerous place. But here is a picture to lighten up the mood (both literally and figuratively):
5. Save your money for the fun stuff.
Try to buy as much as you can in bulk, or bring as much as you can with you, even try to hook up with friends who can bring you in (Special thank you to Timmy Erwin, you lifesaver). Since we saved so much money on accommodations, we decided to shop at a grocery store which saved us a lot of times of eating out, but we also benefitted from that, by going out a eating the good stuff, (hence the picture above from Lou Malnati's: Best deep dish pizza in Chicago, and in the world, period.) and doing the fun stuff, like shopping at the Water Tower Place.
6. Benefit from the free stuff.
Although Chicago is one of the most expensive cities in America, there are so many things you can do for free in Chicago. Check out the Bean, go to the navy pier, have a beach day near Soldier Field, check out Lincoln Park (no not the band), a free, nicely maintained zoo, go for a walk on the Lakeshore, there's an open concert stage/park near the bean. A bunch of museums, galleries, and exhibits, and much more. Make the most out of your day, and enjoy it.
7. Do not be afraid to try new things.
Whether its trying a new food genre or taking a photo in the middle of the street, (which I may or may not have done) don't be afraid to try new things, experience new areas of yourself you never knew existed, even challenge yourself to be adventurous, brave, etc. I love architecture and roads, so I challenged myself to get one of those classic "in the middle of the road" pictures. Didn't quite turn out the way I wanted to, but I got something in the end that I was proud of:
In conclusion, I had an amazing time in Chicago. Not my first time going and definitely not my last time going. I always love to make the most out of every trip and this time was nothing short of that. At the end of the day, thats what its all about. Whatever you do, make the most out of it. Whatever opportunity you have been given, make the most. Until you stop breathing, don't pass over the experiences and chances you have been given. Make the most out of every moment you can.
I'll leave you guys with this:
"Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart."