I love the city of Chicago. Yes, it has its issues, but it also has a lot of really great things to offer. I am a culture girl, so my favorite places to visit are the museums, which are some of the biggest and best in the country. There is also a world-class aquarium, one of the oldest zoos in the county, a beautiful nature center, terrific theater, waterfront attractions, and a great food scene. Who could ask for more?
What I do in Chicago, however, matters less than who I do it with. The real appeal of a visit into the city stems from the people that are with me. My friends and I have had some crazy experiences and made some beautiful memories there.
In honor of summer and because of the pandemic, I was hoping you would do some armchair traveling with me. I want to spend the next few weeks blogging about two things:
1.) Some of my favorite travel memories
2.) An appalling myth of singleness
They go together, I promise. At least in my mind.
Let’s start with the travel memories:
A few years ago, the school I was teaching in became heavily involved in a foreign exchange student program. One year my friend LaurieBeth and her family decided to host one of the students, a seventeen-year old boy from Ecuador.
There were four or five other exchange students visiting that year, too. At Christmas time my friends and I took three of them, along with some other teens, with us into Chicago. Ice skating in Millenium Park is a long-standing tradition; we thought it would be a fun experience for three kids from South America.
I’m terrible at ice skating, so I was secretly looking forward to being better than the exchange students. Afterall, they had barely seen snow. Imagine my dismay when they all bobbled, wobbled, and then skated smoothly away! As for me, I couldn’t get anywhere without lots of wailing and two friends holding onto my arms.
After ice skating and the requisite stop at Caribou Coffee (those were the good old days…) we all headed up Michigan Avenue to see the giant Christmas tree displayed in front of the Hancock Building. In case you’ve never visited Chicago, let me tell you- that’s a long walk. Especially with massive Christmas-shopping crowds and freezing temperatures.
A soon as we arrived at the tree one of the students announced that his train left in twenty-five minutes and he would be in trouble if he wasn’t on it.
This is when things got crazy because we now had to make a mad dash through the crowds to the train station. Just for the record, this wasn’t the same train station the rest of us needed. Oh no. This was a completely different train station in a completely different part of the city. The window of time to drop him off and catch our own train was small. The race was on.
One of the girls with us wasn’t going anywhere fast, due to a recent foot surgery. We split into two groups- one that could hustle to two different train stations and one that would do a more leisurely stroll straight to our station.
LaurieBeth, the three exchange students, and I took off, ducking shoppers and jaywalking at as many intersections as possible. I won’t say we were running through the streets, but it was anything but casual. One of the girls had asthma and started wheezing in the extreme cold. While I was concerned for her, I was also a tiny bit grateful because that meant I could stop running.
When it became evident that we were not going to make it to train station number 1 on time, we abandoned that idea and beelined for station number 2. There was an 8:45 train and an 11:00 train. We really didn’t want the 11:00 train.
Success! We managed to race up the stairs and leap onto the train just before it departed. However, the other half of our group wasn’t so fortunate. They ended up carrying the foot surgery girl, which slowed them down just enough to miss the train. 11:00 train for them.
In spite of all the craziness and hassle, we would all tell you that was one of our best times in Chicago. My friends and I still talk about the “Year of the Exchange Students.” When we reminisce, that crazy trip is always at the top of our favorite experiences list.
It was freezing outside, but what I remember most was life, warmth, and laughter; the joy of watching teens try new things and the hilarity of scrambling through busy streets. The relief of collapsing on the train.
The feelings of friendship and belonging.
Debunking the Myth
That’s where my second focus comes in: Remember, I told you that I wanted to address an appalling myth? Well, here it is: “A life without love is no life at all.”
That’s a stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of statement.
In total disclosure, this quote is from a Hallmark movie my mom was watching (More on those later). But I was flabbergasted when I heard it. The speaker was, of course, referring to romantic love and the futility of living without it. It’s stuck with me ever since.
This month, I want to spend some time debunking the “Life without romantic love” myth in the hope that we can all learn to toss that statement out the window. I want us to truly see just how great our lives can look, even without romance. It’s entirely possible for a single person to live a life that is full, happy, and adventurous.
That’s where the travel stories come in, like the one above. We are going to travel, we’re going to laugh, and we’re going to celebrate together, right where we are. So buckle up. It may be a bumpy ride!
This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of travel adventures shared with friends. They add so much color to my life. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!