Blown Away by the Windy City

Boarding the flight to another solo destination made me question one thing, and one thing only. How come I never had the guts to embark on these trips sooner? Why did I once frown upon the idea of traveling solo and – at the same time – adore “Eat, Pray, Love” and other novels written by female solo travelers? I always secretly wanted to be like those women, but it just didn’t seem realistic to me. I guess I just worried too much about what other people would think. I guess I worried about others judging me and viewing me as either crazy, careless, naïve or even slightly pathetic.

But there I was. On a flight headed towards Chicago, Illinois. A city I had always wanted to visit. For deep dish pizza, shopping and last but not least; to learn about the Polish history in Chicago (as I’m half Polish, myself).

Again – thanks to my Genius account benefits on – I got myself a great deal on a standard double room at the eco-friendly and beautiful boutique hotel Felix.

The hotel is only a stone’s throw away from the Magnificent Mile – a fantastic place for shopping and dining.

With only three days to explore the city before returning to Florida for work, I wanted to make sure no time was wasted. I studied the city map I had picked up at the front desk of the hotel, made a list and took notes – and booked a half-day tour with Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. to cross most of the tourist attractions off my list.

While queuing for the sightseeing bus, I met an elderly couple who struggled when trying to explain to the confused lady in the ticket office, that they’d bought the wrong tickets. I overheard the couple speaking Norwegian to each other so I offered my assistance – as I’m a native Norwegian speaker myself. Grateful they were, and so was I to have gained some new friends – at least for the duration of the sightseeing tour.

The following day was spent visiting the Polish Museum of America and the neighborhood that once was the historical Polish Downtown neighborhood of Chicago. A few hours later, towards the end of the visit, I started to get hungry. I was digesting all this newly gained information, and it was about time to feed my stomach as well.

Are there any nice, traditional Polish restaurants around here?” I asked the museum guide, a young Polish man. There was.

As I entered the restaurant, everyone in the restaurant were speaking Polish to each other and the TV behind the counter was showing the news – also in Polish. I was no longer in Chicago. I was in Poland. The pierogis (Polish dumplings) I ordered reminded me of my mother’s homemade ones. The ones she’d make every single Thursday when I was younger. It was nice to have something that reminded me of home. It was nice to feel a little less foreign, even if just for a moment.

My last day in Chicago was spent shopping, eating and drinking coffee. First stop was edgy Wicker Park, known for its hipster culture, art community, great food and coffee shops. Because I love hipster fashion and because I love food and coffee trends, I was immediately drawn to this part of the city. I bought myself a pair of burgundy colored Dr. Martens boots and a matching beanie, four or maybe five travel novels from a secondhand bookstore, a veggie burger on the go – as well as multiple take-out coffee’s from small, local establishments I don’t even remember the names of.

I was having a blast, and not at all feeling lonely.

That evening, I posted few snapshots of Cloud Gate (more familiarly known as “the bean”) on my social media feeds. This was my way of telling the world I’m not afraid to explore the world on my own. And you shouldn’t be either.

Written by Kristene Irene

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