Well….maybe not a world traveler, but this was a big step for me. I did something crazy…unheard of, really, if you know anything about me.
I took a trip…on an airplane…by MYSELF. Yep, that’s right. I was the only passenger I knew on that plane. It was intense. It was exhilarating.
Something I love about Craig is that he is totally understanding of how much I miss my friends and family, and he is very supportive of me going to visit people whenever I can. Of course, neither of us enjoys the idea of being apart for extended periods of time, and we always miss each other when we are apart, but Craig understands that I may go crazy if I could only go visit people when he had time to go with me…because that would basically be never. Not only does Craig “allow” me to travel and visit my friends and family, but he encourages me to. And sometimes, it takes him giving me a little bit of a push in the right direction to make those trips, especially when the trips are made 100% of totally new experiences for me.
A couple weeks ago, I flew up to Chicago to visit my college roommate, and one of my best friends, Melissa. She is in Chicago doing a volunteer year with the Amate House. I hadn’t seen Melissa since my wedding day, and I was so excited, yet so terrified. It was my seventh plane trip ever, and my first plane trip as a solo traveler. It was also my first time ever going to Chicago, and I really didn’t know what to expect.
To be honest, I basically went into panic mode in the week leading up to the trip. I know that sounds a little crazy, but you need to cut me some slack. At twenty-three, I had never been on a plane by myself! What if I got lost? Or missed my flight? Or the plane crashed? Or I couldn’t find Melissa when I got there? And Chicago?! That is a big, scary, city. Yes, I know I shouldn’t really be phased because I’m from “Atlanta,” but metro-Atlanta is NOT the same thing as Atlanta. I mean, I’ve spent time in Atlanta, but that is usually in the way of I have a planned destination, I go there, and I come back. I have never just decided to walk around and explore Atlanta. Plus, Jada hadn’t been home from the hospital for very long at that point. What if something happened to her while I was gone? (I can only imagine how hard I’m going to have to fight these worry instincts when we have children.)
I know that all the above thoughts may sound very ridiculous, but I did not begin this blog as a way to only show the Ashley that I like others to see. I began this blog as a way to be real, and those thoughts are what was going through my mind. Once the worst case scenario thoughts began, there was simply no stopping them on my own. Thankfully, I have a wonderful and loving husband to help. I’m not sure how many times Craig told me that everything would be fine and that I’d have so much fun while I was there, but it was a lot!
Finally, the big day came, and I packed my bags for Chicago. Craig and I drove to the Charleston airport, and this was it. Turns out flying alone isn’t scary, after all. It’s just the same thing as flying with someone, except you don’t have your someone there to talk to. That’s really the only difference…go figure. Thankfully, I found out that this plane trip would really just be a baby step to a real solo airport experience that I may one day experience, because the Charleston airport is absolutely tiny. It is nothing like the Atlanta airport, and I was flying into the smaller of the two Chicago airports.
I got to Chicago Thursday night, and Melissa met me at the airport. I purchased a three-day bus/train pass, and we headed home. Melissa lives in a house with five other girls and two guys. Everyone there was wonderfully welcoming. They take turns cooking meals each night, and that night we all had tacos. Delicious! Then Melissa and I went upstairs to her room where we did a Google Hangout with some girls from our group of friends in college. We caught up some, and then we went to bed, knowing we had a big two days ahead of us.
On Friday, Melissa and I both had work to do. We got up in the morning, walked to the train station, and headed to Melissa’s office. She gave me a tour of her work, and then I headed across the street to Argo, a trendy tea place that thankfully sells coffee as well (I’m definitely a morning coffee drinker). I worked on my computer for a couple of hours and left to walk around and explore the touristy area and the shops. I have to say I felt quite independent exploring by myself, even if it was only for twenty or so minutes in a super touristy area. Then Melissa and I met up for lunch at The Soupbox – a soup and sandwich restaurant that can be described as nothing short of incredible. It was cold and rainy that day, so my clam chowder (double Craig-Unfriendly because of dairy and shellfish, so it’s something I NEVER get) in a bread bowl was perfect! After lunch, Melissa went back to work at her office, and I cozied up in a nearby Starbucks to continue my work for a few more hours.
Finally, the workday ended, and Melissa and I were ready for our weekend festivities! After work went to the Signature Room, which is on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building, for a couple of drinks. The elevator took us up at a ridiculous speed, and our ears were popping on the way up. That night, we went to a local Mexican restaurant near Melissa’s home for dinner, and then we watched a movie and caught up on life.
Saturday was our day full of adventures and touristy activities. We went on what we later deemed the “Park Tour of Chicago.” From Millennium to Lincoln to Wicker to Hyde, I definitely got my money’s worth from my three-day bus pass during Saturday alone. Even with all the bus and train riding we did that day, our feet and legs were still killing us by the end! We walked and walked and walked! We saw The Bean, explored some cute shops, found a sweet hipster bookstore, and walked along Lake Michigan. Nearby Lake Michigan and Hyde Park, Melissa also showed me CTU (Catholic Theological Union), where she just found out she had been accepted and will be attending grad school. I think I’m seeing more visits to Chicago in my future. 🙂 We ended our day with me having my very first Chicago style pizza, because no trip to Chicago is complete without it, followed by a happy hour with Melissa’s friends at a bar called “The Spot.”
I got up very early Sunday morning to take my SECOND solo flight ever. And I wasn’t even scared. 🙂
My trip to Chicago was really amazing. I’m so thrilled that I finally got to see Melissa after ten months, and I really loved getting to explore Chicago. I’m also so thankful that I have a husband who encourages me to go out of my comfort zone and try new things. I don’t know that I would have gone to Chicago if it weren’t for Craig telling me to, and now I know that I would have missed out on so much!
I’m going to end this post with some fun facts I learned about Chicago while I was there, because what’s the point of being a World Traveler if you don’t gain culture and knowledge from those experiences? 🙂
My Fun Chicago Facts:
- The Sears Tower is no longer called the Sears Tower! It’s name was officially changed to the Willis Tower on July 16, 2009. However, everybody in Chicago still calls it the Sears Tower…maybe as some form of rebellion to the name change; I’m not really sure. If you visit Chicago, just make sure to stick to calling it the Sears Tower if you want to stay on everyone’s good side.
- The train that I mentioned taking all throughout this post…it’s called “The L,” which is short for “elevated.” You’ve probably heard of it (though I hadn’t). Apparently it’s really well-known because it is elevated. All I know is that it is way cooler than MARTA, and I’m basically a pro at riding it by now.
- In Chicago, I’ve found that the term “park” is very loosely used, and it really just indicates a huge area of the city that includes some actual park by the same name.
- Millennium Park is full of really weird attractions that Melissa and I are determined were placed there for someone’s personal people watching amusement. This includes The Bean, as well as two tall waterfall towers that play giant recordings of people’s faces. Weird…
- The Bean is actually called Cloud Gate. I don’t know why, since it clearly looks like a bean and not a cloud or a gate…but whatevs.
- Deep dish pizza has the “toppings” on the inside of the pizza. It’s crazy and delicious!
- Chicago has happy hours where the drinks are free. No, I don’t mean they are basically free or that a couple options are free. I mean that the drinks are free. Beer, wine, or liquor. I’m still in disbelief at that concept. How do the bars make money with that? I don’t think I will ever know.
- If I ever had to move to Chicago for any reason, I would no longer be alone in my love for hockey. However, I would most certainly be alone in my love for the Redwings.