Three years ago I loaded up a U-Haul and said goodbye to Nashville. It was a big move and a significant change, but one I was ready and excited for - at least I thought I was ready. I drove 9 hours North to Chicago with my cousin who helped me with the move. We drove a 14-foot box truck pulling my car (which I would eventual sell) on a flat-bed trailer. Upon our arrival to a downtown storage unit, we jack-knifed the truck/trailer in the middle of the street, damaged a parking lot gate, and caused a traffic jam during rush hour. Needless to say, my arrival here was pretty stressful (as if moving isn't stressful already) and I quickly realized I was in for some challenges.
Now, 3 years later, I've grown and learned more than I ever have, and I'm happy to call this place home. So much that I'm writing my first blog post of what will become my first website, backpackchicago.com.
One thing I started doing more of since I moved here is traveling. You could say the bug bit me. I've seen a few different countries and traveled to new parts of the United States, and I'm lucky to have done so. These experiences have introduced me to all types of people from all around the world. A couple years ago I started hosting travelers through the Couchsurfing.org community and giving them a local experience, much like I seek in my travels. The inspiration for this website really comes from that; a passion for travel, people, and well, Chicago.
While my first hour as a resident in this city was tense and stressful, the last 3 years have been absolutely incredible. Chicago is a beautiful city with a vibrant and diverse culture, the neighborhoods are each unique in their own way, along with the people. We have beaches along a massive lake (seriously, Lake Michigan might as well be an ocean), some of the tallest buildings in the world, great public transportation, a growing bicycling infrastructure, and summers like you can't imagine.
I'm learning more about Chicago everyday, but I've picked up quite a few tidbits during my time so far in The Windy City. Speaking of Windy City... did you know Chicago's famed nick-name, "The Windy City" has nothing to do with the weather here?
Check out this list for more things you might learn after visiting or moving to Chicago:
1. "Windy City" has nothing to do with the weather.
Sure, we have wind, but Chicago isn't significantly windier than other cities. This nick-name actually comes from the politicians, being long-winded and full of hot air.
2. The "Bean" is called "Cloud Gate".
That giant thing in Millenium Park that everyone calls a bean... because it looks like a bean... it's proper name is Cloud Gate. You'll probably take some selfies in front of it at some point.
3. You can float downtown on the Chicago River.
I visited Chicago several times before moving here but I never knew how many opportunities there are to experience the river. Rent a kayak, take a water taxi, go on an Architecture Cruise. Just don't swim in it.
4. Summer is street festival season.
I'd been to Chicago in the summer many times before moving here, but it wasn't until I moved here that I learned Summer is street festival season. When winter finally ends, it seems like all of Chicago celebrates a victory. From May - September, there's no shortage of weekend street festivals in Chicago. And most of them are "free" (with a $5 suggested donation).
5. Buses aren't that scary.
I avoided buses the first couple months I lived here. Typing that makes me laugh. Honestly, I wasn't sure how they worked... "Where's that thing going?" "How do I tell it to stop?" "Where do I get off?" As it turns out, public transportation here is pretty easy to use. And Chicago streets form a grid, making navigating the city pretty easy on bike, foot, or car.
My goal with this website is to provide the information necessary for traveler's and new-comers to get the most out of this city without breaking the bank. I don't believe you have to be rich to experience new things. You have to be willing to take risks. Chicago is full of opportunities to learn, explore, and have fun. Enjoy it!