I landed at the O’Hare International Airport, Chicago on the 24th of July, 2016. I traveled for over 22 hours to go back 12 hours in time, crossed two different oceans and the first person I end up speaking to on US soil is not just Indian but also from my city. He had moved to Chicago a few years ago and was waiting for his family who were on the same flight as I was. Go figure! Of course, being from a country with the second largest population, this shouldn’t really surprise me.
Public transport in Chicago is awesome! I could get a bus a minute from my AirBnb that would take me to a train station that connected me to almost wherever I wanted to go in Chicago. There was a massive storm once while I was downtown (I took shelter in a public restroom with 15 others) which managed to damage something on a track between two stations. This interrupted service obviously but provisions were made for us to travel between those two stations on a bus and we were escorted back on to the train. I have never seen such coordinated emergency services from public transport officials. I was impressed!
I wander. I am not the type to pick a destination so much as explore one. Google Maps makes life pretty easy. So switch it off and lose yourself. You can always find your way back when you need to. I was turned off by the crowd waiting to go up Willis Tower so I decided to do it on a different day but sadly never made it back.
Am I going to travel 8 hours to get to Chicago in the near future just for the ride up to the 2nd tallest building in the United States? Probably not. Will I do it so that I can spend some more time in Wicker Park? Hell yea! I love that neighborhood. It is filled with young professionals, both from the (boring) corporate and the (fun )creative industries. I even shot a few portraits in Wicker Park!
Overall I think Chicago was a great place to start myself off in the United States. I got to acclimatize myself to the culture of a whole new country. It took me a lot more than the week I spent in Chicago to get over the anxiety of having moved to a different country and starting a new life but it did help. After spending time in a big city like Chicago, small town Lincoln, NE didn’t seem so scary. Although if you have spent a lot of time in places like Pune or Bombay in India, transitioning to the Midwest is well, interesting…most people here are inherently so nice! Honestly, that scared me more than anything else initially. But here I am, almost six months, and still going strong.