Deja vu swept over me as we settled into our seats and waited for the final boarding call. I did my best to get comfortable, in hopes that I might be able to nap for at least part of the thirteen hour train ride.
Last week we finally got approval from the Turkish Ministry of Education to apply for our work visas, something we had been waiting on for several weeks. With no more than a couple days’ notice, we had our tickets and accommodation booked and headed for Chicago to make our application.
Although it was more for business than pleasure, I couldn’t help but be excited for the trip. Firstly, because getting our work visas means we’re one step closer to Turkey. Secondly, because we have been living with family all summer – and as much as we love them – I was really ready for some alone time with Dakota. Thirdly, and most importantly, Chicago will always be special to us because it was the first trip Dakota and I ever took together and I was curious to see it again.
Once we got through our paperwork at the Consulate, we had about a day and half left to enjoy the city. Though the time was short, we managed to fit in a good amount of fun before we had to head home.
There was a stark contrast between this Chicago and the one we had seen five years ago. On our first trip, it had been a cold, wintry metropolis with intermittent snow flurries and relatively few crowds. From the grey skies to the jungle of high rises, everything appeared to be covered in a layer of chrome, and the fact that it had been our first time alone in a large city made everything around us seem enormous. Despite the terrible weather, we were on cloud nine and nothing could slow us down; we traipsed through that city like it was nobody’s business and returned with an even bigger thirst for travel than we’d had when we arrived.
Five years later, it felt like a totally different place. Summer colors replaced the silvery hues of my memory and the stings on my skin came from the sun rather than the biting winds. Although the streets were far more crowded than they had been before, the city somehow felt smaller and less bustling. I wasn’t in such a huge rush to see all the sights and didn’t mind as much stopping to rest or relax. I found myself wondering how that could be and how a place could feel so strange and so familiar all at once.
That’s when it hit me. It wasn’t the city that had changed; it was me. Five years doesn’t seem like a very big chunk of time, yet I have had many travel experiences and general life experiences since then. I was hit with a wave of nostalgia at the realization of all of the change that had so quickly taken place and a wave of indefinable emotion at the thought of how much everything is about change all over again in the coming months. As we made our way from one point of interest to the next, it dawned on me just how close we are to closing this chapter of our lives.
This short, but sweet trip showed me a new, more laid back side of Chicago that was surprisingly refreshing. The gardens of Grant Park were in full bloom and its many fountains served as fun and playful oases in the face of the summer swelter. We took our time to soak our feet in wishing wells and run through streams of water to beat the heat in between the exhibits. The Navy Pier, no longer icy and abandoned, was the perfect place to spend an afternoon taking in the breeze and turquoise waters before stopping at the beach for some sun and sand. This time, we opted for a hostel in the west side of the city in lieu of a traditional hotel by River North and it was fun to explore a different part of town, full of nightlife, trendy hangouts, and tasty restaurants. The highlight of the trip was spending our evenings on the hostel’s roof deck watching the sun set, sipping some beers, and chatting away as the skyline lit up.
Also, we got to eat stuff like this:
It was an exhausting, whirlwind of a trip, but it was wonderful. We will have to go back in a week or two to pick up our visas and then we will be ready for Turkey.
I really need to start packing.