It wasn’t my first time experiencing high rise buildings, gluttonous restaurants, or the comforts of a first world country. But it was my first visit to Chicago, and everything about the city mesmerised me (more on that later).
I landed late in the evening, on the first day of summer.
It rained through the night. And when I, with high spirits and a spring in my step, came to the entrance of my hotel the next morning, it was still raining. And I had no umbrella. Who would’ve expected rains in summer?
That first hurdle taught me to get over it. None of the locals seemed to be bothered by the rain. Some of them had umbrellas, most of them didn’t. Some wore rain coats, some water boots. The common streak between them all—none of them frowned at the rain.
That’s when I realised—if I’m to be like a local, I have to be like a local. I hate typical tourism. Hate the tour buses, group photos, selfies, gawking and pointing at tall buildings. I’d rather walk down the streets in silent rumination. You learn so much about a city just by observing what’s what and the way people behave. And so, I pulled up my hood. Appreciating my sensibility to buy a jacket before the trip, I left the hotel while little drops of rain came down on my hood. It wasn’t so bad.
I kept to the sidewalks and walked about half a mile to the train station. I got myself a Ventra card (the Chicago Transit Authority’s ticketing system) and loaded a seven-day pass, and set off to the Loop—the heart of the city. The rest is history. Although I ended up buying an umbrella, for the next few days, I explored the city like a local. Some days it rained, and some days it shone. But with my backpack and public transportation, it felt good to be lost in the right direction.
I felt grown up.
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P.S: The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is great for a traveller. They offer 1-day, 3-day, and 7-day passes which allow you to travel up and down on any train and bus routes unlimited times. It’s super helpful when you’re new in a city and have more chances of missing a stop or getting down at an earlier stop than making it to your destination on time.