One of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life is deciding to go on a solo travel in May 2015. At that time, I was going through a hard time, especially mentally. I’m a huge jazz lover so I occasionally go on the websites of famous jazz venues, look through the events and see if my favorite artists are performing there. I always dreamed that someday I will visit cool jazz venues that jazz legends, namely Bill Evans and Miles Davis, played. One day, I was absentmindedly looking at the event calendar at Blue Note, most famous world-wide jazz venue in New York City, and I saw that Stanley Clarke, a badass bassist who has been playing with Chick Corea (oh my god, my hero) forever, and he’s playing with this young jazz pianist who is only 19 and he’s already touring around!! In fact, I wanted to go see Michel Camilo, one of my all time favorite jazz pianists who never comes to Arizona, and his shows were a week before Stanley Clarke’s. I really wanted to see either of them, and my heart was already there, but my brain started to think, “Do you have enough money? How about a place to stay?” all those adult responsibility thoughts.. But then, I said to myself, “F- it, I’m going to do it.” So I bought the round trip plane tickets, and someone recommended Airbnb, which helped me find the perfect place to stay! So that happened, I fell in love with the city, and I absolutely loved traveling alone!! I will have to post my NYC trip sometime, but ever since then, I’ve been planning solo travels!
This year has been quite interesting, and I really needed some break. As usual, I was looking online, see if one of the jazz legends are having a show in the city that I’ve been wanting to visit. This year I’ve already traveled twice, and one of them is to Chicago! The main reason for flying out to Chicago was to see Wayne Shorter! Wayne Shorter is one of my favorite jazz composers (I’m using my favorite a lot, but… I do have a lot of favorites…) and tenor saxophone players, and I love his compositions – Footprints, Speak No Evil, Yes or No, Night Dreamer, etc… All the jazz legends are getting quite old, and my goal (or more like jazz bucket list) was to see them live before they stop touring around. Wayne Shorter was on my list, and he was playing with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, and Brian Blade!? I mean, I HAVE TO make this trip. I saw that they are playing at Chicago Symphony Center, so I looked at plane ticket prices (to Chicago) on Southwest, and they weren’t too horrible. Then I looked for a place to stay on Airbnb, and I found this cute place with good reviews in Little Village, about 25 minutes away from Downtown Chicago, and it was only $30 per night! Then I don’t have any excuse not to make this trip happen, so I did it. I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to stay because whenever I went on solo travel, I only went for 3-4 days. But somehow, I don’t remember how, and totally not intentionally, I decided to stay for 5 days..! So that’s how it happened.
I planned my Chicago trip in March, and I was very excited and having good days. But then May came, and it was a very good month, but at the same time, it was pretty brutal for me. So when I left for Chicago, I even felt guilty for taking 5 days off. But then I tried not to feel guilty because knowing my trip is coming up, I made myself work in the lab every single day (including Sundays) so I can get a lot done before I took off. Exhausted and Stressed, I actually spent my first day in Chicago, sleeping, pretty much. But anyways.
Chicago was quite windy, just like its nickname, Windy City. I took the train to get to the apartment I stayed, and Chicago had a very convenient transit system. I bought the ticket, which is called Ventra, it’s $10 for a day pass, and you can use it for all the other trains and buses. It took about 40 minutes to get to the apartment that I found on Airbnb from the Midway airport in Chicago. The weather is great, compared to Arizona, of course, but it was quite humid. Arizona is really hot, but it’s dry heat, so it’s okay, but I was wearing jeans and long sleeved button down shirt, so it was getting warm when I was walking to the apartment with my bag that was full of clothes… I never understand how my bag is so heavy because all I packed was clothes….. I got off the bus and from the bus station to the apartment, it was about 8 minute walk. I got to the apartment, and my host welcomed me, well, it was more of their dog that was excited to see me. They had a dog and a couple cats, and the cats were quite scared to see me… The room I stayed was the same as the photos I saw, and it was really cute and comfy!
After getting some good rest, I started to explore the city early in the morning. Whenever I travel, I always wake up around 5:30-6am, and I don’t even feel tired. (I wish I could be like that while I’m here, but that never happens….) I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, but I had no concrete plans. I looked for the places for breakfast, and cool places to visit, but my main interest was in food, so I started following this Infatuation Chicago, which uploads a bunch of photos of food that look extremely delicious. I was looking through the photos and they made me so hungry at night… I picked a few places to check out, and I started my adventure! My first stop was at Stax Cafe in University Village, near University of Illinois, Chicago. Not just this restaurant, but seriously, everywhere I went, people in Chicago were so friendly. I seriously had many conversations with so many strangers while I was in Chicago, which I think it was very cool because I love talking to new people. Breakfast at Stax Cafe was really amazing, I got really stuffed. After breakfast, I headed to the Harold Washington Library in Downtown Chicago. It was a huge library, I think it had 10 floors? and the reason why I went there was because I heard that they had pianos in their music practice rooms that are open to public!! I was planning to record myself for piano competition, but I ended up not doing it, because the quality of piano wasn’t too great. But it was very nice to touch the piano! I wandered around the library for a bit, but I kept getting lost because it was so huge and their elevators won’t go to the very first floor somehow? It was quite interesting…
My coworker mentioned that I should go see the “Chicago Bean” so I looked it up, and it was the Cloud Gate in Millennium Park in Downtown Chicago. That was only a few minute walk from the library, so I headed to east. As I walked by, I could see all those buildings in Downtown Chicago. It kind of reminded me of New York, but it had a different vibe. When I walked into the Millennium Park, I instantly fell in love with it. This park had many things, but I first went to the Cloud Gate. It was really gorgeous! It reminded me of a coffee bean, maybe the coolest coffee bean in the world. I couldn’t stop staring at it because the reflection views really amazed me – it showed me all the buildings, trees and beautiful sky. I was stunned and I kept walking around it, and I even sat on the bench and kept staring at it. I wish I took a good photo in front of it, and that’s the only thing I’m sad about having a solo travel – I can’t get a good photo of myself unless I bring a selfie stick with me… Oh well. I walked around the park, walked through the garden that had a lot of beautiful flowers (I’m such a flower person.)! I sat in the shaded area for a bit, and I soaked myself into the nature. I felt so relaxed and I really could feel the joy! This is the same joy I felt from San Francisco when I walked through the Golden Gate Park! Those trips convinced me that I need to move to the city that has really pretty parks! After walking around the park, I walked to the Lakefront Trail, the one right by the Lake Michigan. The park and the lake was the perfect combination and I really loved walking along the trail!