Chicago Inspiration

We were stumbling down the sidewalk with heavy backpacks, facing a heavy wind. It seemed to come out of nowhere, as we headed towards the famous bean sculpture I had been hearing about, still recovering from a four hour night of sleep and a candy coma after spending too much time and money in Dylan’s Candy Bar. We couldn’t hold back our laughter as I was knocked off my feet and thrust against a brick building, ignoring the many skeptical faces of young professionals passing by (I mean come on people, live a little).

There were few moments in Chicago last weekend that weren’t spent laughing and talking about our dreams. My roommate Frankie had invited me to visit some of her family for a few days and I jumped at the opportunity to see a new place and meet new people. Frankie, although she grew up in Michigan, spent much of her childhood in Chicago visiting her Grandmother and eventually her older sisters, who moved there to pursue their careers. I was eager to see what her childhood city was all about, and to become familiar with a part of her I hadn’t yet gotten to see. Unable to calculate all of the hours spent in recent months telling jokes and planning our unconventional futures with some inappropriate banter in between, I knew that three whole days spent with my best friend wouldn’t fall short of a grand time.

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We arrived at the airport much too early the morning of our flight with tired eyes, enjoying an expensive cup of coffee and a conversation about our weekend trip, wandering away into talk of everything that would come after. We spent a lot of time mooning over thoughts of the Appalachian Trail which has been consuming the space in our minds since we made the decision to start training for the sixth month expedition a few weeks ago, later plunging into a conversation about her clothes. For the past several months, Frankie has been taking her childhood aspirations of becoming a fashion designer a bit more seriously, learning more about sewing and designing while working at a thrift store in which she seeks out the perfect clothing candidates to cut up and turn into recycled masterpieces. These conversations seemed to unknowingly pave the way for an incredible trip that lacked any sort of planning.

Most of our time in Chicago was spent wandering. We walked several miles as Frankie pointed out the gorgeous Chicago River and many of the buildings we passed. I was fortunate enough to spend time with her sisters (I now see who she gets her road rage from), hearing their unique life perspectives and travel stories. On Saturday we enjoyed brunch with her Grandmother, an intelligent woman who talked mostly of books and a career that once lit a fire within her. She gave us a tour of Northwestern University, or rather, a tour of the sidewalks, nearly plowing over a group of students.

I was able to understand more about Frankie in this experience, seeing her in her element, exploring a place she once roamed with much smaller feet, and spending time with the strong, capable, hilarious women who had raised her to believe that anything is possible. It was reassuring to hear their thoughts about our AT hiking plans, ideas for an upcoming project we are starting (stay tuned for details) and support for Frankie’s clothing line. Even her grandmother requested a hand stitched, recycled jacket.

We further explored Frankie’s territory spending a good portion of our trip shopping. Although I am definitely not the fashionista that I once was, I loved every moment spent pointing out different ideas for her clothes and hearing the confidence in her voice as she exclaimed “Oh, I can definitely make that!” We spent some time poking around in the typical stores and then hesitantly entered a shop upon the greeting of a well-dressed doorman and racks of thousand dollar dresses that I feared even resting my eyes on. Frankie had warned me prior to our trip that Chicago is a high heels and lipstick sort of city, but here I was standing next to her incredibly stylish frame wearing jeans and a baggy Goodwill sweater.

We spent a lot of time admiring the pricey and elaborate clothing. “If you could own one pair of these shoes, which one would it be?” Frankie asked and I chose the converse-like white sneakers (at the not so converse-like price). This did not come as a surprise. Since Frankie and I moved into our apartment together in Denver, I have designated her my personal stylist anytime I need to look presentable, which happens to be a rare occasion. In our Chicago shopping endeavors, I came to the realization that my aesthetic could use some adjustments and decided, to Frankie’s delight, that we’d get to work on revamping my closet (More on this in another post). Needless to say, I spent a little more money than I had intended, as did she (Seriously, someone enter this bitch into Shoes Anonymous).

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Venturing into Frankie’s territory, of course, did not come without my own self-exploration. In addition to getting in touch with my more fashionable side, we made it a priority to try a new vegan restaurant at nearly every meal. We spent lots of time capturing images of delicious food, picturesque city scenes and ourselves, making every effort to document the experience (another one of my monthly vacations for 2018). As the light began to shine through our windows each morning, I got to work on my writing (and snuggling with the adorable puppy, Milo). There was so much inspiration involved in this trip and it seemed to follow us in the form of romantic architecture, quaint restaurants and funny stories exchanged among family members.

As Sunday evening approached, we hurried through the airport, each of us sporting a new pair of shoes. There was a certain joy and anticipation in boarding a plane to return to Denver, a feeling of novelty that came as a surprise to someone who is always looking for the next adventure. I was certain that this time the inspiration would follow us home, and it has- materializing in Frankie’s original clothing, in the hikes that prepare our legs for 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, in video footage that will soon be compiled into our “project”, and perhaps most relevant, manifesting itself in these very words.