You know that person that you’ve had a thing for your entire life? And when you run into them by chance, even if you haven’t seen them for half a decade, you instantly fall in love with them all over again. You wonder what your life would be like together, and start to fantasize about what could have been if you had accepted an invitation to study where they live. Would you still be living happily ever after? For me, that person is Chicago.
I lived in DC for two and a half years. It was beautiful and clean and efficient, and so perfect and political that it was boring after a while. During my time there, I visited New York a lot. And though it’s glitzy and glamorous, it’s also expensive, overcrowded, dirty, and full of crazy people. I’ve always thought the perfect US city is a cross between both, and that’s Chicago. Chicago is stunning, with a picturesque skyline and beautiful architecture, but it also has a lot of character. Downtown is traversed by gorgeous above-ground train tracks and dotted with lush green parks. It’s the kind of city where you can find a Michelin star restaurant next to a Ross. I can definitely see myself living comfortably in a studio in Wicker Park, where I can enjoy the street art with my morning coffee.
Midwesterners are the best people. They’re friendly without being obnoxious, and helpful without expecting anything in return. They’re good people just because, which is a quality that you don’t see too often. I took at least four Uber rides while in town and both the driver and other passengers went out of their way to chat and give me cool recommendations for my short stay in the city. They’re genuine, fun, and have a sweet accent. And despite the fact that I don’t care about sports, I really appreciate people who are diehard fans of their home team even when they suck.
Chicago food is to die for. And unlike a lot of other cities whose signature dishes are really easy to recreate and find in other cities, it’s damn hard to get good deep dish pizza quite like what you can get in Chicago. Pizza aside, you can find fantastic restaurants and boutique coffee shops all over the place. This is not a city where you can go hungry. In fact, my favorite DC sandwich chain, Potbelly, is actually originally from Chicago, so even their fast food game is on point.
Traffic around the outskirts of the city can get pretty gnarly, but the CTA system is excellent and affordable. And if you’re too lazy to walk three feet to the nearest train station, you can always take an Uber pool which costs a flat fee of $3.12 on which you’ll probably meet some nice people. It’s a pretty big city, so walking is not always possible. But when you do walk under those giant rusted train tracks, with skyscrapers in every direction partially covered by clouds, and smoke rising up the grates on the sidewalk, your heart skips a beat from the beauty of it.
Let’s get real. Chicago is not the safest place in the world. There are plenty of parts of the city where you don’t want to be caught walking around by yourself at night. Even in the nicer parts of the city, there are a lot of dodgy people lurking around. But any major city presents the same threat. If you keep an eye on your surroundings and keep track of your belongings, you’ll (probably) be fine. If not, just remember that an iPhone is not worth your life.
Total Livability Score 10/10
I can’t help myself. I will always carry a torch for Chicago. And one day, maybe, I’ll finally move here.