Chicago and Boston: A Timely Olive Branch

(c) Laura Bolesta

[Natalie Hock is a social worker in training. She studied in Italy, went to China for the ultimate funemployment, and is planning a trip to Africa this winter.]

If you Google Boston vs. Chicago right now, what you get is a nice little breakdown of the Stanley Cup situation we have happening. But I’m relatively uninterested in that, and this is a travel blog, people!

I’m more interested in why so many people from Boston have never been to Chicago or really anywhere west of Philadelphia for that matter, despite a seemingly genuine interest in visiting the city. Has traveling west for East Coasters become analogous to traveling too far north or south of one’s neighborhood in Chicago? (Yes, people who don’t know that our fair city extends for miles beyond Wrigleyville and Chinatown, I’m talking to you.)

I was in Boston last weekend for a professional conference, which means the only parts of the city I saw were the innards of the conference facilities and the bars and restaurants that surrounded those conference facilities–in this case, a small liberal arts college campus near Fenway Park–frequented by and employing various kinds of Bostonians.

This wasn’t a trip for pleasure, and it wasn’t a trip for historical meanderings (though every American should really be required to do a Boston walking tour before they die), but despite my lack of time necessary to explore Bean Town, I was actually able to do that very compelling and oft-forgotten about thing that hardly ever happens when you’re traveling with friends/family to sight-see–talk to locals.

Every Bostonian who had never visited Chicago wanted to come to Chicago. They had heard it was like a bigger version of Boston, or a more American Toronto, or a more Yankee Austin. (Why these people were able to find their way to Texas but couldn’t make it to the Great Lakes was beyond most of us.) They were intrigued by the fabled more manageable urban-ness of Chicago as compared with NYC: You go to New York to feel alive… but come to Chicago to live and yadda yadda. They were relieved that Chicago was big and diverse and gritty and not plastic-y like LA or granola-y like the Pacific Northwest.

Aren’t Americans supposed to be constantly, insatiably pushing west?

Maybe it’s easier for Chicagoans to cultivate national wanderlust because we’re at the crossroads of America, have two airports about equidistant from the city center and connected to the city in a fairly non-roundabout public transit way, and pay less in rent than those on the coasts so we have more to spend on travel.

So. Bostonians. This is my olive branch and welcome mat. Come to Chicago. Use Airbnb.  You can stay in my apartment. Or don’t you know someone who graduated from any of the Big Ten schools who lives here and hasn’t yet shoved off for the burbs? (And even if they have, you’ll probably be more comfortable at their three-bedroom house, and there’s always the Metra.) It doesn’t really matter how you get here or where you stay. Just come. We’d love to have you.

Just like we’re going to love skating all over your faces.


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