This past weekend, I did something that is very unusual for me: I traveled without my children. I flew into Chicago for Travel Blog Exchange, a conference of travel writers, and I had a few extra moments to enjoy the city by myself.
I arrived by plane, took the train downtown, and went on foot from there. Here’s how I entertained myself:
- I stopped in at the Chicago Cultural Center to get some travel information, and I didn’t have to restrain anyone from taking each and every brochure from the rack. I considered doing some things that involved sitting still and being quiet. I did not consider the children’s museum.
- I walked across the Chicago River to the American Gothic Statue. I took a photo of it. I showed great restraint in not borrowing anyone else’s children for the photo op.
- I had lunch at Water Tower Place’s FoodLife food court area. I ate what I wanted. I only carried one plate. I did not have to remind anyone to sit still or sit down or finish eating so we could (insert desirable kid-friendly activity here).
- I walked through the American Girl store. I did not hear any pleas for a doll or clothing or a photo session or lunch in the cafe. I did not leave the store lugging huge bags of merchandise.
- I went to the John Hancock Center. I was a party of one, so I managed to squeeze into the elevator instead of waiting for the next one. I observed other people’s children being tired and impatient and worried about the height of the building and speed of the elevator, but I was responsible for no one’s behavior but my own.
- I went to the Borders bookstore on the Magnificent Mile. I did not visit the children’s area. I did not remind everyone to stick together and use quiet voices. I did purchase a book. Yes, it was a family travel book. Did you really expect anything else?
- I stopped in at the Hershey store. I did not put on the candy-maker’s hat and make my own mix of Hershey’s goodness. I did eat a mint-frosted mint-flavored brownie. I did not ask if it contained peanuts or tree nuts, or if it was made in a facility that used those items.
- I sat in a hotel lobby and watched people for a length of time. I did not need to find enough places for six of us to sit. I did not remind anyone to sit still. I did not take anyone to the bathroom. I did not bribe anyone with promises of candy or a ride on the Navy Pier carousel.
- I ate tapas at Emilio’s with other travel writers from Uptake. I carried on adult conversation. I oohed and ahhed over a baby that was there, but I did not snatch him from his mother’s arms. I ate new things without worrying about how much everyone else was eating and whether they’d be hungry an hour later.
- I saw Brooke White in concert at BowlHer. The other people in the room knew who Brooke White was as well, because, like me, their bedtimes are later than 7 p.m. so they’ve been allowed to watch American Idol. I stayed as long as I wanted because I didn’t have anyone pulling on me to move on to the next thing. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
My day in Chicago was quiet and peaceful. I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It was all about me.
And do you know what? I missed my family the entire time. I love traveling with my family, no matter how frustrating it is at times, or how much it costs to pay for six admissions to a venue. The next time I go to Chicago, I’ll be sure they’re with me.
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