Note: Madeline Keener co-wrote this article.
For many, spring break is a time to let loose and soak up the sun. For some, it’s a chance to catch up on all of the best shows on Netflix. And still for others (like ourselves and most OU students we presume) it’s winter break part two. For our break, we decided to take a trip to the Windy City and had some adventures as we explored Chicago. The journey to and from was also quite an adventure in itself. Now, for your enjoyment and knowledge, we present to you pros and cons of going to Chicago for spring break.
PRO: The city atmosphere.
Athens is wonderful and all, but it’s a small little town. Traversing the big city on our own was quite an undertaking and very, very exciting. The city is vast and beautiful and there’s always something new to explore. There are giant buildings everywhere that each have their own interesting story. You can walk almost everywhere and if you don’t want to walk, there’s the public transit system where you can ride the bus or the train or subway. It’s also a great chance to test your map reading and directional skills. Overall, it’s just plain fun to explore.
CON: The poverty and homelessness.
It’s a familiar enough concept here in Athens, but when we’re on campus it’s easy to forget. While walking around Chicago, it’s not too easy to forget. On almost every street corner there’s a homeless person bundled up, begging for spare change. Even when we were inside Macy’s, a woman was asking people who walked by if they had any money to give. The sad thing is, we would love to help, but it’s almost been bred into our beings by society that we cannot trust their motives. “They’re just going to use the money to buy alcohol or drugs. Don’t waste your time.” That’s what everyone is always told. But how we can know that? We can’t. They may truly be asking for money to buy food or clothes. But we can’t know that either. So because we don’t know which is correct, society has told to do nothing. But it truly is heart wrenching watching these people suffer.
PRO: The culture.
The different cultures, languages, and people that you can find in a big city are also perks. Exposing yourself to another person’s culture, even if it’s just by passing them on the street, is very cool. For instance, while we were walking through Millenium Park, we passed three different couples consecutively who each spoke a different language. It’s good to subject yourself to new experiences every now and then and get out of the bubble that is Athens. Chicago was one of these experiences.
CON: The filth (sort of).
When compared to New York City, we found Chicago a lot cleaner. But with the snow, slush, salt, and muck covering most of the sidewalks, it was pretty gross. More than once both of us almost slipped and fell due to the grime on the subway steps. Still, the Windy City did not appear to have much trash on its sidewalks. And granted, almost anywhere that it’s been snowing is bound to have these problems. So, from our past experiences as ten-year-olds in Chicago and from other experiences, Chicago really is one of the cleanest cities we’ve ever been to. The winter time blues kind of hindered that beauty, but it still exists.
PRO: The size (hey, sometimes bigger really is better!)
While in Chicago we stayed in Lincoln Park and the western suburb of Oak Park.Those two neighborhoods alone were big and had plenty to explore. All we had to do to check out another part of the city was hop on the train and we’d have an entirely new environment to check out. Some of the other places we visited were Forest Park, Michigan Avenue, State Street, Wrigleyville, the Loop and some other places we didn’t even realize where we were and where we’d wandered off. Every neighborhood had something that the others didn’t. There were countless things to see and places to explore. We could have stayed in Chicago for a month and not run out of things to do.
CON: Getting lost.
Now, listen. We never got lost per se. But there were several instances when we thought we were going in the right direction only to have to turn completely around. One time we literally crossed the street only to stop and cross right back to the other side again. The people in the cars probably thought we were crazy, but oh well! Sometimes it’s totally cool to be a tourist yo. Don’t be afraid to whip out that smartphone and take that picture… or 24.
PRO: Cheap traveling and planning the trip ourselves.
Our travel to and from Chi Town was pretty darn inexpensive due to the fact that we stayed with family members the entire time and we rode the GoBus and Megabus to our allotted locations. We had taken the GoBus from Athens to Cincinnati the first day of spring break and hung out with family there until our Megabus was set to leave that night at 8:15pm. (That didn’t actually happen, but please see below “CON” for further explanation.) That bus ride cost us literally one dollar. I repeat: one dollar (#poorcollegestudentsuccess). At the end of our trip we took the Megabus back to Columbus where we hung out with more family then again took the GoBus from Columbus back to good ‘ol Athens. Overall, this round trip travel and housing arrangement cost us a measly $50. Can you dig it? Yeah, we thought so.
In addition, we planned the entire travel and housing and exploration of the city all on our own. And that felt pretty good to do. It felt like we were actually trustworthy, responsible adults (because we totally are wink wink, nudge nudge).
CON: The stress of traveling.
Even though it felt great to plan everything on our own, it was also very stressful actually getting on the buses. Most of that stress though wasn’t even our own fault! It was mostly due to the lovely bus service. Granted, the Megabus service is a fantastic way to travel all over the nation for a very inexpensive price, but they seriously need to work on their customer service. While we were waiting for the Megabus to head to Chicago, we had a short delay. And by short, we mean five hours. Five. Hours. We spent these hours waiting on a street corner on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and actually pretty warm in Cincy. But eventually, the temperature started dropping and people started getting irritated. Everyone who called the customer service hotline was told a different story.
Megabus may need to work on their customer service (correction: NEEDS to work on it) but if there’s one thing the bus does well, it’s bring people together. After all, we weren’t waiting on a street corner by ourselves. There was a handful of other people in the same situation as us. We even met another Bobcat, Nate Khan, a marketing and MIS double major who was waiting for the bus to head home to Buffalo Grove, Chicago.
We stood around outside for a while until we eventually took refuge in Turner Hall, a residence hall across the street from the bus stop. Why we waited outside so long before heading inside, we couldn’t tell you.
Anyway, eventually, the bus came. We practically ran to it, threw our bags inside, and climbed the steps to the top deck of the bus as we collapsed in our seats. We were exhausted and just wanted to be in Chicago. The ride went pretty smoothly from there, but we had a very dramatic bus driver. That night there was a snow storm going through and he was determined to get us to Chicago safely. He kept saying, “My customers are of upmost importance to me and I will get you to Chicago safely. But I urge you – please fasten your seatbelts!” Um, okay sir, calm down just a tad. We appreciate the safety and all but this isn’t a soap opera. So that was that. We ate food, watched a movie, slept, listened to music, and then finally at about 8:30am we saw the city skyline. Mind you, we were supposed to be in Chicago at 1:00am. Our six-hour bus trip turned into an eight-and-a-half-hour trip.
Overall, we had a great trip. Whenever we would tell someone we were there for break their response would be, “You came to Chicago? For your spring break?” While cold and snowy Chicago isn’t where most people think of going for spring break, we had a blast. The new experiences, new people, and let’s face it, the new clothes made the bitter cold worthwhile. So don’t knock it until you try it folks! You might also make some new friends and meet some Bobcats on your travels. OU Oh Yeah!
That was part of our adventure for #SB2k14. So what did you do with your break?? Tweet us @Speakeasymag!