“It occurs to me that I’ve spent my entire adulthood trying to integrate my travel life with my “real” life, hoping I might bridge that unbridgeable ocean between home and away. Why else would I model my apartment after far-flung hotels, if not to persuade my ideal self to come back and live with me?”
-Peter Jon Lindberg, “The Art of Bringing Hotel Design Home,” Travel and Leisure
Miles from Monday is a travel series focused on venturing out of the spaces we inhabit during our work week and retreating to landscapes that feel far from routine.
January 28, 2013, Washington, DC: On an icy morning like this one, I fantasize about not having to go anywhere. About chores and responsibilities fading away. About waking up in a luxurious hotel and rolling downstairs for hot coffee and bagels and fresh squeezed orange juice. If not for Monday’s obligations in this city miles away, I might go back there, to the Public Hotel on Chicago’s Gold Coast, and linger well into the afternoon.
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had the familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
June 19, 2012, Washington, DC: In June 2011, I embarked on a year-long project that would bring me back to each of my hometowns to learn more about the places I’d lived. There were many that had shaped me — from Montreal and Toronto to San Francisco and New York — and I wanted to get a good feel for their geography, their people, their neighborhoods and their pulses. I also wanted to examine, broadly speaking, why people live where they do and what makes a place feel like home. With ample vacation days, multiple frequent flyer tickets, many tanks of gas, several bicycles, and a few good pairs of walking shoes, I covered extensive ground in twelve months. The project, Neighborhood Nomad, is documented on this blog, derived from a love of travel and a longstanding obsession with the power of place.
The study came full circle this weekend, ending up where it started on a Virginia vineyard. And so with the advent of summer comes an opportunity to revisit the year I spent traveling back to my former neighborhoods. I’ve come miles from one year ago, and I’ve logged all of them in hopes of better understanding the places we called home.
Read on for a chronological overview of this year’s travels back home…
October 21, 2011, Washington, DC: At my sister’s request, we visited the Plaza Hotel that weekend, searching its hallways for Eloise, the fictitious character just her age who called the famed hotel home.
That’s my first recollection of experiencing how hotels play a part in the cities around them. Some great hotels would become my neighbors as I moved from New York and San Francisco to Washington, DC. In each place, those hotels down the street would bring a specific flavor to the neighborhood. They’d help cities do what they do so well. They’d make those neighborhoods welcoming havens for locals and travelers alike.
October 4, 2011, Washington, DC: We could stay there in Chicago, I think. We could help the grandparents unpack. Attend the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago the weekend after next. We could stay to witness the growth of the city’s bike sharing program, to spend time with our cousin as her schedule lightens up. We could stay for the countless restaurants still on our list, stay to walk neighborhoods from Printer’s Row to Bucktown, Logan Square to the Gold Coast. We could catch the exhibit we’ve now twice failed to see at the Museum of Science and Industry. We could cheer on next weekend’s marathoners. We could get out on the Lake. We could see the sights. We could sink back in.
There’s always reason to stay in Chicago.
But there’s reason to come home to Washington, too.
This is one in a series of morning photo essays documenting neighborhoods around town.
October 2, 2011, Chicago, IL: I slipped out early this morning into my old neighborhood. From the Lincoln Park Zoo by Lake Michigan, I walked west on Armitage, with occasional detours down its side streets, including one that was once my own.
A friendly row of bikes lined the sidewalk as I rounded the corner off Armitage towards the old apartment, as if to say, “This way home! Welcome back!”
October 1, 2011, Chicago, IL: The enormity of this town is striking if you’ve been gone for awhile, from every perspective and from every angle. From above, you’re a monster looking down upon miniature cars, on people the size of ants. From below, sleek buildings loom large on narrow lots, rising seemingly higher than in any city you’ve known. If you’re returning here after time away, even Starbucks is bigger, the space designed for giants. People are taller here too; you feel shorter than ever in a crowded bar.
September 30, 2011, Washington, DC: I’m heading back to Chicago today, back to one of my former hometowns. Like the photo taken in my old Chicago apartment pictured above, my recollections of this city are bright and welcoming and familiar and textured. The Chicago I know includes that one-of-a-kind second story apartment off Armitage St. in the neighborhood of Lincoln Park, where lived in a red brick rowhouse just above its owners from mid-2004 to mid-2005. I loved pretty much everything about that place. What’s not to love about exposed brick and a shadow like that one bursting through the front window off the street?
But that wall full of sunlight is indeed just the surface. There’s far more to love about hometown Chicago.