We don’t have to travel to distant lands to find uniquely amazing things to experience and discover. We just don’t realize how beautiful our surroundings are and the people in it. Your hometown is a foreign land to someone else. The culture, environment, and experiences are different that their norm. Unfortunately, we undervalue what’s around us and dream of traveling to other countries and experiencing new cultures around the world all the while we haven’t appreciated and immersed ourselves in things so close to us. During this year of metamorphosis, I’ll be exploring closer to base camp and investing my time in the Chicago area and Midwest.
A lot of us get caught up in the seemingly endless busyness of life and we forget to stop for a minute to appreciate what we have. I lived my entire life in the Chicago area but haven’t spent much time with her. I had a lot of excuses. I had to go to work. I needed to finish something for school. I couldn’t find someone to go with me. I always said to myself, “Another time. The timing is just not right. I’ve got other things more important to do. I don’t have the resources.”
The timing is never right because I never made more time to spend exploring Chicagoland and the Midwest. I didn’t take the time set aside the resources to do the things I wanted to do. I didn’t explore because money is always tight and I thought I needed to save for retirement. I was being penny wise and pound foolish with my time, money, and energy. I didn’t have a quality day or weekend of recovery. Instead of feeding my brain with experiences it needs to thrive, I allowed it to become frustratingly lethargic. I saved money that would in theory gives me the luxury of working less in the future. I became slow and less productive. I spend more time completing things. I can’t wait for people anymore. I deferred too many experiences because I didn’t have a buddy to explore with. Life is so short and fragile. I can’t wait anymore.
There’s so much to see, experience, and do in Chicagoland and the Midwest!
Natural wonders abound. Chicago and Milwaukee’s front yard meets with an inland freshwater sea. Four National Lakeshores (Apostle Islands, Indiana Dunes, Pictured Rocks, and Sleeping Bear Dunes) line Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Canyons cut from rock due to years of erosion is found at Starved Rock, Matthiesen State Park, and Camp Sagawau. Debris left by ancient glaciers leaves its mark with rolling moraines and kettles scattered in Wisconsin. Remnant and restored prairie and forests witness the changes in history and are testaments to human’s ability to heal the earth. There are a large number of things to do in these natural spaces such as hiking, cycling, cross country skiing, paddling, and ice climbing.
The diversity of cultures fill the area. I can travel to Thailand, China, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Poland, Greece, Africa, and Korea in one week by visiting the many ethnic enclaves in Chicago. I can taste their food, hear their accents, and experience their culture. Within a two mile walk of base camp, I have my choice of Pakistani, Indian, Korean, Mexican, Polish, Middle Eastern, and American food. The church I grew up in has a wide spectrum of skin tones and ethnicities. I am truly blessed to be living in an area with so much diversity.
Outside of Chicagoland, there are other cultures to experiences. Life in Chicagoland (and other urban areas in the Midwest) is different than rural Illinois. Iowa has amazing people hosting their signature event, RAGBRAI. Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota show off their European heritage in their food and events like the American Birkebeiner.
While I prepare for the next leg of my journey in life, I am spending more time with the region that raised me. She formed who I am despite not actively spending time with her. She shaped the goodness in my heart. Why do I think of exploring other countries and cultures when I have haven’t built a deeper relationship with the Midwest? This year I’m wrapping my arms around her, hold her, and give her a warm embrace just like the lake and the skyline gave me a warm embrace for so many years.
Everyone’s home is special but we under appreciate it. We dream of exploring distant lands yet we don’t spend the time to explore what we have at hand. Instead, let us appreciate what we have around us and see how beautiful it is by making time to explore it. Even at home, we can have an adventure, learn something new about ourselves and the world, and find a new perspective.
What’s unique and beautiful about the area you live in? What would you showcase to an international visitor or someone outside of your region? If I visited you, what would you take and show me to get a taste of your life? Leave a comment below to let me know!