Annual Pilgrimage

We recently returned from our annual summer trip to Chicago. As with every trip, different thoughts and feelings swirled through my (our, actually) head(s).

First, I seemed to take a much more laid back approach this year. In past years, I had a laundry list packed with people we MUST see, things we MUST do, or foods we MUST eat. This year I still had people that I really really wanted to make a point of connecting with. But there were only a few places I wanted to see and I only tried to have my favorite foods when they were available. That said, we were still rushed at times (like on the first weekend) trying to fit things in, but since I wasn’t stressed to do stuff, things went more smoothly. Plus we’ve gotten into the rhythm of how things transpire during the trip and what to expect. It was our most enjoyable trip back yet.

The first couple days found my wife and I looking at each other and half-wondering why we left. It was a blast seeing all our friends and family. Plus seeing the city brought back many memories. I think we are both city people by nature and the rush of urban life with all it has to offer really invigorated both of us. But we had to take a step back. One of the reasons for the move was the major life change of having kids. Our lives would be even more hectic had we stayed. Still… seeing our friends with kids going through a quite similar set of circumstances added some perspective that maybe life would not be all that different between locales.

But as the trip progressed, another reality of life in the big(ger) city became apparent. Either everything costs more or you work hard and sacrifice to avoid those expenses. In our case, on vacation when your time is limited, we opted for the former. But if we were there full time, we would be doing the latter with some unavoidable expenses that come with big city living. $20 or more for parking almost anywhere you go. Daycare that costs four times as much. Not to mention the price of homes. We climbed out of rather serious debt when we left there, and I’d foresee moderate debt if we returned under our present circumstances.

During the second weekend, we were reminded how difficult traffic could be. Bumper to bumper traffic on a Sunday morning. Again, since we were on vacation it became a positive since we took locale roads we had not seen since leaving. It was fantastic to see all the various neighborhoods again. Some packed with memories. But in regular life that could be maddening. And it did really stress me out when we lived there.

It’s true that I’ve said (as much to myself) that our move to Montreal was permanent. And under our current circumstances that’s still true. But on the long 18 hour drive home, my wife and I batted around the idea of what it would take for us to return. As things are right now, I hate to say it but it would take a rather large boatload of money for us to return and live on our terms. And that’s not easy to say because the proximity to family and long-time friends is not something you can put a price on. But we’ve found a comfortable lifestyle here for our family free of major financial worries. Along with the pluses of living in Montreal.

So, it seems that the door that had been closed seems to have cracked open just a hair.


~ by Frank on August 5, 2008.

4 Responses to “Annual Pilgrimage”

  1. However brief the visit was, it was a great pleasure to see all of you, especially la belle jeune des princesses! The visit stimulated vivid daydreams of visiting you in Montreal. Well, after I finish this doctorate.

  2. Chicago will always be here, and will be everything you said it would be. Enjoy your life, and should the opportunity arise to allow you to come back, you know you would always be welcome in the City with Big Shoulders.

    Fantastic to see you all, no matter how brief. Comparing lenses, tossing water balloons and candy showers were wondrous, as were your beautiful children.

  3. Wow, it’s only 18 hours by car? It’s the one giant city I’ve not visited on the continent. I must remedy that.

  4. Hi, I just found your blog. I’m a Chicagoan exiled in Toronto. We’re heading back for a wedding reception at the end of the month. Last New Year’s, we learned the hard way not to try and eat all our favorite Chicago foods. The pizzas, hot dogs and burgers are just wonderfully delicious fat bombs.

    I don’t know if I could ever get to a point where I wouldn’t want to go home again but as I mentioned before, I’m in Toronto.

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