anticipation & preparation: chicago, illinois

To get ready for our May visit to Chicago, we first made our flight reservations.  I had a $200 voucher that I had to use by mid-February from the horrible experience we’d had with United on our flight home from Portugal in 2018.  So the flights weren’t badly priced due to the voucher. Then we reserved an Airbnb condominium near Lincoln Park.  At the time, we thought my son and his girlfriend in Denver might join us, so we got a two-bedroom condo.

Next, I started reading Fodor’s Chicago and a book I’d picked up in Cincinnati last year: Walking Chicago: 31 Tours of the Windy City’s Classic Bars, Scandalous Sites, Historic Architecture, Dynamic Neighborhoods, and Famous Lakeshore, by Ryan Ver Berkmoes.  I haven’t yet finished the Walking book, but hope to finish it before I leave.

Of course, I always create a reading list of novels set in my destination.  I had been to southern Illinois twice in 2019 (to visit my sister), so I’d already read some books set in the state. The books in green below were books I already had on my shelves, two of which I’m currently reading. I read Stuart Dybek’s collection of stories, I Sailed with Magellan, and the heavy and not-very-rewarding tome, The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo, in preparation for this trip. It looks like I may be reading the rest of the books I own in lieu of actually taking the trip, as we will likely have to cancel our Airbnb due to the coronavirus by April 29, the last day we have for a full refund.


Chicago title page to my journal, dates unknown

Books set in Illinois & Chicago

    1. Barn Blind by Jane Smiley ****
    2. The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg ****
    3. The Fall of a Sparrow by Robert Hellenga *****
    4. Anything is Possible (stories) by Elizabeth Strout *****
    5. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (currently reading)
    6. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
    7. Ruby & Roland by Faith Sullivan
    8. The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder
    9. The Nix by Nathan Hill
    10. Dandelion Wine by Rad Bradbury
    11. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
    12. Reliance, Illinois by Mary Volmer
    13. The Speed of Light by Javier Cercas
    14. The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
    15. Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah
    16. So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
    17. Chicago
      1. Chicago by Alaa al Aswany ****
      2. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros *****
      3. Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
      4. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger ***
      5. I Sailed with Magellan by Stuart Dybek ****
      6. The Coast of Chicago (stories) by Stuart Dybek
      7. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo ***
      8. The Girl in the Photograph by Gabrielle Donnelly (currently reading)
      9. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
      10. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
      11. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
      12. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
      13. Native Son by Richard Wright
      14. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
      15. Chicago: A Novel by Brian Doyle
      16. Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago by Douglas Cowie (+Guatemala, Mexico, Paris)
      17. Ramshackle by Elizabeth Reeder
      18. Building Stories by Chris Ware
      19. Oh, Play That Thing by Roddy Doyle
      20. The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton
      21. An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz (non-fiction)
      22. Make Me a City: A Novel of Chicago by Jonathan Carr
      23. The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown (& Paris)
      24. The Walls Came Down by Ewa Dodd
      25. The World in Half by Cristina Henríquez (& Panama)
      26. Fodor’s Chicago by Fodor’s Travel Guides ****

Since none of us is going anywhere for a while, I hope, like me, you’ll enjoy exploring the world through books.  You can find lists of books by setting here: books | u.s.a. |.

Movies set in Illinois:

  1. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
  2. Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)
  3. Ordinary People (1980) ****
  4. The Breakfast Club (1985) ****
  5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) ****
  6. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) ****
  7. Home Alone (1990) ****
  8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  9. Inventing the Abbotts (1997)
  10. Mean Girls (2004)
  11. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
  12. Man of Steel (2013)
  13. For Grace (2015) ****
  14. The Accountant (2016)

Of course, I always enjoy making my travel journal and setting my intentions for my journey.  Here are some pages from my Chicago journal. I always love studying and following maps, so from now on, I am going to try to incorporate map-making into my journals.  I have been inspired by a book called How to Make Hand-Drawn Maps: With Tips, Tricks and Projects by Helen Cann. The first chapter is “Compasses,” which gives instructions on how to make a compass rose.


How to Make Hand-Drawn Maps

Here is my result:


map from Fodor’s Chicago and my compass rose

Here are some more pages from my journal.


plans, plans, plans


and more plans


and more



Finally, here are my intentions, for whenever we go:


my intentions for Chicago

FINAL NOTE: Thursday, April 23, I was asked by my Airbnb host if we were still planning to come to Chicago.  Due to financial hardship, she wanted to remove her apartment from Airbnb and rent it out long term. After checking with United Airlines and finding we could get a voucher for our flight (to be used on any flight during the next 24 months), we decided to go ahead and cancel our trip.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to go later this year.  Luckily, I’ll be prepared whenever we go. 🙂


my journal from the Tiffany exhibit at Museum of the Shenandoah Valley


“ANTICIPATION & PREPARATION” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about anticipation & preparation for a particular destination (not journeys in general). If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments. Include the link in the comments below by Thursday, May 21 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this challenge on Friday, May 22, I’ll include your links in that post.

This will be an ongoing invitation, on the 4th Friday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂  If you’d like to read more about the topic, see: journeys: anticipation & preparation.

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!