Earlier this month, I spent some time in Chicago visiting my dear friend Kate. It was my first trip to the Windy City.

I know Kate through my involvement with the Girls Rock Camp Alliance, a member organization comprised of music camps and various arts based programs from all over the world. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet so many radical and inspiring folks through the GRCA. As cheesy as it sounds, many of these people are my lifelong friends.

Before my trip, I was pretty excited to hang out with Kate and spend time in a city new to me. But I also planned my trip around Girls Rock! Chicago’s second summer camp session of the year so I could spend half days volunteering at their program. It felt like a win win situation - hanging out with friends and supporting the youth.

My first couple of days in Chicago were spent sightseeing and trying to avoid crowded areas (the city’s crowdedness was made worse by Lollapalooza coinciding with my first weekend in town). I walked so many miles! This data was verified by my Fitbit. In my first two days alone, I visited Millennium Park to see the Bean and Lurie Garden, saw the Chicago Theatre, visited the Museum of Contemporary Art to see an amazing exhibit by Takashi Murakami, walked along the Riverwalk, strolled down the Navy Pier, saw many a Pilsen mural, walked around Maxwell Street Market, and saw Alvvays play at The Empty Bottle. It was an action packed 48 hours.

Camp week started on Monday. My role as a band coach meant I had to be at the school by 1 PM, but I arrived earlier than necessary to A. find the school where camp was taking place and B. get acclimated to the space and introduce myself to volunteers and campers. Despite my experience volunteering and organizing a similar program in Charleston, I felt extremely nervous being totally new to Girls Rock! Chicago. But, luckily for me, everyone I met was so warm and welcoming. Over the course of the week, I got to bond with the campers in my bands, the organizers of GR!C, and countless volunteers.

Throughout the week, I would spend my mornings sightseeing, my afternoons at camp, and my evenings hanging out with the volunteers or doing other activities around Chicago. Getting to spend time with the GR!C folks at and away from camp was a definite highlight of the trip.

Some other highlights included trying deep dish pizza at Pequod’s, eating a Chicago style hot dog, enjoying a delicious ice cream cone from Rainbow Cone, trying Malort, and visiting so many wonderful parks! I don’t want to feel like a stranger to Chicago so I plan on visiting again sometime in the not too distant future.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the experience as good as it was!

Here are a few photographs from the trip: