5 hours had passed and I was still grounded at DCA airport. My flight had been delayed yet again and I was yet to reach Chicago. As I was sitting in the airport lounge, I was tired and becoming more and more exasperated at the fact that I was yet to reach my destination.

The departures board kept informing me that my flight been delayed and my original bright idea of paying to change my flight so that I would arrive in Chicago a day earlier, now appeared to look not so bright, as it appeared that I would not be reaching the Windy City until late that evening.

In the build up for my planned jaunt up to the Windy City I had experienced a rather testing couple of days. I had the misfortune of breaking my brand new camera lens, whilst somehow managing to damage my camera tripod for good measure. My phone was not working as I was having problems with my service provider and when you then throw into the mix that my bank had decided to block my debit card in the run up to this trip, which had caused me no end of problems and made booking accommodation and flights extremely difficult, you can begin to imagine that I wasn’t the most jovial person in the DCA departure lounge.

Tired, irritated, out of pocket and in the need of a shower, I was not a happy traveller. This of course is the unglamorous side of solo travel. Placed in testing situations with no one to rely upon but yourself. No one to turn to for help or support, just you!

Unquestionably, you are going to endure days like this. It is not all sunshine and rainbows like some travellers and instagram accounts will have you believe. In between the great experiences that you will encounter you are going to be placed in some difficult situations at times, that are going to test your mental character and leave you questioning whether or not this was such a good idea in the first place.

Now I know that it seems a daunting task to think that you will be forced to deal with all of the pitfalls that you encounter along the way by yourself, but that is ok, as you can deal with any situation that life happens to throw your way. You just didn’t realise that you could until you are forced to deal with it and this is where the magic begins to happen. Because in times of hardship, you will start to realise that you are capable of a lot more than you ever imagined. You will become self-sufficient and more resilient than you ever believed as a result, whilst your confidence will grow when you start to become more comfortable within yourself as you begin to peel back the layers and find out a little more about yourself.

As the saying goes “tough times don’t last; tough people do”- you will come out the other side of any testing situation a more rounded person for it. When travelling solo the good times and experiences that you encounter far outweigh the bad. It’s not even close- it’s such a liberating and life changing experience! But the journey doesn’t start and end with just happy memories, it’s all the parts in between: the good and the bad that shape you as a person and tell the true story; that’s the beauty of self discovery. It’s not about what you did or have done it’s about what you didn’t think you were capable of but managed to do. You will open your eyes up to a new world of possibilities that are waiting for you out there. Trust your instincts, believe in yourself and dare to dream- dream big!

Back over to the airport lounge and just as I was losing all hope of arriving in Chicago before midnight, it was finally announced over the PA system that we would be boarding within 15 minutes. My time on the plane was spent reflecting upon the testing couple of days that I had experienced in the build up to this trip and how I had learnt some valuable lessons along the way about what I should and should not do when solo travelling. None of this could dampen my spirits though, because as the plane finally touched down in Chicago (after another 45 minutes delay in the air whilst waiting for a landing slot) I couldn’t conceal the wry smile that began to light up my face as even though I was exhausted, I was excited at the prospect of getting to know this city. At this point I had just heard about what a great city it was and it wasn’t until my visit concluded that I realised what a truly remarkable city Chicago is- one that I would go as far as saying captured not only my imagination, but also my heart. I fell for the city in a big way so without further ado here’s a catalogue of photographs to show you why all the setbacks I encountered in the build-up and delayed frustration at the airport was worth it. I hope to encourage you to set off on your own journey of discovery- enjoy!

I had always wanted to visit Chicago ever since I was a child. For some reason I was fascinated with the idea of going there. I’m not quite sure where it came from, but I was always conscious of it. After the drama I endured to get there, the city more than surpassed my expectations and stole a place within my heart that I wasn’t expecting. It’s a truly fantastic city that simply blew me away! These are the moments that make travelling so special and why I set off on this adventure in the first place. Finding these moments and living in the present, here and now- not tomorrow, not yesterday, just now! One step at a time, moment by moment, frame by frame- a lifestyle that holds no limits!

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