Waving goodbye to our worldly possessions (in a cold storage centre in South London) was a bit strange, but neither my wife nor I were sad to be heading off for 6 months with just our carry-on packs.


An uneventful flight then easy train journey into freezing-cold downtown Chicago was followed by the deepest and longest of sleeps – almost 12 hours – which simply wouldn’t have been possible without my Sleep Challenge knowledge gleaned in week 1.

Refreshed but in a gently-addled mindset we spent 4 days meandering around some of the stunning architecture, riding the ‘L’ and taking in a few insider-recommended spots, including the totally free City Zoo, Capone-era swing-and-schmooze-hole Green Mill cocktail bar and a late night geekout at the city’s primo indie flick-house Music Box Theater, where we watched cult turkey The Room (google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I guarantee this will be time well spent) amidst an avalanche of plastic spoons and hilarious heckles from the knowledgable and hyperactive crowd.

We’re fairly big art fans, and one small way that I ambled off-piste (from my own habits, rather than from the beaten track) this week was by avoiding the big-hitter galleries and exploring some free art, which Chicago has in spades. Clearly the results would be mixed; though Chicago’s gallery district is boho-chic, an exhibition which fetishised children smoking in a series of ghastly oval canvases (more 15-Peter-20 than Rankin) had us both giggling, the fading ramshackle splendour of The Fine Art Building left me awe-struck, before Victoria Sambunaris’ photographic vision of industry and geology-scared American vistas, which we found in a little University gallery, really got my juices flowing ahead of a 2000 mile rail journey next week. It was, I admit, a baby step into the unknown, but enough of those baby steps and I’ll be walking in no time.


So, as I finally, fully, left normal life behind this week, what did I learn? Getting to grips with ‘it’ (our travels, fully-fledged flux, freedom) finally having arrived has taken some processing time, but my challenge to ‘become’ a backpacker will take a while longer, and large helpings of Chicagotown pizza and Windy City hospitality have begun eroding some of those sharp stressy edges in my mind (and arteries!). I sense that, as normal life quickly becomes a distant memory, the Flux will be increasingly allowed to surface. I enter week 4 (which will take in 50 hours of train travel, Seattle, Vancouver and Easter weekend) chasing that elusive hope…