Less than two weeks after I left New Orleans, I arrived in Chicago.
It was my first time in the windy city, but it was uncharacteristically warm for November, in the 60s. I arrived optimistic, although I had driven to the airport at 4 a.m. that morning, and had had a turbulent flight. I was sent by my company to attend the AHIP Fall Forum, a conference for health plans, our target market, and I was flying solo.
Before the sessions began on the first day, I thought I’d explore and I ventured over a few blocks to Millennium Park. It was deserted on a Monday morning as I wandered by various abstract art sculptures, and a garden, whose colors had retreated for winter, all with the beautiful buildings and turning trees as a backdrop. It was like an all-in-one experience, exactly what I wanted in the limited time I had.
The first round of sessions later that day energized me with new ideas and ways thought leaders proposed to solve the complex problems of healthcare reform. I loved being right in the thick of it, learning and pondering ideas from these respected industry giants.
Even though I was alone, it wasn’t hard to meet people. Everywhere I went, people were eager to start up a conversation. Everyone was looking to network, especially at the receptions at the end of each day. I obliged them, but after an hour of cheap wine and cold cuts, I left to see the city by night.
I ventured out into the city and got my first taste of deep dish pizza. I savored each bite of fragrant cheese and flaky crust in the bustling pizzeria. After a delicious meal, I wandered over to the House of Blues. A little touristy I’ll admit, but it was great to hear live music and do something out of the ordinary for a week night.
The second day of sessions was as interesting as it was insightful. A highlight was the presentation from Dan Buettner, the author of Blue Zones. His presentation on Blue Zones, places where people live over 100 years old, was truly intriguing as he explained the 9 principals that allow the people in these zones to have longer, better lives.
After exploring the city and attending a dozen sessions in 72 hours, it was time to leave. Chicago was a beautiful city, and I can see why so many people love it.
As my driver drove me to the airport, the morning was cool and windy, which made me happy that I was going back to California.
I told him, “I loved Chicago.”
He smiled and responded, “I moved away once for a year to California and even though the weather was better and I had the beach, I missed it so much that I eventually came home. There’s nowhere quite like Chicago.”