On vacation: 24 hours in Springfield
When I first started dating online a few years ago, my passport hadn’t seen a stamp for almost a decade. It had expired three years earlier. I didn’t own a car, I hadn’t owned one for almost fifteen years. I took about 0.6 domestic trips per year that were not to visit my family. My annual discretionary travel budget was enough to fund an overnight stay in Downers Grove, as long as I cooked my own dinner.
I became particularly aware that this situational data contrasted with what I was seeing profile after profile on the dating apps I signed up for. What a bunch of well-traveled Chicago singles, so many of them have landed on three to five continents, with the aspiration to see all four oceans and climb the highest peaks, always ready for a weekend getaway. -end to San Francisco or New York in between.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of online dating, travel and vacations are a big part of the mating appeal. Writing on the subject in Vox, Aditi Shrikant says: “Travel is an integral part of how we market ourselves when dating… Travel makes a person appear to be adventurous, rich and interested in their own personal development. , that is, an ideal partner.
I could imagine myself as the plus-one of every Machu Picchu selfie and northern lights expedition uploaded to the profile photos, not to mention the corresponding tale full of fundamental incompatibilities that would ensue. (“ATTENTION: I live in the western suburbs. Town guys YOU MUST OWN A CAR”) uncut figure whose shoulder I squeeze against Wrigley. Good time. In my only photo that is not from Chicago, she can be seen seconds away from diving on a mountain bike.
For every twenty messages I sent to start a conversation, my efforts only produced a response or two, often leading nowhere. So I spent even more time online, made more contacts. Online dating is one of those areas of life I was learning where you can’t want yourself to be successful – in fact, the harder you are. to try, the worse you will be. At some point, the virtue of hard work becomes the stop of despair. It’s kind of cruel logic.
Eventually I realized that I needed to take a break, to get away from the grueling and addicting work of online dating. Then I thought, what better way to spend my online dating vacation than to get out of town, become a perfect partner while taking a break from everyday life, even if my everyday life is too much. was set in Chicago, which in itself can offer such an experiential spectrum that just living here sometimes feels like a trip.
I see why travel and online dating go so well together. Both have an element of the unknown, opening you to new possibilities, expanding your geographic reach, providing a rush that can be addictive. After evaluating my options for a getaway, I booked a ticket to Springfield on Amtrak’s Lincoln Service. Under fifty dollars for my round trip, the price was in gold.
But so was the destination. On one of the dating apps, there is a question – used to inform the algorithm to better display compatible partners in your feed – which asks: If you had to visit a new city, where would you be most excited to go? The options listed are tourist attractions, places of historical or cultural significance, places where you can meet the locals or at home.
For me, it’s almost always the historic sites. Even here in Chicago, I love seeing those Chicago Landmark plaques on buildings. And the way I understood Springfield, having never been there, besides being the seat of our esteemed state government (my trip came at the end of the two-year budget stalemate ), it is a treasure trove of Abraham Lincoln monuments.
Our train departed Union Station on a warm and bright Saturday morning in July. The Cermak road bridge went through the window; we were on our way. Which raises an important question: when does the vacation actually start? Is it when you turn on your out of office auto reply in Outlook (if you’re a nine-to-five business like me)? Is it when you close your front door? Arrival at destination? Or maybe when you can’t see the Willis Tower anymore? I must have told myself that the holidays had started when I got off the train in Springfield, because the book I had brought for the company (Ron Chernow’s Washington, faithful to the presidential theme) was face down on the open seat at side of mine by the moment we walked into Joliet, and I was back on my phone, logged in and browsing dating apps, answering an existing chat channel, asking so-and-so if she’d be ready to have a drink on my return from my holidays? Then I logged out and closed my eyes. Ended.
In the early afternoon, the train arrived at Third Street station in Springfield. The holidays had started! I easily navigated to where I was staying, the President Abraham Lincoln Springfield Hotel – twelve stories tall, one of the tallest structures in downtown, adorned with an oval portrait of Lincoln at the summit facing south, just in case. I left my luggage – a backpack – in my room and headed south to get to Lincoln’s a few blocks away.
The Lincoln Home, where he lived from 1844 until his departure for DC in 1861, is maintained by the National Park Service. It is a national historic site comprising several blocks of historic homes on twelve acres of land. Park rangers dressed as if they had just left the Yellowstone Shepherd’s visitors through a series of exterior tour stages, eventually leading inside Lincoln’s home. This creates dramatic tension and provides an opportunity to move each tour forward.
Dragging my feet in a group of fifteen, my mind shifted from Lincoln to my iPhone. Instead of being fully present, finding the site of the only home Lincoln has ever owned, I wanted to check my dating inbox. As the park ranger asked about Lincoln’s relationship with his son Tad, I concocted this scenario where a response to the message I sent earlier led to the first date of a future great relationship, and what a great story it would be to associate the revolutionary relationship with a thrilling place like Lincoln’s house. I convinced myself that checking out the app here and now was golden. As we were on the tour just outside Lincoln’s house, I logged in. Nothing.
It’s that kind of twisted reasoning that haunted me the rest of my twenty-four hours in Springfield – past the windows of Lincoln-Herndon law firms (closed for renovations), the Lincoln Presidential Museum, and the Old State Capitol, all the way to the Lincoln Depot, passed all the Lincoln quirks, like the bike racks spiked with a sort of Lincoln penny. On the train back to Chicago the next day, I got my answer. She wrote that Springfield sounded like an interesting travel idea, hoped I was having fun and she had met someone in her CrossFit gym, good luck with my search!
I read that travel, vacations can change your point of view, reconnect your brain. I didn’t stay away from online dating as I had planned or completely lived in Springfield and left my daily life at home, but still felt different as the Lincoln Service ate miles of farmland in central Illinois. I felt this strange optimism about the future, that one day I would be back in Springfield with a plus-one to share the whole experience. The next day at work, I happily described my travel itinerary to a group of colleagues. One of them, a guy who grew up in the northwest suburbs, said, “John, you realize you just did my field trip in grade six.”