Checklist travelers miss the point

I just scored a 41 out of 200 on The Ultimate USA Wonders List. I’ll pause for your applause… How long do you think it would take me to hit the remaining items on the list? I bet I could knock it out in a few years if I really tried. But would it be fun, following someone else’s list? Or would it just be a race to check the box?

When I visited the Palace of Versailles in France, one visitor really brought this idea to life. Camera slung around his neck, he would walk into a beautiful room — rich with decoration and history — and snap exactly five photos: 1) West wall, 2) North wall, 3) East wall, 4) South wall, 5) Ceiling.

Click, click, click, click, click.

Five pictures and ten seconds later, he was onto the next room. Over and over again. He only saw Versailles through his camera lens.

The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

It’s not just tourists though. It’s an easy habit to fall into with everyday life. In Chicago, the restaurant scene can feel a bit like a checklist. Have you been to the new and trendy place? Check. Tonight I had dinner at The Hampton Social, a new restaurant in River North. They have all the right pieces: specialty cocktails, seafood, music, but it doesn’t feel very innovative. Burrata? Just like every other restaurant in Chicago. They were out of the main dishes we wanted to order, so we ordered a bunch of small plates to split. The mussels were definitely my favorite.

P.E.I. Mussels at The Hampton Social

P.E.I. Mussels at The Hampton Social

It’s a good thing the food was decent, because the service was slower than driving to the actual Hamptons. I actually hope they stick around, because that block of Hubbard Street needs a restaurant. But I’m starting to think I need to venture beyond this neighborhood to find the best food in Chicago.

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