Chicago is known as the Windy City, home of deep-dish pizza, and a bustling metropolis in the American Midwest. As someone who lived there for over a decade, I’m often asked why I decided to leave this iconic city behind. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: I left Chicago because of the long winters, high cost of living, and desire to be closer to family.
In this article, I will go into detail on the reasons why I packed my bags and moved away from the city I once called home. I’ll cover the weather, expensive housing, safety concerns, lack of nature, and my longing to be near loved ones again. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of why I made the difficult choice to leave behind the Chicago life.
The Long, Frigid Winters
One of the main reasons why many residents decide to leave Chicago is due to its long and frigid winters. The city experiences harsh weather conditions that can be quite challenging for individuals who are not accustomed to extreme cold.
Short Days and Extreme Cold
During the winter months, Chicagoans are faced with short days and long nights. The sun sets early, leaving little daylight for outdoor activities. Coupled with the extreme cold temperatures, this can make it difficult for individuals to enjoy their daily routines.
The average winter temperature in Chicago is around 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), but it can often drop well below freezing.
Lake Effect Snow
Another factor that contributes to the long winters in Chicago is the phenomenon known as lake effect snow. The city sits on the shores of Lake Michigan, and when cold air passes over the relatively warm lake water, it creates heavy snowfall.
This can result in significant snow accumulation and make travel and commuting extremely challenging. According to the National Weather Service, Chicago typically receives an average of 36 inches of snow each winter.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is a common issue that affects many individuals during the winter months. The lack of sunlight and outdoor activities can lead to feelings of sadness, lethargy, and a decrease in overall well-being.
Chicago’s long winters can exacerbate these symptoms and make it even more difficult for individuals to cope with their mental health. Seeking professional help or engaging in activities that promote mental well-being is crucial during this time.
Sky-High Cost of Living
One of the main reasons why many people are choosing to leave Chicago is the sky-high cost of living. The expenses associated with living in the city can be overwhelming for many individuals and families.
From housing prices to high taxes and expensive utilities, the cost of living in Chicago has become increasingly difficult to manage.
Chicago’s housing market has experienced a significant increase in prices over the years. According to a report by Zillow, the median home value in Chicago is $242,500. This can make it challenging for individuals and families to afford a home in the city, especially for those on a tight budget.
The high housing prices have forced many residents to look for more affordable options outside of the city.
Chicago is known for having one of the highest tax rates in the country. In addition to federal and state taxes, residents in Chicago also have to pay local taxes, including property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes.
These high taxes can take a significant chunk out of one’s paycheck and make it difficult to save money or afford other necessary expenses.
Another factor contributing to the high cost of living in Chicago is the expensive utilities. The cost of electricity, gas, and water can be quite steep, especially during extreme weather conditions. This can put a strain on people’s budgets, particularly those with lower incomes.
Finding ways to lower utility costs can be a challenge, as residents are limited in their choices and may be subject to high fees and charges.
Rising Violent Crime
One of the main reasons why many people have chosen to leave Chicago is the alarming increase in violent crime. The city has experienced a surge in homicides in recent years, which has created a sense of fear and unease among its residents.
The rise in violent crime has made many individuals and families reconsider their decision to stay in Chicago.
Increase in Homicides
Chicago has unfortunately gained a reputation for its high homicide rates. According to recent statistics, there has been a significant increase in homicides over the past few years. In fact, Chicago has consistently ranked among the cities with the highest murder rates in the United States.
This alarming trend has led to a growing concern for personal safety among residents, ultimately leading some to make the difficult decision to leave the city.
Areas to Avoid
While the entire city of Chicago is not plagued by violent crime, there are certain areas that have become notorious for their high crime rates. Neighborhoods such as Englewood, West Garfield Park, and Austin have seen a disproportionate amount of violence and criminal activity.
Residents of these areas often feel unsafe and have to constantly worry about their well-being. The presence of dangerous gangs and the prevalence of drug-related crimes have contributed to the sense of danger in these neighborhoods.
Sense of Unease
Even in areas that are considered relatively safe, there is a lingering sense of unease in Chicago. The constant reports of shootings and other violent incidents can create a feeling of insecurity among residents.
This unease is not limited to certain neighborhoods but has permeated throughout the entire city. Many people no longer feel comfortable going out at night or letting their children play outside. The fear of becoming a victim of crime has taken a toll on the overall quality of life in Chicago.
It is important to note that while violent crime is a significant issue in Chicago, the city also has vibrant communities, cultural attractions, and a rich history. However, the rising crime rates have undoubtedly played a role in people’s decisions to leave the city.
Lack of Nearby Nature
One of the main reasons why many people choose to leave Chicago is the lack of nearby nature. Despite being a bustling city with a vibrant culture and numerous attractions, Chicago is often criticized for its limited access to natural landscapes.
Whether it’s the absence of large parks, the lack of mountains or ocean, or the difficulty in escaping the concrete jungle, the city’s dearth of green spaces can be a major factor in people’s decision to move elsewhere.
Few Large Parks
While Chicago does have some parks scattered throughout the city, they often pale in comparison to the vast expanses of greenery found in other cities. Unlike cities like New York or San Francisco, which boast iconic parks like Central Park and Golden Gate Park, Chicago’s parks are relatively small and may not offer the same sense of serenity and escape that people seek in nature.
Without the presence of large parks, residents may find it challenging to find a peaceful retreat from the urban hustle and bustle.
No Mountains or Ocean
Another aspect that contributes to the lack of nearby nature in Chicago is the absence of mountains or an ocean. While the city is located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, it cannot compare to the majestic views and outdoor activities offered by mountainous regions or coastal areas.
For those who enjoy hiking, skiing, or simply being surrounded by breathtaking natural landscapes, Chicago’s flat terrain and lack of mountain ranges can be a disappointment.
Difficulty Escaping the Concrete Jungle
Lastly, escaping the concrete jungle can be a challenge for Chicago residents. Unlike cities situated near national parks or surrounded by scenic countryside, Chicago is located in the heart of the Midwest, far from such natural wonders.
This geographical disadvantage makes it more difficult for residents to take impromptu trips to enjoy nature. The lack of accessible nature can take a toll on people’s mental and physical well-being, as studies have shown that spending time in nature has numerous benefits for overall health and happiness.
Distance from Family
One of the main reasons why many people decide to leave their hometown is the distance from their family. This was also a significant factor for me when I made the decision to leave Chicago. Here are a few subheadings that explain why:
Moved Away for College
Like many young adults, I left Chicago to attend college in a different city. While this was an exciting opportunity for me to pursue my education and gain independence, it also meant being far away from my family.
Although I was thrilled about the new experiences and opportunities that college would bring, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness knowing that I would be missing out on family gatherings and events.
Missed Important Life Events
Living far away from family meant that I often missed important life events. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, and even simple family dinners became occasions that I could only participate in through phone calls and video chats.
While technology helped bridge the gap, it was never quite the same as being there in person to share those special moments with loved ones.
Wanted to be Near Aging Parents
As time went on, another reason why I left Chicago became apparent – I wanted to be near my aging parents. Seeing them grow older and facing the challenges that come with age made me realize the importance of being close by to lend a helping hand.
Taking care of aging parents is not only a responsibility, but it is also a way to cherish the time we have left with them.
According to a study conducted by the AARP, more and more adults are choosing to move closer to their parents as they age. The report highlights the benefits of being nearby, such as providing emotional support, assisting with daily activities, and ensuring access to quality healthcare.
This was a driving factor in my decision to leave Chicago and be closer to my parents.
Leaving Chicago was not an easy decision, but the distance from my family played a significant role in my choice. Whether it was leaving for college, missing important life events, or wanting to be near my aging parents, the longing for family connection ultimately led me to make the difficult decision to leave my hometown behind.
In the end, while Chicago will always have a piece of my heart, the harsh winters, expensive cost of living, safety concerns, lack of nature, and distance from family led me to seek a new home elsewhere. The city boasts fantastic architecture, culture, sports teams, and food, but it could not outweigh my reasons for leaving. I will always cherish my memories there, but sometimes you need to make a change to find greater happiness. If Chicago could only fix its weather and crime, bring down costs, and move a bit closer to my relatives, maybe one day I would return. For now, I am building a new life in a place that better suits my needs.