Pola Henderson was less than three years old when she first travelled long distance and has been fond of jetting around ever since. She started blogging in 2010 and currently juggles her passion for globetrotting with a day job in marketing communication.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
I grew up in southern Poland. First I lived in a town called Wadowice (known as the birthplace of the late Pope John Paul II), then moved to Krakow. I’ve been in Chicago since 2002.
And what did you do there, then?
In Poland I was an ESL teacher and translator, something that I continued for a while after moving to the States.
How did you end up in Chicago?
I came here with my husband, who is a Chicago native. We had met in Poland when he was working as an English teacher, and decided to move after that ended. It made sense for us as a couple – he wanted to make use of his business background, but wasn’t fluent in Polish, and I knew English.
Have you lived abroad before?
Yes. I spent a few months in Algeria in my early teens, due to my dad’s engineering job. We were in Oran, a beautiful city on the Mediterranean coast.
So what’s so good about Chicago?
I like that it’s a metropolis with a small town feel. You get all the amenities of a big city, e.g. a variety of restaurants and cultural institutions, but Chicago is also a city of neighborhoods. Many of them are little villages with “main streets” and a community feel.
I also enjoy the pedestrian-friendly lakefront, view of skyscrapers downtown, and great theaters and jazz clubs.
And what don’t you like?
Traffic! We’re not that far behind Los Angeles…
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
A little bit of both. I don’t have roots here, but I am well-acclimated. Following local sports teams have definitely helped me feel more part of the city. When I travel within the US and people ask me where I’m from, the short answer is Chicago.
How do you support yourself?
My day job is marketing communication, and until recently I had a 9-5 position. I am currently a freelancer, which gives me more flexibility to travel.
Any advice for wannabe Chicagoans?
Get your baseball allegiances figured out (we have two teams) and don’t put ketchup on a hot dog. We are infamous for cold winters – you may doubt your decision to be here when it’s 6F outside and you’re waiting for a bus, but when spring comes, all is forgotten.
Is the move permanent? (If not, where next/plans for the future?)
It appears to be for the time being, but I have thought of San Francisco and even… Paris.
Finally, tell us about something typically Chicago.
Deep dish pizza, invented here in the 1940s. It’s about 3 inches thick and comes loaded with cheese and tomato sauce. De-li-cious!
Pola Henderson grew up in Krakow, Poland, lived in North Africa, and has called Chicago home since 2002. Her writing and photography on Jetting Around: City Travel Blog showcases urban destinations and their culture. She loves city lights, views from above, coffee shops, and good reads. Pola can be found on Twitter and Facebook.