4xForth: Maria Boustead of Po Campo / by Clare Johnson

4xForth-Maria-Boustead-Chicago_2 It's 4xForth Friday and today we're highlighting Forth Chicago alum, Maria Boustead, Founder of Po Campo. Maria first hatched the idea for Po Campo's functional and versatile bags when she failed to find a stylish and practical bag to attach to her bike, commute to work, and carry around the office. Po Campo encourages and celebrates active lifestyles by designing bike, yoga, and travel bags with high function and aesthetic appeal. 

Today Maria chats about her future travel plans, favorite Chicago bites, places she frequents in the city, and where she likes to bring out of town guests.

Pictured left to right: Julie Schumacher (Forth Founder); Maria Boustead (Po Campo); Natalie Pavela (Forth Intern). Julie and Natalie are sporting Po Campo's reflective pins + Maria is holding her loop pannier bag.  

Places I'll go someday: When I turned 21, I promised myself that I'd travel abroad every year until I was really just too old to do so. I'm always daydreaming of places to go and Kayak is one of my favorite sites for inspiration. Here are the destinations top on my list:

1. Madeira is a small, autonomous island of Portugal in the Northern Atlantic near the Canary Islands. There is a family legend that says my Portuguese ancestors set sail for America in the early 1700's, were shipwrecked on Madeira's shores and then later got kicked-off because they kept trying to convert people to Protestantism and the locals didn't care for it. They eventually settled in central Illinois, near Peoria. Anyway, I've wanted to visit since hearing that tale. 2. Bogotá, Colombia. A good friend of mine travels to Bogotá frequently for work and tells me that I would love it there. Whenever someone who knows me well suggests a place that I would like, I just go. 3. Greece. Have you seen those photos of the Greek Islands? 4. Vietnam. Or Thailand. Or Cambodia. I haven't been to this region yet but it's on my shortlist. I'm captivated by the imagery I see in movies and I'm eager to try the street food and travel around. I also love the way that Thai language is written and want to look at it all day.

Best Bites: I'm going to choose my favorite pizza restaurants, since that's my favorite food.

1. Pizza Rustica is probably where I dine out most often. It has such a comfortable neighborhood feel and the staff is really welcoming. Their specials are good but I usually just stick with the pizza, which I'd describe as "Northern Italian" style. A half sheet is plenty for two people, add a salad and a bottle of wine and you're good to go, all for less than $60. 2. Pequod's is my favorite for deep dish style. It's also open late. You can go see a movie at Webster Place and then head over to Pequod's to talk about the movie over some pizza and beer. A small pizza is fine for two people, and you really must get deep dish to experience their famous charred crust. 3. Eataly is my pick for the Napolitan style pizza. Coalfire is up there too, but eating at Eataly gives you the chance to visit Eataly, which is like an adventure in and of itself. 4. Leona's has a seriously good thin crust pizza. I was surprised too. This is how you have to get it: with tofu, spinach and roasted garlic. It is seriously the best combo ever and I've never seen those toppings available anywhere else! Who knew?

Places I frequent: 

1. The lakefront path is my favorite thing in Chicago. I live near the lake and love biking on it every chance I get. I have my best thoughts and ideas on the path, and some really nice moments with friends and loved ones, too. I pity people who can't access it easily. I don't know how they stay sane. 2. The Chicago Cultural Center is my favorite spot downtown when I have time to kill. Their rotating exhibitions are always thoughtfully curated and it's a beautiful building. And free wi-fi! 3. While now in hibernation mode, I also adore Millennium Park, especially all the free concerts during the summer time in Pritzker Pavilion. It feels like such a gift to have that available with such regularity and with such stunning surroundings. 4. Clark Street in Andersonville is my go-to spot for a lazy afternoon of shopping and coffee sipping. I visit Four-Sided for gifts and cards, indulge in fast fashion at Presence, lust after the vintage furniture at Scout, and savor the pie at A Taste of Heaven. Or just sit on a bench and people watch.

Things I do when out of towners visit: 

1. Go for a Divvy ride! I like to show people how fun biking in the city is, and Divvy makes it super easy. I love the protected bike lane on Dearborn because you go by so many landmarks (Monadnock and Marquette building, Mies Van der Rohe, Calder sculpture, etc.) and the separation from car traffic makes it less intimidating for city biking newbies.
2. Lincoln Park and Zoo are always on my list, especially if the weather is nice and especially if your visitors have their kids in town. You can meander through the zoo and the nature boardwalk and take photos under that cool Jeanne Gang structure. Our famous Green City farmer's market moves into the nearby Nature Museum for the winter months, giving you an opportunity to pick up some hearty greens and root veggies for a family style dinner at home. 3. I find going to a storefront theater production to be a real treat for guests. These tiny theaters are so commonplace in Chicago yet are virtually unheard of in other places. One of my favorite theater companies is Strawdog Theater in north Lakeview. I suggest getting dinner at Pizza Rustica (see above) before or after the show. 4. I'm most proud of Chicago's architectural history and the Architecture Foundation's top notch docents make their tours fascinating and memorable, even if your guests aren't architecture buffs. They're probably best known for the river cruises but they have bus and 'L' train tours too, which are great for winter months when you want to minimize your time outside. I especially like the downtown Loop tour on the 'L'.

Thank you for sharing, Maria!

Your whimsical outlook on our beautiful city is incredibly refreshing, not to mention inspiring! If you're ever looking for a partner to bike the lakefront with, go on an architectural tour, or chow down on some pizza -- you have a whole community of women who would happily partake. Myself included! It was such a treat to feature you on this week's 4xForth series and we're delighted to have you as part of our rad community of women!

Follow Maria on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, PinterestPo Campo Twitter, Flickr + YouTube.

"Chasing dreams, savoring the moment, getting more people on bikes." - Maria Boustead