This past weekend Agi and I took the train down to visit one of her grandmothers in a town located about an hour and a half from Budapest. Trains are great for reading and I'm almost done with Treasure Island--an excellent and very fun book. A phrase jumped out at me as the protaganist--young Jim Hawkins--landed for the first time on the Island and the author described his "joy of exploration."
What immediately came to mind when I read that phrase were two distinct solo travel experiences I had where I was exhilarated simply to be in a new place and able to explore around. The first was back in the Fall of 1999 when I was teaching in Budapest and I took the train up to visit Prague for a few days. I clearly remember the first day I was there in this beautiful, historic city: the excitement of being able to see amazing sights and simply wander around all day with my map. The second occasion was just this past January when I was on a work trip in Copenhagen. We finished up a day early so my boss and a co-worker left and I had a full day to kill all by myself and explore Copenhagen. (I didn't leave with them because I was taking a few days off to visit friends in Edinburgh). I was so pumped when they left--it felt like I had just gotten my driver's license and could go out on my own. (By the way, "work travel" in my view completely takes the enjoyment out of traveling someplace interesting or new. Of course, the purpose of the trip is for business--and not for me to have fun... But traveling for tourism and to experience something new is infinitely better.) Copenhagen--even in January--was beautiful and it was awesome cruising around and taking pictures of various castles and side-streets.
My final thought, though, is that solo travel gets old fast. It's great for a day or two but my experience is that I start to feel lonely and want to be around my wife. Agi and I fortunately both love to travel and it's been one of the big themes of our marriage. In fact, we're heading to Bordeaux, France this Thursday and will meet a couple of friends there. It will be fantastic I'm sure. And I'm glad it won't be solo!