Thursday, December 2, 2010

From Recreational to Addiction

"Well... we might as well, even if it's only for 2 hours."

Stephen, Ali, and I were mulling over our itinerary for Tous Saints Week. Since we were all studying abroad at L'Université de Bordeaux, we had the same holidays as French students. This holiday meant a full week off to do whatever we wanted at the end of October. For the French, it's a week to sit in a café, nurse an espresso, chain-smoke some cigarettes, and people watch. In other words, exactly what they would do anyway, except now they could relax all day instead of just most of the day. However, for us, les américans, it was a prime chance to see the rest of Europe. With our Eurail Pass in hand, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Benelux (BElgium, NEtherlands, and LUxembourg) were all within reach. We had already paid for unlimited travel in these 4 regions for a set number of days. Now all it would take to go to any of these countries was a train schedule and the time it took to get there.

"I mean, it is 3 hours out of the way. Plus we'd have to backtrack after..." 
"Yeah... but we could get up early and sleep on the train..."

Partway through out trip, we found ourselves in Brussels, Belgium. We were discussing a possible change in our travel plans over a few Trappist beers. Maybe it's the fault of that 12% beer we drank. (Side story: While we were drinking outside, a hobo saw us drinking it. He taught us it's called 'douze' and seemed to applaud our alcoholism.) The more likely cause--at this point, we were all already addicted to traveling. We just weren't fully aware of it yet. 

The question was simple enough: whether or not we should go to Luxembourg. We were planning on going to Amsterdam the following day. However, with our pass, we could go to Luxembourg as well. From Brussels, Luxembourg would be three hours away by train. Our final destination for the day (and our hostel), Amsterdam, was also three hours away from Brussels... but in the opposite direction. Changing our plans would mean a total of 9 hours spent on a train: three to get to Luxembourg, three to go back to Brussels, and then three more to get to Amsterdam.

"Well, if we were to go... according to the timetable... if we arrive in Luxembourg at 11, leave by 1, and then take the train to Amsterdam, we could still make it there in time for dinner..."

In hindsight, this was the tipping point, the moment when a recreational pastime became a full-fledged addiction. We were only in France for about three months. After the innocent, occasional day trip to various French cities (wine tasting in St. Emillion, the fortified city of Carcassonne, or sipping Cognac in Cognac), we spent a full weekend in Barcelona. This was harmless enough, but then it grew out of control--a week-long, whirlwind tour through France, Brussels, Brugges, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Munich. And now, perhaps Luxembourg--just because it's there and we could.

Were we really going to travel to an entire country just because it's there? Really? Did Luxembourg have any cool, must-see monuments or attractions? Well... not really. Any specialty food that we had to try? Nope. Is their culture any different than France? Not particularly. Do they speak a different language? Well, technically yes (Luxembourgish), but everyone (99% of people*) speaks French.

*This is a made-up statistic, but probably true...

Yet, as soon as it became the possibility to visit a new country, the opportunity to check off another place on the map, and the chance to say later on, "Luxembourg? Yeah I've been there," the decision was already made subconsciously by all of us. All we were doing at this point was trying to justify it to ourselves.

"So... the train leaves at 8? I'll set my alarm."
"I'll set mine too. We're going to be tired."

1 comment:

  1. How was Luxembourg? Hopefully more worthwhile than Monaco ;)