A chance to truly escape the daily routine of life in the States. This latest Friday marks the start of an eight-day trip to Budapest and Prague.
As I board the plane, my mind wonders of upcoming adventures, and I grow excited to see the city my great grandfather left in 1926 as he headed for America. This trip is one of both family history and personal learning, yet I most want to use my time here to escape from routines, the same routines that I feel are bringing my life closer and closer to a state of total repetition.
Is life meant to be lived this way? Lately I've been feeling the pressure of obtaining our generations' American dream: professional freedom. Maybe some time away from it all will provide clarity.
After two days in Budapest away from life back home, the question of personal identity really sinks in. Since the beginning of my working life, I have been convinced that careers and occupations were what defined people. Whatever we’re doing, whatever we spend the majority of our waking hours at, that is what people will know me and judge us by. As I progress further into the world away from America’s west coat, I realize this might not be how it’s supposed to be.
Early the next morning, following a sleepless night, I get up and walk out to the balcony of my Budapest apartment. It's still dark outside, with just a hint of light growing in the distance. I take a seat at the wooden table on our short balcony which overlooks an old church and it's surrounding courtyard.
Watching early morning passer-byes on their way to work relaxes me a bit, knowing I won't have to do the same this week I sit there a little while but as I am about to head back inside, I see a man wondering out from the shadows of the church's north end.
This man, who appears to be homeless, roams from bench to bench, sitting for a minute or two at each before picking up his belongings and moving on. I watch this man wonder about the church's courtyard for nearly ten minutes. It's clear that he has no direction, and as I sit above observing his actions, I can't help but feel the same way about myself.
The man eventually travels down the street and out of sight, at which point I walk back inside the apartment and decide an early morning jaunt around the city could do the mind some good.
I grab my keys, throw on some shoes and head out, first passing the church where I saw the homeless man. I don't have any particular direction I want to go, but simply begin to walk and wonder.
I keep walking until I come to a streetcar stop; one's coming down the line and I hop on not knowing it's direction or destination. It takes me to the center of the city where all the passengers are forced to get off. I end up a block away from St. Stephen's Basilica, an immense and daunting structure, named after the first king of Hungary. I continue to roam and admire the empty streets of downtown Budapest. The city is gorgeous; I can't believe a sleepless night would lead to such an insightful morning.
There’s a certain clarity that comes with rising early in the morning, that sense of understanding when your mind is clear and worries haven’t had enough time to fully occupy your mind.
I continue to wonder this new city as unfamiliar optimism encompasses me. Exploration never ceases to inspire.
Next stop, Prague.