Carol and I were having a glass or two in a pleasantly traditional German restaurant on the first evening of our arrival in Europe, the start of a month-long Eurail train trip through Italy. Apropo of nothing more than jet lag, perhaps, Carol suddenly asked brightly, “Shouldn't we start talking about where we're going?”
Two things stuck out about that question. Clearly “Italy” had not provided sufficient detail for Carol's curiosity and interests. And secondly, companion travel offers dimensions, purposes and anticipations that solo travel, in my previous experiences with it anyway, seemed to lack.
On my two solo trips to Europe, the subject of what I was going to do next never came up. Since my goal on those trips had been to do nothing, I'd already been accomplishing that goal in spades, merely by walking in circles looking for my hotel room, or staring idly out to the street from a sidewalk cafe with a glass and a small dish of olives on my table.
But I liked the promise of Carol's question immediately, and when she excused herself to the ladies room, I enthusiastically set about the task to which I now felt a dutiful sense of commitment .
My original roadmap had us arriving in Munich, which we had accomplished, and then hopping a train a day or so later to the Italian border town of Brennero, where we would activate our Eurail pass and then…
I quickly surmised the full import of Carol's innocent query. Beyond Brennero lay the entire spindly, Prada-like shape of Italy, a peninsula some 750 miles long, roughly the distance between Seattle and San Francisco, which Carolyn and I had once driven, and had decided that it was quite a long way in which to try and find things to pass the time. And that had simply been one very long day of driving. For Italy, my idea had been to take a whole month to traverse that 750 miles. Subtracting the time we would spend waiting for trains, there would still remain a fairly enormous amount of time to fill.
Logistics is what I did to put food on the table, pay bills and raise a family for the better part of thirty years, and by the time Carol had returned from her ablutions, I had quickly studied the Eurail map and train schedules and could answer her earlier question with great specificity.
“We can activate our Pass in Brennero like we planned, and then hop a train to Verona for a couple of days,” I announced triumphantly, unaware I'd actually just become Wile E. Coyote hanging suspended off a cliff.
“And?” Carol asked tentatively.
Over the more or less year that Carol has gotten to know me, she's already developed a well-honed skill for filling in the substantial blanks that living with me has revealed to her. Using my vacant stare as her cue, Carol immediately began Googling things to do and places to see in Verona.
We're proving we're make a great traveling team.