After we left Bratislava, we motored down the Danube towards Budapest. Our group was playing cards in the lounge and I had the view forward. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore and had to go up on the sundeck to just sit and watch the world float past. It got me to thinking about the illusions of river travel.
The illusion that we were all alone. Most of the time I could see no buildings, no piers, no jetties, no other boats. It was easy to picture myself as an explorer in Africa 200 years ago, seeing what no European had ever seen.
The illusion of time stretching out infinitely. It’s easy to just get lost in time, cruising on a slow boat down a quiet river. Were you watching for 20 minutes or 2 hours? It doesn’t matter. Will the cruise last another day or another month? I forget. We lead very busy and full lives, sitting and watching and not thinking is a luxury we can’t often afford or obtain.
The illusion of immortality. The river never changes, or so it seems. Why should I? Why can’t I just be here forever? But I can’t. The day will end, the trip will end, eventually I will end. But not, I think, today. Today, I will enjoy the privilege of being here, being truly in the now, experiencing my life in the present rather than the past or the future. Perhaps I can learn to do that all the time, which may be the greatest gift of travel after all.