About half way through any trip, no matter how delightful, there comes a time when you’re just ready to be home.
That mid-trip feeling can last just a moment, or it can drag on for a whole day. I’ve never experienced a longer-lasting case of these blahs, but I’d imagine that if it became chronic, that mid-trip feeling could become trip ending fact.
Anton Chekhov did not allow the feeling to change his plans, but neither was he immune to this phenomenon. In 1891, the writer was in the midst of his first visit to Western Europe, a hectic month which included stops in Vienna, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Nice and Paris.
There are, as seasoned travelers know, just a few sights to see in each city — and Chekhov hit all the highlights and then some.
This pace takes a toll on a traveler, though, even a literary genius, and his letters home reflect his descent into the mid-trip feeling.
At the beginning he’s effusive: “If only you knew how lovely Vienna is! It is not to be compared with any city I have seen in my entire life…When you get down to it, everything is pretty damn elegant.”
In Venice, his excitement only grows: “such fascination, such glitter, such exuberance. For streets it has canals, for cabs, gondolas, the architecture is amazing, and there’s not the least corner anywhere that is unworthy of historical or artistic interest.”
But by the time he reaches Florence five days later, his mood shifts. “I’m worn out with racing through museums and churches. After seeing the Venus de Medici I can only say that if she were dressed in modern clothes, she would look hideous, especially around the waist.”
And by Rome, just about at the exact middle of the trip, he describes that mid-trip feeling precisely:
“I’ve seen everything and dragged myself everywhere I was ordered. When I was offered something to sniff, I sniffed. But all I feel is exhaustion and a craving for a bowl of cabbage soup and buckwheat kasha.”
Read more in Anton Chekhov’s Life and Thought: Selected Letters and Commentary. Edited and annotated by Simon Karlinsky, translated from the Russian by Michael Henry Heim. Northwestern University Press, 1973. Photo of Venice by Alison Stein Wellner.
Alison J. Stein
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