As I scroll through people’s travel roundups for 2018, I notice often there is an emphasis on quantity. Although many travelers have places they love returning to, I have met a few who see no reason to return to a place and are on the way to check off the next destination.
I used to be the kind of person who valued quantity over quality, but as I got older and started to stay in places longer I began to appreciate the idea of slow travel, but even then I still resisted returning to a place multiple times. 2018 changed all that for me after I traveled to Austria and Vienna more than 10 times for the book I have been working on. In fact, my entire year’s travel round-up is a very short list (excluding my country of residence, Hungary): Austria.
A part of me feels like I have nothing to “brag” when people post they visited x countries, but I had something they didn’t have, I got to know a city I only knew superficially as well as my home city, Budapest. Vienna is a city many people don’t quite understand and write off very easily, reducing it to Habsburgs, Mozart, Klimt, and cakes, but the more I delved into the Austrian capital the more I fell in love. Vienna became a city that was complex, with hidden stories and curious history.
I got to ride a boat down the Danube Canal on a tour entirely in German to a primeval water forest within the city limits, go underground with local sewage workers on a tour to the Vienna Sewers where the finale of The Third Man was shot,
swam in an Art Nouveau swimming pool in a predominantly Turkish neighborhood, and drank this year’s wine in October from Vienna’s own vineyards. Even though I wrote a book about the city, stayed in iconic hotels, ate my weight in Wiener Schnitzel and Backhendl, and ticked off all the major museums, I still feel there is more for me to learn each time I go back. I want to check out the island in the “Old Danube” where locals bathe in the summer, I still have museums I haven’t seen, and hikes up into the Vienna Woods I haven’t done.
Slowing down and investing in one country, one city gave me the chance to really appreciate the place, its people, and customs. I delved into Austrian literature, reading up translations of Arthur Schnitzler, Robert Musil, and Stefan Zweig, read the life stories of Klimt, Otto Wagner, and Schiele, delved into the work of Sigmund Freud and read about his spat with Carl Jung, listened to Mahler, Strauss, Mozart, and Beethoven, heck, even Falco. Each time I returned I had more context, more appreciation. My German improved, and I even enrolled in German courses at the Austrian Institute in Budapest.
New places are exciting and have value, I am always excited to travel to a new country or city, however, there is nothing wrong with returning to a place again and again. There is nothing wrong if your end of year travel roundup contains just one country.