the best thing about this trip is that i found an excuse to ride the train (acela express to be exact). i don't know what it is but i've loved taking the train since my late teens. europe opened my fascination with the train. i remember taking the eurail and stumbling my way across western europe with little more than a backpack and even less of a clue. it was challenging, but the sense of freedom and adventure i felt was without match. i remember the quiet churches of venice, nearly missing my train in germany after 2 huge beers with new friends in the hofbrauhaus (munich), a ride in the back of a truck in denmark, visiting an ex-girlfriend in the hague, and accidentally discovering an amazing peter gabriel concert (free!) in paris. i rolled back into madrid with just enough cash to buy a fresh baguette and some apples. note: there's a reason why you never see apple sandwiches on a menu.
fast-forward to graduating university of michigan and heading off to asia for a little more train adventure. first trip was a night long voyage to kuala lumpur from singapore with my freshman year roomie jeffrey lam. we were visting my mentee and pal mike louie who was staying in KL for a short period of time with a friend. KL was not incredibly beautiful or interesting to be honest, but it was the first time i realized the size and reach of islam as i stared at the world's largest mosque. juxtaposed with this likely the world's largest pirated software market. to commemorate the experience, i bought all the adobe products i couldn't otherwise afford for 5 dollars. i suppose i've been doing my penance in the software industry ever since ;-)
following singapore and malaysia, i headed over to japan to take the j-rail for a week. using my pass and serviceable nihongo, i traveled from tokyo all the way down to fukuoka where i visited a fellow wolverine (victor) who was taking classes at the university there. he took me to an amazing summer festival on a lake with fireworks and street vendors who sold tasty octopus dumplings among other strange and lovely things. on the way back i had the chance to stop by kobe and kyoto (one gorgeous, the other historic but somewhat bland). i can still recall walking by myself through pristine, silent japanese gardens, feeling like i had been transported a million miles away from the rest of humanity into a secret, alien place. i remember sitting in the train station, hearing a distant rumble, and moments later having my hair blown back as a speeding shinkansen blurred past the railstation at 190 mph.
so here i am in my 30s, back on the train with a decidely more complicated life than in earlier days before mortgages and jobs. odd how none of that seems to dampen the sense of freedom i feel as i write here on the acela. the moment at hand is as perfectly enjoyable as the memories.