Musings on time and travel

Time is an interesting thing. Such fixed a measure, the same amount of time can pass in a heartbeat or seem like an ordeal that will never end. When there’s a busy day of work ahead, the same time that usually has you listening to the monotonous clicking of the clock for hours will fly by like a sudden breeze. On the other hand, a week full on activities and new impressions will feel much longer a span; when you do absolutely nothing for days on end, the blessed holidays will be over in one dull series of waking up and closing your eyes. Time is paradoxical like that.

When I journeyed to southern Ireland a good two weeks ago, I was reminded of that interesting quality of time – the way our individual perception of it can change and its (at least) dual nature. My partner and I don’t fly, as in we don’t use airplanes. I have flown a few times before as a teenager, but never again after college. As for him, he wouldn’t get close a “flying prison” if his life depended on it. As a consequence, we travel by car, train, bus, bike and on foot which suits me fine really because I never particularly enjoyed 10’000 meters above ground and as a child my parents never took us anywhere by airplane either. So, while there are personal and environmental reasons for both of us, I simply like traveling the long road. I like to know where I’m going – I like to experience it, feel it, smell it. The journey is at least half of why I even bother going anywhere and I find an almost meditative repose for myself in being on the road. It’s when I’m usually at my most creative too.

The whole journey took us around 26 hours (one way) including several breaks and two ferries. We were appointed to meet two friends there who live close to us and made the journey by plane, therefore embarking a day later. What was a very long drive for us, multiple coffee breaks and an eventually rather stiff neck, was one people’s magazine and two rounds of soda for them in an air-conditioned seat. And yet, when we finally arrived at the B&B with them waving in the drive-way, I thought how weird it must have felt to wait for us and miss out on things we had gone through to arrive at exactly the same place. Maybe (most probably) it was just me who noticed it though; we just had so much more to tell and show for. Like some of the most brilliant coastways we had passed through on the way. Like riding one of the fastest Catamaran ferries of Europe (feeling seasick and then overjoyed to feel solid ground under your feet once more). Meeting that lovely old couple who would tell us about their long life of travels together. Driving through a tunnel far below the ocean. Smelling the increasingly salty sea breeze as you approach the first coast line. Feeling the spray on your face with anticipation. I would not trade that for the world.

We saw so many things on the way, the journey felt fast although it wasn’t. All the while our friends “saved time” by skipping the road; yet they ended up at exactly the same point as us and they hadn’t really benefited on the extra time either. If anything, they spent more time waiting before the go, staring at a suitcase and then checking out the area a bit while they waited for us. They certainly had nothing to tell when we met up. Which ultimately brought me to the following conclusion: we gain no time by saving time. Subjectively speaking, we stretch time by filling it and thus feeling fulfilled or at least active. Cutting things short has the opposite effect: eventually we feel like we did nothing at all, simply because we experienced less and our perception of time feels shorter. The more time you “save”, the less time you feel you’ve had. Mostly because you cannot treat time like some currency: just because you save time now, doesn’t mean you’ll make good/better use of it later or beforehand, it doesn’t quite work that way. At best, it’s a trade-off between definite opportunities and potential ones. Meanwhile, time keeps flowing without pause. Really, we might as well enjoy our travels, inside and outside our virtual homes.

Anyway, I am back now.

7 comments

  1. Welcome back Syl! :) Freakily I was writing you an email when your blog post popped up :P Glad you had a good time.. I have to say I enjoyed the drive over to the UK from Germany, although I am a terrible passenger in a car and a calm one in a plane :)

  2. Welcome back! I used to be a bit reluctant about long car journeys, but some years ago we did a several weeks long tour in the US and that made me change my mind. You just need to get into the rythm and you can go on for ever.
    I suppose it gets a little bit more complicated when we’re talking about very remote places. I can’t say that I would like to travel to Rarotonga without flying. But then I’m prone to getting seasick. :(

  3. Thanks both of you! I admit the car seat can be arduous at times – taking breaks often is therefore important (and a big car where you can go sleep in the back doesn’t hurt!).

    The seasickness was interesting…I’ve never had that before on a ferry, but then the Stena Lynx from the UK to Ireland is not an ordinary vessel. Catamarans might be nice for speed, but they’re commonly known as “sick boats” because the movement on deck is a lot worse than on a normal ship. Oh well, I made it through – I was rather pale there for a while though! I earned my passage, I believe. :P

  4. Welcome back! I trust you enjoyed Ireland?

    I tend to go into sleep mode whenever I travel by car, train, ferry or plane so I don’t really care how I travel – I think it is that rocking motion that makes me go zzz. Thus I really avoid long journeys by car if I have to drive myself.

  5. i was excited, running from deck to deck taking pictures and watching the immense water output from the jet exhausts. tried to chat syl up for a while until she returned “go away! i don’t want to talk!”

    so i farted off to the rear balcony where i finally found two aussies who enjoyed the crossing as well. :D

    brilliant vessel!

    theB

  6. @Tessy
    I did! the food was better than in the UK!!! ^^ as for drowsyness, I get that too, especially when it’s hot – but that’s why it’s good to have a second person who can drive, more sleep for you!

    @B
    Oy! I am always sunshine and daisies! :D

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