From June to October this year, I travelled. Some might say I'm still travelling now, even though I've been in
I've been to villages in
I've been hundreds of metres above Victoria Falls in a microlight, and seen the crack that will become the next
I've been to houses in
And now I reside in a city where the main train station is named after a fictional character, the highest monument is to a novelist and there’s a writer on the five pound note (Walter Scott’s Waverly, Walter Scott, Walter Scott). Other writers are remembered here too: Burns, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, and then there are the crime writers who populate
Sitting alongside the newly discovered ‘to write or not to write’ dichotomy is another, not-quite-complementary, not-quite-conflicting way of viewing life: Travelling and Not Travelling.
Before travelling for an extended period, Not Travelling would have been meaningless to me. It was School, Study, Work, whatever. Now, it's all Not Travelling. Stasis.
The problem with stasis—the irony of stasis—is that time, in retrospect, passes more quickly when you've done nothing. I’m talking about that, “Is it December already?” feeling. The “What have I done the last month and a half?” feeling. I am not talking about the “God, this day is taking forever,” feeling, which is an entirely different animal.
Here, I should probably differentiate between lived time and remembered. Lived time is the ticking of your wristwatch, the three hundred seconds you spend in the shower and the three minute phone calls with suppliers. Remembered time is what you have left of a day, a week, a month, after the fact. The memorable moments: watching the man get talked down from the ledge opposite your office, your landlord admitting he has MS.
Travelling, holidays, anything that takes you out of your routine, your usual settings, makes lived time seem to pass more quickly. You are often too busy to clock-watch. Travellers do not spend an hour pretending to work before they can head out to lunch. Time flies when you’re having fun.
But on reflection—that is: in remembered time—a week spent travelling contains so much more compared to a week not travelling. Looking back, it feels like you stretched time to fit so much more in. You did not, physically, of course. You breathed the same number of breaths, aged another 168 earth hours. But you did, spiritually (if I use this word, I might have to explain my definition… some day).
But why is the reserve of memories from travelling so much greater than those when not travelling? Because of the sameness of workdays, you are often left with a composite day, a metonymic day, one that stands for all similar days; but for travelling, even if you spend a lot of time doing the same things (sitting in trains, eating food, sleeping) you are doing these things in different places, different ways and with different people. Difference permits individual meals to be remembered. What did I have for lunch yesterday? No idea. Every lunch I’ve had at my desk for the past month is trying to get through the one-memory-sized aperture in my brain and as a result: nothing. What did I have for lunch in
To travel is to fill lived time with moments that can be readily recalled in remembered time. But that is only part of the equation…