What is a Bitch, Blessing, and Gift All Wrapped into One?
Time. I wear an analog face watch. It doesn’t need a wifi connection or an electronic charge to work. I can always count on it being consistent and truthful. It doesn’t have glitches, it just is. Similar to a heartbeat, it possesses an unfailing rhythmic cadence: tick…tick…tick…tick…tick.
Recently, I was confronted with how time operates in the life of a full-time vagabonder.
One evening in Siem Reap, I was saddened by the last night I would spend with my new travel companion, we were both only too aware of the early hour and how morning was creeping it’s way into our bed sheets, like an unwanted third wheel you can’t shake. In fact, it was the soft ticking of my watch that reminded us of our unwelcomed party guest.
We encouraged one another to stay our best present selves, to enjoy the fleeting time we had together, all while knowing that at the same hour tomorrow we’d be waking up in separate beds and in different countries. The future hadn’t even entered the doorway, yet her presence was overshadowing the present, like a greedy younger sibling demanding our attention – even though she hadn’t earned it.
As I lay next to this new person, who up until two weeks prior, was a complete stranger to me, he was now my steadfast comfort and sense of home. I sighed, time is such a bitch. I felt betrayed and angry with her, like she was intentionally speeding things up despite my levelheaded bargaining to back off.
I lay there thinking, how did I even get here? I feel like I’ve known this person for months, not weeks.
Calendar weeks later, I’m still pondering my warped concept of time while on the road. When you’re traveling in an unfamiliar place, every day feels like three jam packed into one. This is because your senses are flooded nearly every waking moment – you’re working overtime to learn and normalize your surroundings.
When you start forging new relationships, the timeline in which you get to know someone is also condensed into this vacuum tight kaleidoscope. These diverse and colorful strangers from all ends of the Earth waltz into your path and suddenly all fear of judgment and traditional social norms evaporate. Somehow regular rules of interaction don’t apply and you have no reason not to be yourself. You commit to jumping into relationships headfirst and check all inhibitions at the door. These connections remind you that time is a huge blessing.
As a traveler, time is linear. Guided only by a far-off visa expiration date or scheduled flight, there’s no other real time marker that looms over your head. You show up to each day without an agenda, just a willingness to learn and be present.
Back home, time moves differently. It’s more cyclical. Your actions are dictated by a calendar. You work Monday-Friday, have a quick two-day weekend, and then you repeat. The repetition is ongoing until you decide you need more variation in your schedule. We’re all human and need something to look forward to! But these time adjustments are mostly vacations…when you travel.
Travel grants you freedom – a freedom to show up to each day without the pressure of cyclical time. Travel time, linear time, is flexible and forgiving. It grants us the realization that we are all lifelong learners and we are never done meeting new people, trying new things, and growing.
Whether we’re trying to speed it up or slow it down; no matter our social class, race, level of education, or economic status, no one has the power to make it bend to his or her will.
For as complicated of a unit of measurement time is, the onus is on us to mold our relationship with it into something healthy. For me, I want to be a person who travels hand-in-hand with time linearly. With the understanding that it is multi-faceted – it can be a bitch, a blessing, and most importantly – a gift, something not to be taken for granted. So be sure to spend it well.