How Long Does it Take to Travel around the World?

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Time is immeasurable.

Now, without compartmentalizing the entire human population (or at the very least, a demographic of readers comprised mostly of friends slacking off at work), you are probably reacting to the above bolded sentence in either one of two ways.

For the detail-oriented bunch, you may be second guessing the spelling of “immeasurable.” But relax. I’ve spell-checked that puppy twice and yes, I’m just as surprised as you are.

Or maybe, you are part of the second crowd. The crowd thinking something along the lines of, “Sarah, you have just spent the better part of 7 out of the last 9 months travelling around the world, not once but TWICE, and really, THAT’S THE BEST THAT YOU CAN COME UP WITH?!”

Now before I encourage you to take your finger off the Caps Lock key and ease up a bit, I’d like to address a few things:

  1. That whole 7 out of 9 thing makes you sound like a dentist in a Sensodyne commercial. And although there is plenty of time to discuss toothpaste recommendations, I’d like to stay focused on the task at hand.
  2.  “Travelling around the world” is an overused action term with incredibly unclear verb usage. Now if we were to use say, “Unaware of exact coordinates at sea while enduring such Shakespearean literary devices like pathetic fallacy and indirect characterization” then that would be a lot more accurate.
  3. Finally, why must you throw even the most basic of sentence structure rules out the high-storey window and do something so bold as to use exclamation points and question marks simultaneously? It’s confusing. And concerning.

Alright so maybe listing my digs in numerical form was a bit too passive aggressive. I’m sorry. Can we start over?

So time. You can’t measure it. You just can’t.

Yes, I am aware that Usain Bolt, a mother in her third trimester during the dead of summer, and most likely the entire 1996 cast of RENT during those opening chords of Seasons of Love would probably disagree with me, but since we’re talking about time and travel (yet strangely leaving out important things like time-travel), I strongly believe that it cannot be measured.

Time is time. Yes, I’ll give you that. There are noons, and o’clocks, and half-pasts, and quarter to’s. There are weeks, and months, and seasons, and years. But crossing international date lines, celebrating time changes more often than an Iowan farmer (zing?), and lapsing in the summer sun for the better part of 2013, meant that time can no longer be measured in the typical sense of the word.

Also, I don’t wear a watch.

So there’s that.

If you’re still not convinced, perhaps pulling out some sweeping generalizations about human behavior may further sway you?

Time involves numbers. And numbers are quantitative. And quantities can be compared. And oh my word, human beings are alarmingly comparative by nature and these comparison are made with such appalling frequency and without much thought to bigger picture sort of things so in fact, they are ALWAYS flawed, unappealing, and downright dangerous. Phew.

So let’s play it safe here, kids.

But without time as a unit of measurement, how do you talk about the length of a trip around the world?

Well, that’s easy.

Experiences.

And just like that, I Secret-World-of-Alex-Mack morphed into a writer of inspirational quotes which are likely mass-printed on art canvases and later sold at Pottery Barn.

But really, this is what I have learned.

The length of things, any little thing, can only be considered by the relevancy of experiences.

(Imagine that sentence in Book Antiqua typeface. It’s practically begging to be hung up  in any college room dorm.)

So let’s revisit the primary question: How long does it take to travel around the world?

When can we talk about “travelling around the world” without using air quotations and worrying about the difference between experience and exaggeration?

It will take a few examples to understand. It will take window seats and aisle stretches, and always feeling like you’re in the way. It will take a really good tan, a really regrettable sunburn, and an overpriced bottle of it-is-never-too-late sunscreen. It will take a couple hundred sunsets (maybe those kids from RENT were actually on to something…), a couple of unintentional sunrises, and a couple holding hands while blocking your view of both to remind you that there are only a few humans in your life as dependable as any given sun cycle (woah, things just got HEAVY in here). It will take “Cheers,” “Who’s in for another?” “Let’s drink every single liquid in this ridiculous dive of a bar” and “Sorry, I broke all those glasses, sir…” to feign nostalgia on the haziest of memories. It will take an emptied wallet of foreign currencies, replaced with stubs, receipts, directions on the back of soiled napkins, business cards, and silly little inside jokes, which even if recyclable, you’ll never have the guts to discard. It will take a perfectly executed rotational schedule of asking your watch-wearing friends for the time…and even better executed retorted jokes when they plead for you to be more self-sufficient.

You’ll know that you have traveled around the world when you have enough experiences to overflow your pint glass, your wallet, your carry-on baggage, and your heart. 

But it certainly has nothing to do with time.

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2 thoughts on “How Long Does it Take to Travel around the World?

  1. I greatly enjoyed this piece. I also like how it was written in traditional Klokian style, i.e. the first 293 out of 896 words (a solid third, maybe not in the numerical “33%” sense, but certainly in the generally accepted 3/10 sense, and is especially valid if you kick that down to a less generally accepted “out of 7 scale”) were off-topic, at times combative, on one occasion translationally frustrating (“before I encourage you to…, I’d like to…”, would, post describing the reason that the encouragement is being postponed, traditionally be followed by said postponed encouragement. FINISH THE SENTENCE!!!!!), and content-wise, solid gold.

    Anyway, I really like your 3rd to last paragraph with the examples. That’s very well phrased and draws the read in. You should write a book or something. That’s what I’m thinking of doing. Mines gonna be about my experiences with public transportation, especially trains. I’m copyrighting it now :).

    • S.Y.,

      3rd-to-last paragraphs are generally the strongest. Much like a conversation, which really gets interesting 2-2.5 hours in.

      If possible, I’d like to explore these copyright issues with you. I’m concerned.

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