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.

How Gangnam Style Ruined My Summer

In the past, I have often tried to force a “summer song” upon myself. Be it a well-timed release date or a subliminal-yet-conscious (wait, what?) effort to listen to the same song on repeat while day-drinking in the sun, my summer song (or more generally speaking, my summer record) is of great importance.

Every time I hear Shake the Streets by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Cheap Girl’s Find Me a Drink Home, or even anything by The Descendents, I am immediately brought back to a certain summer, a certain somewhere. A time when I couldn’t stop listening to that song, that record, that band.

My calendar has recently reminded me that Autumnal Equinox (which may be the most ridiculously romantic sounding season of them all) begins in a few short days. But because Korea seems to lack any sort of relationship to climate changes, summer could very well go on strong into November. Regardless, my summer in Korea sucked.

And I blame it all on PSY.

Yeah, that guy.

When it came to choosing a summer song or record, it’s like I didn’t even have a fighting chance this time around.

I tried to play Help by Thee Oh Sees at every available gathering. I opted to spend bike rides listening solely to the Japandroids’ newest release. I even tried to get back into The Promise Ring (I know, I know).  But these failed attempts were only mocked further by a man, sporting sunglasses indoors, and transporting himself through the streets of Seoul by means of uh, galloping.

When I didn’t have white headphones plugged into my ears, this song was everywhere. In my newsfeed, in my bakery, even in my favourite kindergarten class.

I mean, come on. Do you know how hard it is to teach ESL kiddies about equal halves and symmetry when they are all repeating “Oppan Gangnam seutail” to themselves?

Well, do you?

What began as a joke in the lunchroom among fellow teachers has morphed into a total game changer for the last four months here in Korea.

As a song, “Gangnam Style” lacks direction.

Consequently, so does my summer.

There’s really no need to get into specifics. No one wants to read about my summer of close calls (and some even bigger falls). (This is a probably an absolute lie. I can think of, like three people, who would totally feel positively affirmed after reading about a struggling Sarah.) But even if I was honest about my aimless summer, you and I both would never be able to discern if I was speaking figuratively or in relatives.

Or maybe that’s a total cop-out. And instead, I just can’t seem to concentrate on completing sentences when a song about a guy taking his coffee in one shot is making it onto CNN.

“Gangnam Style” is an image-heavy, completely unchallenging, disconnected look into one of Seoul’s wealthier districts with the exact same descriptors.

I hate that people appreciate this song.

And I hate that it, by no choice of my own, became the song of this summer.

It’s an uninspiring song which leaves no motivation to trace the rings of condensation on sun-bleached picnic tables. It’s an intolerable tune which I can’t listen to as I ride passenger to the farthest camping spot, the nearest ice cream shop, or the somewhere in-between cottage owned by your friend’s significant other’s dad’s business partner.

Both “Gangnam Style,” and the fact that parodies continue to pop up under the Recommended Videos tab on YouTube, has ruined my summer.

But as I mentioned before, Fall Autumnal Equinox is coming up.

And every season has a record.

And, appropriately so, I’ve recently rediscovered Jay Reatard’s Watch Me Fall.

It’s good.

A Diwali Story (minus Ralphie Parker and the Red Ryder BB Gun)

Diwali is the Christmas of India.

Except with a lot more fireworks.

And you know, probably a few less Ferrero Rochers.

And since most Christmas evenings end with me gripping my stomach and rolling around in hazelnut-overdose agony whilst simultaneously surrounded by gold tinfoil wrappers, this whole firework-Ferrero trade-off is completely fine by me.

I mean yes, most holidays get exponentially better when they include golf ball-sized servings of whipped chocolate. And yes, these chocolates only seem to taste that much better when arranged in pyramid formation to resemble a seasonal Evergreen tree….

But again, Diwali has fireworks.

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Jaisalmer Starship- We Built this City/ We Built this City on Dirt and Sand

There’s been much debate geographically about the city referenced in Jefferson Starship’s so-bad-it’s-good-then-bad-again 1986 hit song, “We Built this City (on Rock n’ Roll).”

Doing some preliminary research (does Google count as “research,” yet?) on the song, references to San Francisco, New York City, and even Cleveland have been made. But we’re talking about building a city. On the merit of rock n’ roll and rock n’ roll alone. Other than housing the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and being the birthplace of Chrissie Hynde, the leading lady of The Pretenders, I just can’t picture Cleveland being the referenced city in a song talking about the pending ban of music.

Same goes with New York City. And San Francisco too, for that matter.

However, after reading the lyrics to the song, I don’t really have any other viable options for an appropriate city whose urban blueprint doubles as it’s record’s liner notes.

Instead, I think the song probably has very little to do with rock n’ roll.

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