One measures time in memories

Have you ever felt like you left for a week but returned a month later? Like you only left for a weekend but somehow it feels like you came back a week later?

This is something I often experience while traveling. I take a weekend trip but when I get back I feel like I’ve been away for a week, a lot longer than what the calendar is telling me.

And it feels funny because it’s not like the time passes any slower while I’m traveling. Maybe even faster come to think of it. There is so much to see and do, and on a short trip never enough time for everything considering that I also want to sleep in, eat well and relax. While I’m still on the trip, it feels like time is running out and soon I’ll have to head home.

On the other hand, when traveling long-term, I feel that same upside-down effect of time already on the road. I start describing some experience to someone like it happened a month earlier and suddenly realize that it happened three days ago. It totally messes up my head.

But unlike on a shorter trip, when I get home from a longer trip, I feel almost like I never left. All is the same at home, nothing’s changed much.

It’s amazing how flexible and relative our conception of time is. I was discussing this phenomenon with some co-travelers I’d met in Prague on my Interrail trip in 2008. It was almost the end of my three-week trip and I felt like I’d been traveling for three months (in a very positive way!). The guys (I think they were Canadian, can’t remember for sure) pondered over this for a while and then one of them commented in a very stating-a-fact kind of a voice: “I think one measures time in memories.”

I remember that moment very clearly. I remember those words burning their mark in my head, my mind understanding the meaning behind them. That’s why time spent traveling feels so much longer than time spent at home.

There are not too many things in everyday life to make memories from: going to work, coming home from work, shopping in the same supermarket over and over again, doing laundry, doing the dishes. Of course there are things to remember as well but the amount of those is so much smaller than it is while traveling. I think I make about as many memories back home in a month than I do in a weekend traveling. So, if one really measures time in memories, it is no wonder even a shorter trip feels so much longer than spending that time back home.

Have you experienced this in your travels? Do you think we measure time in memories?

by Mari in Thoughts and stories

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