As we adjust our speed of life to the pace of appreciation we see so much more, not just sites but a bigger awareness of what’s around us. The shock usually occurs when we come back to out fast modern world, a place where there is never enough time. Maybe upon your return you pass a friend in the street,
‘Wow I haven’t seen you for ages’ he says
‘No I’ve been away on my bike’
‘Sounds great’ we must catch up sometime, I’ve gotta rush now’
Must you eh? Must you rush, so you can catch up sometime in the future? Listen to the terminology.
I would imagine most of my readers and listeners are around my age group, an age group that remembers life before mobile phones, before sat navs and email. Remember when you came home to listen to your messages, then tied by the phone cable anchored to the wall you would speak on the phone with no other distractions. But now we have all these time saving devices, the mobile- no more answer machines, the email – no more physical letters and a trip to the post office. And now contactless payment to save the time it took to press a keypad 4 times which in turn saved the signature and before that the carbonated credit card imprint sliding machine.
All this time we are saving, where the fuck is it? We will never save enough time with these devices to have any spare; the void is always filled with anything but spare time. There is not going to be sudden abundance of it at the end of the day with the completion of all tasks or a credit to our life expectancy.
For example: if I go into the supermarket and get a Ready Meal, I save 5 minutes by not having to buy ingredients, then I go to a self checkout and flash my card, saving a 1 minute queue and 5 seconds by not typing my PIN. I receive a call as I wait the 5 minutes for the microwave to ping, no chopping, stirring, or cooking, no answer machine, listening and dialling. Then check my email as I eat, no letter to write, stamp to find or walk to the post box. In the space of half an hour I’ve saved at last that much again. Where’s my credit? When do I get that half an hour back? I’m not going to am I? The relentless demands on my time continue. I could have enjoyed the ingredients selection, the checkout interaction, the cooking preparation and lived in the moment as I tasted my creation. Would that have been wasted time?
The slower pace of life I think is the best spent time of all. What’s the rush, the need to catch up? Seasons will change whether we’re aware or not, plants will grow and flower, children and parents will grow older. This isn’t a unique observation by any means but those of us who have been away for a prolonged period are perhaps so much more aware of the speed of life we left behind and the lack of fulfilment it brought.
I’m quite opposed to taking electronic gadgetry with me on the road. I remember sitting in a café in Macedonia looking out the window, watching a fully loaded, solo GS rider, first fiddle with his phone then his sat nav and never once looking up, he didn’t even see my bike, absolutely oblivious the what was going on around him.
I recently read my second book Eureka into a microphone for it to be turned into an audio book format and reread some experiances I’d forgotten. In Northern Iraq I stopped to ask directions, my map was not corresponding with the road I was on. I was helped by armed men without uniforms and then an Arab in a Mercedes stopped to look at my map too.
A moment now, that seems quite improbably but was a daily occurrence in my journey because I simply had to stop and ask, for direction, for hotels, for everything. No booking.com, no sat nav; human interaction, they are the memories that remain. Perhaps with digital directions I could have saved an hour, and spent it doing what exactly, downloading tomorrows coordinates? What would have been a better way to spend that time?
At this time of year there tends to be some summing up of what’s been and thoughts look forward to the near future. Perhaps a goal for 2019 could be, let’s be a little less distracted by the permanent rush and instead engage saunter mode, and take the time to appreciate the moment as it occurs. The saunter is the organic antidote to multi tasking, it takes longer, is more fulfilling and wholesome.
When I cycled round India in the 90’s I was reading Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, (the irony of the title didn’t go unnoticed) but also, it was for me, a story of a slower life, something you can certainly relate to as a cyclist. If the stories characters were real they would have lived their little lives during the industrial revolution, a period of mechanism, a new birth in time saving devices. But Gabriel watched his flock, told time by the stars and maintained a simple life.
So as you kit up for your long anticipated journey overland, consider exactly where you want to save time and where it’s best spent because out there in the less developed world time moves at the same pace it always has, the trick is to keep in time with it, you will never catch up, best to slow down.