I recently got to thinking about time—how it tends to slip through our fingers, how it drags on when we’re looking forward to something, and how my perception of it has changed while traveling. For instance, it feels like we’ve been gone forever, when it’s only been 20 weeks.
That’s enough time to make half a baby. Er, half the amount of time it takes to make a baby (another topic I’ve been thinking about lately, but no need to get into that now!). The old warn the young against wasting their youth, the young are anxious to grow up (spoiler alert: it’s a trap), and those in between wonder where the time went as they rush off to their next obligation. Time can betray us—I turned 26 this year and suddenly have crow’s feet out of nowhere? Rude.
When we were traveling through Europe, time passed quickly because we were moving around every five days or so—it’s long enough to get a feel for a city, but not nearly enough time to really get to know it. It’s a lot like meeting a new person at a party, and either becoming best friends in the bathroom, or being weirded out and avoiding them the rest of the night. Some places we hated to leave, others we found we’d had enough of within our time there. We planned our route on the fly, so every week I was sitting down to research and make arrangements for our next destination. Having only a few days in each place spurred a sense of urgency, and we were out exploring more days than not.
When we got to Florida, the Great Boat Debate made time crawl. Once we finally decided to remain landlubbers, we still had to kill a few weeks in Miami before going to our long-term stay in Panama. It would be ludicrous to complain about hanging around on the beach all day, so I’m not doing that, but we were anxious to settle in and get away from unavoidably expensive hotels and eating out every day.
During our stay in Panama, time became more inconsequential than ever. On several occasions we found that neither of us even knew what day of the week it was. We had no demands on our time, and the only need to look at the clock was when it was too cloudy to tell if we could make it to town and back before sunset. Now, if you’re reading this from your office chair, please don’t curse me just yet. I know what it’s like to count the minutes to Friday, and I know the Sunday evening blues that loom before the workweek. I also know how annoying it is when someone refers to Wednesday as “humpday” but I think we can all admit there is a certain comfort in it. The truth is, all the free time in Panama made me feel kind of wasteful. I’m not yearning for my old soul-sucking 9-5 by any means, but we had time to really get bored…in a good way. We didn’t have internet at the house and we got the kind of bored that facilitates growth: I played my ukulele. I wrote. I read a lot of books. I explored the outdoors a lot. I talked with my husband for hours on end, and we had some really important conversations…we also had a lot of goofy nonsense and laughing, which is every bit as important.
Having now been on both ends of the spectrum, I think I’ve come to understand the importance of time to some degree. It’s been said that time is the great equalizer of man—you can’t buy more, you can’t save it for later, and once it’s gone there’s no getting it back. Musicians sing about it, poets wax on it, and the world’s best-selling Book has a lot to say on the matter. What we spend our time on is important. Who we spend our time on is important. Much too important to squander it waiting for the “perfect tomorrow” in which to do all the cool things we’ve been dreaming of.