I’ve been learning to live my life at a different pace. I’ve been learning to live my life at a pace where trains take their time reaching a particular destination and buildings take their time getting warm and cafes take their time brewing short cups of coffee. At this pace, people sit at tables with the singular and languid purpose of drinking a very small espresso down to the dregs. Of puffing a very thin cigarette to nubbed completion. Of being still within a world with which we will never be able to keep up. Of being humble in the face of this fact. I have become captivated by this life.
And I have glimpsed this life in many places. I have seen it in a vat of mustard yellow sauerkraut at a marketplace in Zagreb. I have seen it from a forgotten lookout point behind a cliffside monastery in Italy where a plaque pays tribute to a beloved mother. I have seen it on the rising tide of an English seaside town in February. At this pace, there is time to be both the most active participant and the most meticulous observer of a world which carries on inevitably around us. I have become captivated by this life because I have never known it.
In comparison and contrast and everything in between, my own life has been comprised primarily of motion. What I have allowed myself of stillness has more closely resembled designated periods of relaxation which will be made up for later in hasty apologies and late nights and caffeine pills. Within the version of life with which I find myself acquainted, it is the obligation - the burden - of the human being to ensure that they are always in the midst of something that that progresses them further. Within this version of life, we organize our days into a sequence of tasks in order to render the day more “done” and less “undone”. We may enjoy these tasks, but we may not. We may choose these tasks, but we may not. These tasks may allow us to gain a deeper connection to the world around us - but likely they don’t. And that’s not really what matters.
Within this version of life, what matters are the measurements. We - my particular breed of human being - feel obligated to measure. To organize. To validate. We measure, organize and weigh the exact value of our actions within each second, hour, calendar year in order to render our lives undeniably valid and valuable and of worth - in our own eyes, in the eyes of others, and in the eyes of those we would like to be looking at us. And while I take no issue with the comfort that comes from measuring out our lives with coffee spoons, I take issue with the fact that we really don’t taste the coffee at all.
What I find gripping about the act of travelling is the opportunity to observe a vast array of ways in which human beings keep time, organize time and structure our actions in accordance with what we believe to be the most valuable use of time. The way in which we structure the finite amount of time we have on this planet is telling of what we believe to be most valuable. More often than not, our lives are shaped by what we have always known life to be. And all that we can know life to be are the ways in which we have seen life being structured around us - according to a system of priorities set up by forces external and often foreign to us. We often take our version of organizing and prioritizing and existing for granted, yet this system of priorities changes depending on the individual, the culture and the society in which we are raised. What we must remember is that the more ways in which we witness life being lived, the more possibilities we come to perceive of our own trajectory upon this planet. In order to choose our lives most freely, the truest justice we can do ourselves is simply to bear witness to the myriad of interpretations and variations in which life - could be - is being - will be - lived.
Since taking on this identity of ‘traveller’, I’ve been learning to live at a different pace. I’ve been learning to live life at a pace where people take their time in moving through their days and pursuits take their time in coming to fruition and the weeks take their time from the sun rising to setting and over again. Life takes its time. People take their time. Time is taken - which makes sense given that time is all we are truly given - and it is taken with a lack of apology. In fact, it doesn’t even seem to occur to time or life or the people who live it that they should feel the need to apologize. I have witnessed this life to be real. I am captivated by this life because I have chosen it. And I chosen this life because I am captivated by it.