It flies when you’re having fun, it stops when you’re with a loved one, it has the power to heal. There never seems to be enough of it, or on the contrary – we fool ourselves by thinking it will never run out.
I’ve been having an interesting relationship with time recently.
Traveling really messes up your concept of time. Have you ever booked a week-long trip, carefully planned out a million activities to fit into the schedule with all the confidence in the world that you’ll manage it all, only to realise you needed so much more time? You rushed through some things without really giving yourself the time to enjoy them, others you had to skip altogether. That always seems to be the case when traveling – there is never enough time for everything you want to see and do. Compromises are a must.
You see, I do have time. No return ticket, no fixed date, no time limit. But my dilemma is deciding how long I can keep stretching out my traveling timeframes and settling down just that little bit longer each time in certain places before I fall into a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out, that is). But let’s start from the beginning.
When I first started my trip, I was convinced that just under a year was more than enough to cross all of Central America. Staying in just one place for a month seemed like a big commitment cutting out a fair amount of time that I could use to get to know the million other places on my list. I had it all planned out month by month (not too strictly of course, just a rough guide because as much as I love having an idea of what I’m doing in advance, I also hate fixed plans!). And so I started with planning out my first (and biggest) country – Mexico. I knew roughly how much time I’d need to enjoy and get to know the main points of interest for me, including a few longer stays for volunteering and with enough leeway for impromptu changes. According to my plan, by November I would have left Mexico and reached Colombia by my birthday in June. Yet here I am, counting more than 6 months spent in Mexico alone, forced to leave the country just because my tourist visa ran out! The original plan has been revised various times and it’s looking like Colombia will have to wait. At least a good few months.
It’s funny how things change when you find a place that steals your heart and demands you to linger on for much longer than expected. Suddenly a month seems like a week and even 3 months are not enough. Time runs differently when you forget about rushing around ticking off places on your travel list and instead just enjoy living and taking in all that the place has to offer. I knew this could happen to me on my trip but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon!
When I think about all the places I managed to visit in just one month while I was exploring Mexico, it surprises me how I also managed to spend more than 3 months in San Cristóbal – the same city, same place, same hostel, without getting bored or itching to escape and see something new. And here’s the funny part – now that I’m on the road once again, instead of burning to see new places, I’m itching to get back to my beloved San Cris and everything (and everyone) I’ve left there! I am willing to postpone my further travel plans just to spend a few more months in this city.
As I mentioned before, I technically have all the time in the world, so ‘what’s the problem?’, you ask. Well I’m still a traveler at heart with wanderlust rushing through my veins. I am not ready to settle down for a significant amount of time. Not yet. So many countries and new locations to visit, so many experiences to be had – I have ideas for years in advance! So here’s where the FOMO comes in. This irrational fear that if I stay put for much longer, I’ll be running out of time for my further travel plans. But what if I’m too old later? What if I want to start a family and don’t have enough time for destination X or Y? What if I need to stop and settle down for a few years to find a ‘real’ job? What if I never get to see India because I keep postponing it?? Etc, etc… The constant paradox of a traveler – wanting to see everything and all at once.
So I constantly have to remind myself that time is on my side and that there’s absolutely no point in hurrying travels just to tick more places off a list. That’s not why I travel. And that’s why despite everything, deep down in my heart I know I’m happy that my initial timeframes have stretched out and remoulded time and time again. It means I’ve found something special and I’m not about to let that go to waste.
“Time is the biggest distance between two places” (Tennessee Williams). And however much time it takes to cover that distance between where I am and where I want to go next, I will keep letting my heart lead the way on my travels. I hope you do the same, my friends!