Nineteen weeks so far; it has been the longest stretch I have been away from home. And I still have a ways to go: apart from a three week pit stop at home in late August, I will go on travelling until February 2015. People ask me if time flies by, or, alternatively, if it feels like I have been gone forever. I honestly don’t know how to answer that question. Time has morphed into something fluid; it is a concept that no longer applies to me. Travelling the world has become a life apart with a rhythm of its own, although my “old life” travels with me always: it contains my friends, my family, my history and my future.
At home I live by my diary, the days of the week scribbled full with appointments, to-do’s and possible activities. I love calendars, especially those on which I can meticulously map out my hours. I like it that way; it gives me structure and a sense of control. Friends and I set dates for weeks ahead; we all have busy schedules. However, ever since I left home I feel like I have been moving in one fluent motion in which planning ahead hardly plays a role. Of course, I have to book the occasional trip in advance, but even that goes pretty much at random. I hardly ever know which day of the week it is, nor do I feel like weeks, days or hours are separate units. Time and the passing of it belong to the life I had, whereas now all that exists is me, free of time.
The year’s seasons, always an obedient servant of time (or are they its master, the very thing itself?), have played their part in dismantling my sense of it. I traded my Dutch winter in for a late Argentinean summer, I hit winter again in Bolivia and most of Peru (having to buy a scarf, gloves and hat), then found humid, summer-like heat in the Amazon. From there I moved back to spring in Seattle and onwards to an undefinable mixture of heat and cold (and thunderstorms) in Iowa. I have needed my jeans and woolen vest as much as my shorts and camisole. Now I am in the high plains of Colorado, and it is summer alright. My year does not proceed in a winter – spring – summer – fall sequence. After this summer I move on to warm weather in Malawi, and yet to more summer in South Africa. For once, this Dutch girl feels like the master of her seasons.
The length of this trip gives me incredible freedom. Some days go by in a breeze, on others it feels like I live 3-in-1, but never do I feel pressured by time running out. It is amazing what you can do with time: I have covered magnificent distances in a matter of hours (just board a bus, drive it through the night and emerge at another compass point) and, on the contrary, have stayed for days or weeks in one place. I have learned it takes four hours to climb from 3800 meters to a dizzying 5000 and hear the ice crackle in the Peruvian mountains. Yet it took me many days to realise that in these few hours I pushed through my limit and that this I can do again, at any time.