The Tempo of Travel

Leading up to your travels, your departure date is ingrained in your memory like an over-rehearsed show. You can’t accelerate quick enough to play through the grounded days separating you from your final bow. Years later, you may even be able to recall the exact date of your first travel matinee.

Once you step onto the stage of a new country, however, something happens. You lose all sense of universal rhythm. You become rusty to what year it is, let alone the day. You forget the dedication to following a precise schedule. You forget the pattern of meals. You forget the beat of routine.

When clarity finally happens, it is as though you wiped clean the music sheets and began to free-form your hours like a skilled musician. You can create whatever melody you want.

When you drum down the stairs in your hostel, there is a hush from the people who are patiently waiting for their adventures to begin. You can sense them staring at you with anticipation. Perhaps you’re a bit nervous too since you have never stood alone before, in front of such openness. The curtains part as you make your way towards the streets. You assess the situation; at first, timidly, and then you begin to warm up. You pick a focal point on the city map and conduct yourself in the direction you deem right. You scan nature’s ensemble around you, momentarily breaking eye contact to look up. The tarnished peaks of buildings flow seamlessly into the clear, pure sky. The clicking of the electrical tram wires overhead, collide with the vibrant ring of church bells. Choppy tourists blend with steady locals. The thrilling atmospherics of soaking in a new city revitalizes you. Uncertainty comforts you. You are confident and your momentum gathers.

When you enter a bar you hear the intense swirls of conversation around you. The jagged lines of foreign melodies are smoothed by the familiar note of laughter. The rigid, wooden chairs clash with the aged floor as people orchestrate their seating arrangements. The regular rhythm of the passing hours is composed of the number of empty glasses at your table. When the rambunctious chatter subsides or exhaustion weighs you down, that is your indication to call it a night.

You are so immersed in the new piece, that you are oblivious to the calendar days passing. Your schedule is determined by the do re mi of all the sites you have left to see- by how many experiences you wish to perform. Exploring fills up your hours like a deep breath. The soft wind is lyrical as it blows through the instrumental trees. The leaves subconsciously, effortlessly move to hit the perfectly light chords. You put these breezy days on repeat.

You know by heart the disjointed taps of high heels on cobblestone. The crescendo of rain above you as you huddle in a metro station. The distant talent of street performers practising under a dock. You have remastered the art of time and done it with great elegance.

The stable adventure loop entrances you— until it abruptly stops. There are sparse reminders that time still moves forward. They rise up and strike like a sharp, out-of-tune sound. Best before dates on that newly bought milk carton, closed on Sunday signs when you try to buy a six-pack, insignificant numbers on a restaurant receipt.

The cadence of travel days. The day you move on to another unfamiliar challenge. You cross-check the date and have the time memorized. The recitals have come and gone- now this is your moment to shine. Everything centres around that pivotal time stamp printed on your ticket.

In the station, you fluidly wave through the steady pulse of whispers and murmurs like a baton through the air. A progression of people sways through the station with all the time in the world, while you start your heavy, thunderous dash. Catching the whenever to where ever is your only concern for the day. Need to pee? Hold it. Hungry? That’s nice. Not being able to shower made you sticky and uncomfortable? Tell me all about it. You have moments while others have millennia. Your backpack strums the arms of onlookers. Your eyes pluck every clock in sight. Your heartbeat crescendo demands attention. The precision of your steps, and the smoothness of your movements, leaves even you in awe!

Climatically, the jolt of the train forward is the signal for time to mean nothing once again. For the next hours, all you hear is the gentle stepwise motion of wheels on the tracks.

You are in love with your life’s musical score and it never has to fade out.

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