Further to a couple of messages I swapped with another blogger this week, it occurred to me that distance and culture as well as geographical location can not only be inhibitors to travel, but they can also be a cause. It struck me that that is a contradiction, but I guess that life is like that.
As an example of what I mean, think about your daily trip to work. How far would you be prepared to drive or go by train to get there? Is that different from the time it takes? For me, I tend to view anything under 2 hours door to door as commutable – so that’s 4 hours every day spent travelling. I don’t really think about the distance, because traffic is a pain these days nearly everywhere you drive during rush hour in the south of England. Do I do that every day? No, and I haven’t for many years!
I knew someone in college who, until the age of 18, had never been to England (12 miles south) and had only been about 15 miles from home north, east and west. His family just didn’t travel, and that was normal for them. He broke the mould, joined the Territorial Army and within a year had been to Germany and Cyprus – as well as England!
But what about holidays? How far would you drive on holiday and still call it “relaxing”? Last month I drove to the Isle of Skye in north west Scotland, with a total journey time of about 12 hours spread over 2 days, and in the course of a week I drove over 1600 miles (about 2500 kilometres) over 8 days. That was all part of the fun of the trip, part of the holiday, so it didn’t seem that bad – but it’s much further than you would do when commuting to work isn’t it? On another trip – as described in my Norway in a Nutshell features – I drove 500 miles (800 km) in less than 5 days, and that was still just part of the holiday.
And what about socially? What’s a reasonable time to spend driving to meet friends of an evening, particularly during the week? An hour? Half that? I spent one summer in Båtsfjord in the far north of Norway and, on arriving “home” after work one afternoon was informed that we were going to visit some distant family for coffee and cakes. That evening. And they were 2.5 hours away. I thought I’d misheard, but we drove for 2.5 hours, had coffee and cakes and an hour later headed for home again. I guess a mitigating factor was that in the winter the roads are mostly impassable and the night is three months long, so you have to take advantage of the midnight sun and visit while you can.
On that same summer in Båtsfjord, we drove 6 hours each way just to have lunch at a place called Hamningberg which was literally at the end of the road. Likewise, a second cousin of mine drove non-stop for 13 hours after work one Friday to come and visit me, then on the Sunday afternoon drove back another 13 hours and went straight to work. Here in the UK we wouldn’t dream of driving so far or for so long for such a short space of time, but in the far north of Norway it’s “normal”, and I guess the same is true in other countries too.
I actually find driving relatively relaxing. I know that traffic jams and other road users bring their own challenges and stresses, but I enjoy the feeling of pressing the accelerator, of changing gears, of seeing the road unfold ahead of me. And at every point, I’m “there”, where life’s choices have determined I’m supposed to be.
You know where you are, when you know where you are.
H – 4 years old