Time is an interesting and equally unnerving concept, at least to me. It’s unnerving because our life is finite. At some point, it ends. Time also appears to speed up the older we get. Have you ever experienced that?
I was reading a blog post today and it got me thinking about how time is experienced – how it changes as we age and how it’s directly related to travel. I’ll get to that, but first, what makes time seem faster?
Our perception. According to The Washington Post, “the apparent length of a period of time is proportional to our life span itself.” One year to a 25-year-old is 4% of the life they’ve lived so far. Whereas to a 40-year-old one year is 2.5%. To an 80-year-old, one year feels comparatively short, being a mere 1.25% of the life they’ve lived so far.
Pretty simple, however there’s more to the picture. Time also appears to speed up when life becomes familiar, when you embrace routine.
As familiarity is less exciting, you’re less likely to remember it. Familiar events tend to merge into each other, forming one big, insignificant snowball that speeds towards oblivion. Can you remember what you did last Monday? Do you remember the details of your first trip to Europe?
It’s also easier to encounter new things when you’re younger, because you have less life experience. You’re a fawn in the forest of life. You also have less responsibility (usually), so you’re freer to try different things. When you are older you have experienced more, so of course you’re less likely to experience something new. You’ve also typically got more responsibility and you are immersed in a routine with familiar surroundings.
How to slow down your experience of time
Much of my life hasn’t felt like it’s gone by particularly fast and my friends know me as having a strange concept of time. I often get months confused with weeks. Have you ever felt that way? Perhaps because you travel. If not, try it yourself. Step out your door and go somewhere new, even if it’s just that unexplored lane you pass by everyday. Try new things, taste different food, regularly.
If you don’t have the means, just change things up that bit more than you have been. Make a conscious effort (again, regularly) and experience how your perception of time changes. I travelled for eight years continuously during my 20s. Upon returning, I talked to friends the same age who thought the time since we’d last met had flown by. To me it seemed lifetimes ago.
Other ways to slow down time
We can also slow down our perception of time through paying more attention to the present, by being mindful. Although this is something I’m yet to explore properly. Interestingly, researchers have long shown we experience time slowing down when our body temperature is higher, which got me thinking:
Perhaps I’ll move to the equatorial regions and rename this blog ‘The Tropical Traveller’ and stretch the next 45 years or so of my life out considerably. Although this seems unlikely given I’ll be spending lots of time in Tasmania soon. I’m hoping the incredible variety on this island will balance out the fact that it’s cold, and my time there will be stretched out like a colossal blimp.
What about you? Does time appear to speed up as you get older? Does it seem slower when you’re travelling/experiencing new things?