The Opulence of Time

North Beach, Orcas Island. 5 August 2022. Camera: Olympus XA2/Film: Fujicolor 100

Stasia over at Carfree Rambles finished up a coast-to-coast (and Portland-to-Portland!) tour with her partner a little while ago. Like many folks who go on a big adventure like this, she’s found the readjustment to “real life” a bit tough. In her latest post, she remarks about how real life in the Western World is all about schedule, but on a long tour one can experience “time opulence”. As she describes it:

…the sense of being fully present in every moment, not feeling like I have to get ready for the next thing or worrying if I’ll finish something in time. The sense that what I’m currently doing is what I should be doing, and that I don’t have to worry about the next thing until I get there. That time is something that stretches unimpeded into my horizon and I will have enough of it, without having to wrestle it into a schedule to make sure it all gets done.

I’ve definitely had this feeling on my longer tours. Basically once I hit about five days out, my life on my bike becomes the only life I know. What’s happening at home is a vague recollection, and I don’t have any “goals” besides riding and seeing what’s around the corner. Sure, I might have ideas about where to stop for the night and maybe a vague notion about what the next few days might look like. But I couldn’t be able to tell you where I’ll be 12 days from now. I’ll know a little better by Day 9, but that’s um, many days from now.

There’s this sense of freedom I relish. There is no structure to my days beyond getting up and seeing how far I can go. There may be a few wrinkles here and there, like if I know a small-town store closes at a certain point and I want to get there by then. But there’s no regiment to my day, no certain order that things have to be, at certain times. What’s important is the now.

Of course, not all my tours are like this. My shorter tours, those around a week or less, usually have a more defined itinerary due to the compressed timeframe. And on a long tour, sometimes I may have to be done by a certain date, so as the deadline nears the pressure is on to make time. But on The Big Tour in 2011, there was no hard end-time, just “sometime in the fall”. And the route had a lot of make it up as I go along. At the beginning I tried to have an idea of where I’d be by a certain date, but as we kept on “falling behind”, I pretty much gave up that idea. I’d rather have the luxury of spending a week in Edmonton to recharge the batteries than not. I’m impressed with those who do long tours with a rigid itinerary, but I admire them from a distance.

When you’re in the time opulence mode, it’s amusing and a bit irritating to run up against the Western World’s idea of “regimented schedule” again. This often happened when we’d stay with friends or Warmshowers hosts. They’d want “an idea” of what time we’d arrive to their house. How the hell am I supposed to know that? We’ve never been here before! The day could be a lot harder than anticipated, a mechanical can occur, or maybe we just wanted to linger at that coffee shop or beside a lake a bit longer than we thought. Or a small town, before just a dot on the map, presented itself to be a lot more interesting than we thought and we wanted to explore it for a few hours. While I did appreciate the bed under a roof an often a meal from the host, ending the night at a campground was often less stressful–we didn’t have to worry about someone waiting for us for dinner.

The whole time opulence thing is probably why some folks go on those never ending round-the-world trips–you’ll never have a schedule, and right now is your real life, indefinitely. I can see how that feeling can become intoxicating. But I felt like being out for over four months was enough–I was longing for the stability of a permanent home again, and being around friends and familiar things.

But after eleven years since The Big Tour, the itch to do another big adventure and live life on the road indefinitely returns. It probably won’t be as long as that one, maybe a couple months, a decent amount to achieve that time opulent feeling again. It wouldn’t be next year or the one after that. I’m thinking right after my 50th birthday, which seems like an appropriate way to celebrate the half-century milestone. Starting in the summer of 2026 would put it at the tail end of my 50th year, and it’d be fifteen years after The Big Tour as well. I definitely want to put more time into the planning of a big trip–I didn’t really get the idea for The Big Tour until very late in 2010. At that point in my life I had a lot of pent-up energy and it felt like a “now or never” type of thing. I know that a lot can change in three or four years, so here’s hoping I keep motivated towards the goal.

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One thought on “The Opulence of Time

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  1. awww ❤ I love this follow-up to the comments I saw first on my blog:) We definitely met some people while we were traveling who'd planned their whole trips out (mostly around the places they were going to stay each night), and every time I would admire how much preplanning they'd done and also know I had absolutely zero desire to travel (or plan) that way. Ha! Like you said, how do you know what a place is going to be like until you get there? I mean, neither of us had ever been to most of these states as adults, and we had noooo idea what we would find, what we would like, where we would want to go. I liked having the space to make it up as we went (while also loosely tracking whether we were going to make it in time;)

    Anyway. I think a 50th birthday tour is great:) Especially so because it has the auspicious 15-year-anniversary of your last big tour thing going:) This was kind of a 40th birthday tour for James. Maybe we'll do another one for 50 too, heh.

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