The Relative Future

17, 15, 13, 10, 9.75, 8, 7, 6, 1 hours ahead of Washington DC.

I literally spent the entirety of this trip in the future, living on a plane of time that home could never quite catch up to. I’ve always found the concept of time zones fascinating. They exist to provide common ground for people; to make sure the sun rises in the AM and sets in the PM. It means we all may be on different times, but it also means that we share the approximate same experience of a day.

I went on this trip because I wanted to see the world, because I wanted to see what I hadn’t seen. I went on this trip to see if I could adjust what makes me comfortable, to see if I could live on the road for five weeks. I went on this trip because I wanted to see how the world works.

I don’t want to act like I now know how the world works, that I’ve got it all figured out. But at the same time I saw flashes of how people work, glimpses of a universal human experience. We all worry about the same things, we all find the same things funny, we all have different tastes in food, in culture, in books, in music, in movies, in TV. Nothing changes those things, but how we perceive it is shaped by the context of how we live.

That’s the true fear of homogenization. It’s not that we don’t all find the same things funny, it’s that there’s only one joke that we all laugh at. Not that we don’t all find solace in music, but that there’s only one song we listen to. Not that we don’t all have a word for “hello”, but that that word is always the same. Some may see this softening of cultural differences as good, as all of us getting closer together. From what I’ve seen we already share the experience that matters; what colors us, what makes us different, adds spice to human existence.

So I went on this trip to confirm this. I suspected it was true, but I needed to collect evidence. I thought I knew it, but I needed to see it. What I found was that it’s not really a matter of confirming anything, rather it’s a matter of just letting these things be. Observing and acknowledging rather than categorizing and confirming.

I can’t pretend like I know this is true, but at least I have a better idea that it is. According to a clock, I spent the entirety of this trip living in the future, but according to what I experienced the sun still rose in the AM and the sun still set in the PM. Life and how we live it isn’t a matter of differences, it’s a matter of similarities. We all may live in the future or the past relative to each other, but when it comes to a shared human experience, the sun still rises in the morning and sets in the evening.

Jordon Wadlington @jordon