I’ve a secret to share, lean in to me, ear to these lips, listen to this shushed truth:
Time machines exist, time travel is real.
Here’s the rub, dear reader, dear chaser of the light that pools all out across this stunning place, the machines are not H.G. Wells creations, not spinning orbs like Sagan imagined in Contact, they are not DeLoreans powered by Flux Capacitors, and they are not glowing portals or wormholes spun into existence by some human with extraordinary powers, no. Time machines are here, they are all around us, and chances are good you’ve been on one in the last few months or years. Time machines are large, they are cumbersome, they are metallic, and they fly. Time machines are airplanes, time travel, is travel itself, I believe this, and as per usual, I shall expound.
I’ve long believed that travel is one of the most fundamentally important ways to expand our minds, our compassion, and our understanding of the world as a whole. We get so locked into our own routines, our own safe bubbles, that we forget that the way we live is not the way everyone lives, that there exists a million different ways to call a life beautiful. Travel opens that misconception right up, splits it into a kaleidoscope of color, and shows us every single way what we thought we knew, was wrong. Travel, too, actually slows down time, I stand by this. It slows it down to a bizarre crawl at times, in a way only one other thing I know of can do…childhood.
It’s newness, I think, in the end. It’s the newness that’s shared between childhood and real travel. When all things are new, as they are when we’re young, as they are when we jump out beyond the confines of the little world we construct for ourselves, everything feels big, everything feels revelatory, fresh, and larger than life. Time stretches out in these perfect moments, it anchors itself to who you were before the experience, and some far off version of who you’ll be once they have passed. All things slow, all things grow, and in this humbling, we find ourselves more appreciative than ever before. Food tasted different as a child, didn’t it? It does again when we’re tasting some new dish in some new city, so far from home. The lights that pop on one by one in the blue hour, the streetlights that told us of dinnertime as children, seem to glow just a little brighter, seem to carry their own warmth, when we find them in a town we’ve never been to before. We stop, we stare through the warm breath that rises from the middle of us, and we just gape. We feel awe. Time slows, minutes become hours, and then somehow, days become minutes and our trip is so nearly over, we’re back in the airport lines we feel like we just walked through moments before. We’re heading home, but we’re not the same people we were before we left. We’re younger, we’re newer, we’re fresh again. We’re children, aren’t we, little hooligans discovering something magnificent hiding amongst all that mundanity.
Einstein never spoke of this relativity, he never found the formula to explain why, precisely why, time moves so fast when we’re joyous, and so slow when we’re filled with sorrow. I want explanations for how a minute can be a year when we’re waiting on the results for some medical test we’ve been putting off too long, I want it explained with maths and science, for how 17 days can pass in a blink when we’re wandering Scotland with best friends through the crispness of some perfect November.
Maybe someday we’ll understand, maybe some microscope or telescope or gyroscope or some apparatus that doesn't yet exist will come along and find the reasons why everything felt so big, so stretched, so simultaneously ephemeral and eternal when we were kids, and how the only way to recreate that feeling is to strap into a seat 40,000 feet above the ground, drink a little ginger ale, and cross an ocean or two. Or make love, I suppose, for it too has time-twisting abilities that almost nothing else does, but that’s a different Signal Fire for a different day.
I know the environmental impacts of travel and how they are controversial now, I know that each flight is a degradation to the planet, but I’m here to tell you, there are ways to offset this, there are ways to go anyway, to reap the benefits without depleting the earth. Find these ways, pay the extra fees, take the trains once there, share cars, eat less red meat on the trip, buy local, recycle, do the things, pay the prices. Travel is as irreplaceable as making love, as necessary as the lessons we learned when the hours between sunrise and sunset seemed both instantaneous, and like they’e never, ever end when we roamed a neighborhood with bicycles and dirt clods and Kool-Aid mustaches.
Go, even if not far, even if not over seas and mountain ranges, go even if it’s nearby, even if it’s completely unknown. Get on the time machines, believe in time travel, and come home younger. Time doesn’t always follow the rules, sometimes it does whatever it damn well pleases, and the key to this life is being there when it does, getting caught up in the slipstream it creates, carried off in to the sea where nothing needs to make sense, where yesterday is tomorrow, where today is forever.
Go, humble yourself before time and all its machinations. Go.
Travel like childhood
warps our perception of time,
makes all things brand new.