I’ve written in the past about the way our motive for travelling will have a bearing on our perception and experience of the journey itself.
We only have to find ourselves late for a meeting on the other side of town to sense the world around us disappearing in a blur.
It would be tempting to think of this as an urban phenomenon, but it applies across landscapes, cultures and history. When describing the journeys of the San in his paper, “Orientation in the Wild: The Shared Cognition of Hai||om Bushpeople”, Prof. Thomas Widlok puts it well :
“In most cases it is a matter, not primarily of getting somewhere geographically, but of getting somewhere socially, in that one attempts to meet a certain person, to collect a certain fruit or do a certain job.”
Imagine that you are undertaking a journey, having been given the unsavoury job of meeting someone to demand that they return some stolen fruit. The way the grasses have been shaped into a compass by the wind will only add a certain amount to that experience.
But if we are leaving a country and suspect that we will never see the same landscape again, we are likely to find a higher level of inquisitiveness. And since every landscape changes from minute to minute, let alone day to day, we never see the same one twice so that is always the case.
We can’t always choose the reasons for our journeys, but we can be aware how they will shape our levels of perception.
And this then allows us that perverse satisfaction of being aware how unaware we have been. I experience it regularly, perhaps daydreaming on a train about some minor excitement at my destination, I become oblivious as a fast flowing stream of delightful landscapes slips past me without troubling my senses or mind in the slightest (or in the case of Southern Rail, a staccato series of lingering landscapes). But then I become conscious of how unaware I’ve been, which is something. At least when we clock ourselves doing this we have become aware that we’ve missed something. A thought that is unlikely to navigate its way past the bass to between the bleeding ears of the youthful train traveller. (And whilst I’m in that groove, don’t policemen look young these days?)
This conscious unawareness reminds me of the line in that great film, Point Break (the 1991 original, don’t talk to me about the 2015 remake, I will get a red mist and lose sense of everything). This is the line I often imagine the forty-something me telling the twenty-something me as I rushed around like a fool:
“You know nothing. In fact, you know less than nothing. If you knew that you knew nothing, then that would be something, but you don’t.”
We might not have got on very well, initially.