Finding the familiar in every time zone

April 22nd, 2014, 9am

I woke up confused. I lay still for a few moments as my mind went into free-fall; a mild panic setting in as it reached out in all directions for some straw of reality to grab onto. The first solid thought appeared as a recognition of how familiar the confusion felt. “Yes,” I realized, “this is jet lag — I must be in a different country.” From there I took my time to connect the dots. I arrived yesterday. I’m here for a conference. Here is the UK — more specifically, Newcastle upon Tyne in Northern England.

I relaxed a tiny bit. Still a bit shaky, but feeling better now that I at least knew where I was.

We all know that feeling that comes with traveling across time zones. The constant mild nausea. The broken sleep patterns. The 3pm slump that hits you like a freight train. Those things are all inconvenient, but manageable. It’s that “not knowing where I am” bit that frightens me so. I can’t stop thinking about the sci-fi quality of what I felt when I woke up this morning. Disconnected from place, adrift in space — all alone, no solid ground in sight, nothing to attach to. It’s enough to make me want to stop traveling altogether. I never want to feel that way again.

Despite our ability to live and work anywhere and at any time, the importance of physical space will never go away. If we don’t know where we are, we can’t function. That’s why all the travel I’ve been doing makes me so uncomfortable. My sense of place keeps changing, and with it my ability to stay grounded in reality. So I find ways to adapt, to fake my mind into thinking this is all normal. I look for familiar spaces wherever I go. Today it’s Pink Lane Coffee that finally settled my stomach as I sat here working for the past couple of hours. The accents might be different, but the culture is something I know and can grab hold of. Today, this is the place that brought me back to reality.

Familiarity breeds content.

So-Shan, Cassie, clive, Adrian and 2 others said thanks.

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Rian van der Merwe

Family, design, coffee, and Oxford commas. On Twitter:

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