Travel Modality and the consciousness of space

This link is to a map that shows London surrounded by concentric circles each standing for two hours. It deforms geography to describe travel time rather than space.

The realization that goes with this is that your consciousness of where you are is likely shaped more by where you can get than by how far away something is. A map like this for your own town might mean more to you than a spatial map, though the spatial map’s relevance won’t change as much as you change position.

I bring this up because of a conversation Steve and I had yesterday, in which he mentioned something which I don’t remember now. What I do remember is what that something reminded me of, which was the impression that I’ve never really felt like I was actually in a place when I travelled there by plane: that is to say, certain modes of travel so remove you from the interceding space that you can’t fully feel as though you’ve travelled. Without a consciousness of having gone a thousand miles, a flight from DC to Iowa City leaves me feeling as though I must be somewhere in Maryland, or else in a place entirely of my own imagining.

The fact that Iowa City is my hometown makes this effect all the more pronounced, in the sense that so little of what I experience when I visit the place now corresponds to the fond impressions that kept me there for 25 years. It’s the sort of eerie alienation that’s captured in the Mike Ness song “Story of my Life”. Just enough of the underlying structure of what I knew remains to haunt me.

But I digress.

My point is, travel modality, and my ability to perceive the passage of space in time determine my ability to understand a place as spatially distinct from wherever I happen to actually consider home.

This has also confirmed for me that DC is home now.

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