Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 July 2019
Encompassing one of the richest semiological fields in the English language, ‘time’ is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as ‘the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole’ with the first citation of usage being ‘travel through space and time’. This example clearly opposes spatial and temporal planes with regard to travel, in a schema that normally privileges space over time, as in the words of Michel de Certeau (1984, 115) ‘every story is a travel story – a spatial practice’. Travel writing implies the narrative of a movement or displacement of a being or thing from one place to another, whether near or far. Usually, the time taken to travel is also evoked, and on occasion given special importance in the journal or diary of explorers, or in a race – like Amundsen and Scott to the South Pole (Spufford 1996) or Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).
If time is interpreted as a duration, or continued progress, it can also be considered as the norm, constant or mundane. Travel, on the other hand, is often referred to as ‘time out’, indicating that physical displacement from the usual residence can disrupt mundane time in a Bakhtinian sense, making it carnivalesque, the opposite from the everyday (Curtis and Pajaczkowska 1994, 197). This loop in time can be programmed in different ways according to the desires of the traveller, ranging from the accelerated experience of the package tour through seven European capitals in seven days, to the decelerated option of a Club Med style getaway to Bali, spent on a sun lounger with a cocktail and a book and no plans at all. The recent popular phenomenon of ‘slow’ travel (see slowness) can be inspired by traditional pilgrimages, such as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, which has enjoyed a renaissance among secular as well as religious walkers, as described in Cees Nooteboom's Roads to Santiago (1997) and Tim Moore's Spanish Steps: Travels with My Donkey (2004). Or they can be a personal and social experiment like Rory Stewart's The Places in Between (2004), about his 32-day solo walk across Afghanistan in early 2002 in an attempt to understand the internal relations and politics in a country at war.