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November 7, 2011 / bikesbytesbites

Long Distance Travel

During my recent trip to Australia and the jet lag following my return home, I found myself thinking about William Gibson.

William Gibson  is not known as a travel writer.  However,  his book Pattern Recognition contains two of the most astute observations on long distance travel and visits to foreign countries that I’ve come across.

The first is the concept of “soul lag”  as a better description of “jet lag”.  That is, you may have arrived at your destination, but your soul is lagging behind you in the ether, tethered to you by an invisible rope and slowly being reeled in, until it catches up and you are whole again.  I had previously thought of this as simply a severe lack of bio-feedback (that is, your brain can command your feet to walk, you see yourself walking, but it doesn’t feel like you’re walking), but “soul lag” is so much better.

The second is the concept of “mirror world”; that is, you expect the place you’re visiting to be like the place you came from, except there are minor, jarring discrepancies, as if things were refracted, rather than reflected accurately, in a mirror. Two obvious differences, for example, between the US and Australia or the UK, are different electrical plugs and different rings for phones.  But another glaring mirror world difference is the way things are packaged — the English system of measurements vs. the metric system.  So, in the US I can go to a grocery or liquor store and buy a six-pack of beer, each can containing 12 ounces.  In the UK I go to a store and buy a four-pack, since each can is bigger and contains some fraction of a litre.  So, an outstanding question for me is:  What is the British English equivalent of “six-pack abs”?

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