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The Mobile Lawyer -- One Lap, No Jetlag: Quirks of Travel Time

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Quirks of Travel Time

I like odd things. Oddities are one of the big reason I love travel as much as I do. Strange food. Unusual places. Different cultures. Things that work differently than back home. Things that don't work at all. New sports to enjoy.

It is, for the most part, the differences that make me smile most days. That keep me on my toes. They are one of the main reasons I want to travel indefinately and see how much of everything I can see, with the time I've got.

One unexpected oddity was time. You would think that amongst all the newness and uncertainty involved in world travel that time would remain a constant that you could rely on. Not so fast, Madam.

Here are some of the time travel weirdness that I found on my trip:

(1) China is one entire time zone, from one end of the country to another. I'll try to place this in perspective for those of you that haven't been there. China is big. Really big. It is the third largest country in the world. It is hard to get exact distances from the websites I've seen, but from east to west, it is basically the same size as the continental United States.

Imagine working and living in Los Angeles. You need to be at work at 8 a.m. Except 8 a.m. is now essentially three hours earlier -- a couple hours before sunrise. That's what you would have to put up with if you lived in Western China.

(2) All train schedules in Russia operate on Moscow time. This is one that inevitably trips up a traveler or two taking the Trans-Siberian railroad. You get off the train in Irkutsk to stay a couple days there. Your train ticket says that the train leaves on Tuesday at two in the afternoon. Except that is two in the afternoon in Moscow -- where you are now, that is seven in the evening. If you train ticket says you get in at 9 p.m. and you think you are going to find a hostel to stay in that evening when you arrive -- it's really 2 a.m. local time when you get in.

Going into the various train stations is one of the more odd experiences with time you have anywhere. You might have just come from a bar, where the clocks on the wall say one thing, but when you get to the station, all the clocks in there are on Moscow time. Walking through the doors is walking into a mini-time machine.

And FYI -- Russia has nine time zones.

(3) North/South time zone changes. I realize there are a few places in the States where you can go north/south and change a time zone (for instance going from El Paso north to New Mexico), but I still find it odd to move forward or back in time when not moving east or west.

The bus going south from Peru to Chile was my best example on this trip. When we crossed the border, we moved forward not just one, but two hours. I almost got jet lag.

(4) Half-time zones. There seems to be a reason for some of these various time oddities, but this one completely baffles me. There are a variety of places around the world where you only jump a half-hour when you cross over a time zone. No idea why this is the case, but think about how that affects things like national television programing and the like. Makes no sense to me, but I ran into it in the middle of Australia.

Would love to hear some of your stories about oddities in time on the road.

From Uluru and area


Totally forgot time oddity (5) - the International Date Line. As most of you know, I crossed the Pacific by ocean freighter, so the time line was particularly interesting. I didn't just fly over it quickly, we crossed it slowly and then I... had my second chance at March 28, 2010. I had two full, twenty-four hour March 28ths this year.

On March 28th, first try, the highlight was watching The Godfather, Part I. You can imagine that the highlight of March 28th, second try, was going to be The Godfather, Part II, which I did watch, but the memorable part of that day was actually busting my head open and making my one and only trip to the boat hospital. It wasn't a big deal, but I found it somehow appropriate that I got a little punishment for being totally unproductive twice... on the same day.

Thanks Amanda for the reminder!


At July 14, 2010 at 2:43 PM , Anonymous Amanda said...

I think the weirdest thing I've run across while traveling has been the whole losing/gaining a day when you cross over the International Date Line. Flying to New Zealand, for example, I completely skipped a day. July 6 did not exist for me in 2008. When you think about it, it's crazy. A day literally just disappeared. Going back the other way, however, I landed in L.A. just a few hours after my departure time from Wellington. Time is weird.

At July 14, 2010 at 2:47 PM , Blogger SoloTraveler said...

Damn it!! Forgot that one. Am going to now edit this blog and add point #5. SOOOOO many thanks -- totally stealing the idea back from you Amanda.

At July 14, 2010 at 8:58 PM , Anonymous Amanda said...

Haha, no worries! Steal away; it's definitely an odd element of travel worth mentioning!

At July 16, 2010 at 12:42 PM , Anonymous Jess Marsden said...

In China's defense, in the farthest west province of Xinjiang, there is an informal "local time" for everything but planes and trains. But I totally agree about the confusion produced by Moscow time on the Trans-Siberian -- it can easily mess with your planning if you're not careful.

At July 16, 2010 at 3:59 PM , Anonymous Suzy said...

What an interesting post. It makes you feel that time is just an invention with the difficulties in marking passages of time. I have had to a travel back in time when I went to Hawaii. It was the worst jet lag I have ever had, and it's only 4 hours behind Denver. It's strange to think you have lived days longer or shorter though while traveling. Not really pertaining to time, but up in Scandinavian this summer with the constant sunshine, it was disorienting to sleep when the sun was still out at 3AM. Love that you had two March 28th! not many people can say that.

At July 18, 2010 at 5:34 PM , Blogger Kaylin said...

I had a similar experience with the International date line. Completely missed June 7, 2009 (got on the plane in LA @ 11:30pm Pacific time June 6 and arrived in Fiji June 8 5:10am) but had two July 24's coming home. It's... very strange. My mom also found it very confusing when I'd talked to her on the phone and say, "Yes, tomorrow we are going to the school to do blah blah" "Tomorrow's sunday! School isn't open then." "NO, mom, tomorrow here is Monday..."

At July 19, 2010 at 12:49 AM , Anonymous Andrew said...

Spain to England is another one of those North/South oddities. Being on the train back to Germany was fun, cause the Sun moves but not the clock.

At July 19, 2010 at 12:27 PM , Anonymous Trans-Americas Journey said...

As you mentioned, there are a few countries out there that shake things up (confuse things) half hour time change. However, to be extra contrary, Nepal goes for the 45 minute confusion (+5:45 UTC)


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