In-between Places

On TGV Somewhere between Avignon and Paris

Between here and there lie many miles of space. In his book Time-Space Compression: Historical Geographies, American author and professor Barney Warf notes that between 1500AD and 1970AD the speed of travel increased from about 10 mph in a boat to 600 mph in a passenger jet or in his words “the world became 60 times smaller”. For the typical traveller with a two-week vacation, this increase makes feasible travel that previously was not. An 8 hour flight to Europe can be accommodated; 20-day journey is out of the question. If we change how we dimension space from distance to the time it takes to traverse it, we find the world looks very different. For example, it takes about 12 hours and 30 minutes to drive from Toronto Ontario to Fredericton New Brunswick and it takes 12 hours and 50 minutes to fly from Toronto to Dubai. In other words, these two places are essentially the same “distance” away.

Warf observes “As the space between points—the traditional travel space—is destroyed, those points move into each other’s vicinity: one might say that they collide” (p.88). Historically the space in-between has acted as a protective wall creating isolation chambers in which local cultures developed. As the wall of space diminished, more interactions between the inside and outside cultures resulted in a mixing of norms. Whether this is viewed as positive or negative is determined by many factors. The traveller might see the local culture as exotic and authentic; the local people might feel their way of life is being changed beyond recovery.

For the traveller, the objective is found at the destination and the route to get there is a necessary inconvenience and usually something we take little note of. If the traveller has several destinations in mind, the sequence will be optimized to reduce the duration enroute. The in-between is to be managed and tolerated. For the resident, the in-between might be something missed.


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