The distance of time

My return visit to Copenhagen is at an end and, after a 24 hour stop-off in England, I’ll be on my way back home to Canberra very shortly.

Being back among familiar faces and places has been simultaneously fun, exhausting, repetitive and like I’ve never been away. But being here has also taught me something about why it’s hard to be away from our former home.

Until now, I had always focused on the distance between us – since we moved, there’s been something like 15,000 kilometres between us and our family and friends. But now I see it from the other side of that space, I see that it’s not the distance that makes things hard at all, it’s the time.

A wall clock with Copenhagen, Denmark written underneath.

An expat life often means keeping a constant eye on time differences.

Several times this week, I’ve picked up the phone to a friend, to my mum, to my in-laws, because something has happened, or I’ve thought of something, or seen something, or experienced something and I wanted to share it.

The immediacy of that luxury has been missing for much of the past three months because when something happens in Canberra, it’s usually the middle of the night in London or Copenhagen, and vice versa. So, while I’ve spent this week making many an impromptu call to suggest a coffee, or share a joke, or just to say “thanks for last night”, contact with my wife and kids back in Canberra has been much more difficult and has been confined to the outer margins of the day and night.

Of course, this means that often, the spontaneity of the day’s events has dissipated and the excitement of an encounter or a story has been dulled by the 12-hour embargo forced onto it. And that’s the real distance between where we were and where we are, not the miles but access to each other’s lives, which is why this return trip has been so welcome and so invigorating.

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