Making the long and scenic journey from Canberra to Melbourne via Mt Kosciusko last week, I got to thinking — is there actually a better way to spend time than this?
Well yes, of course there is. But like the rest of the highway-milers around me (one hopes), I still had my clothes on. And with that caveat, the list diminishes.
Why drive when you can fly? Making the trip from Australia’s two biggest cities by air is not only faster than road, but if you get a good fare, cheaper too.
Then you consider the justified and continued railing against the tedium of driving in Australia, with its draconian speed limits and under-trained snoozers at the wheel.
But my time behind the wheel of Australia’s top-selling SUV (the new Mazda CX-5), for many the default family mobile of choice, on the seven-hour each-way drive was borderline blissful despite this.
The modern world is an exhausting place. More and more we live in a surface-level society, a place of instant gratification, a world where the hunger for information, entertainment and stimulation operates at a pace that simply can’t be maintained.
It’s a psychological phenomena of interest to many, this diminution of the attention spans among Digital Natives, a generation to whom I belong. Nobody has any damn time anymore…
Driving is not just a means to an end, but an end in and of itself. Taking time on something, stretching that attention span beyond a soundbite and a click, and actually taking in the world around you, that’s what a long cruise offers.
Alone with friendly voices and my thoughts, it can be a chance to simplify and focus on the task at hand. Cruise control on, hands at the wheel and eyes taking in the scenery. A quiet bubble that is yours and yours alone.
How did I kill my time? I downloaded a bunch of (spare me the irony alert) long-form 90-minute podcasts that I’d been meaning to catch up on, the dulcet tones of my favourite interviewers, educators and comedians filled the cabin, like a friend sitting next to me.
I can’t recommend that enough, the idea of just sitting back and absorbing something in full. The drive back was occupied by an audiobook and with it the reassurance that my attention span can still accommodate such, once its proverbial legs are stretched.
No need to park at an airport, no need for security checks and early starts. Sure I arrived later than the others, but I also arrived on my own terms and in my own time.
I’m realistic, it’s not tenable to drive like this all the time. You can’t spare the hours, and the servicing costs. And I’m privileged to use new cars that aren’t my own on things such as this. I never forget how lucky that makes me.
But from time-to-time, there are few finer things than going for a cruise, burning up the road — well, mildly heating it given our speed limits — and giving your head some space.
Who out there still likes a long drive? Or will the highways of tomorrow belong to me? I’d be happy to hear either answer, truth be told.