On Travel, Time, and (Revisiting) Granada

Wfetishize the offline experience, especially in regard to time. I admit I cherish my film photographs and negative rolls in shoeboxes: a tangible buildup of time. Or recently, during a weekend in Sonoma County, my husband and I stayed in a cottage that had a VCR and two movies on VHS —  I had to stand next to the TV for five minutes — five minutes! — and wait for the tape to rewind.

Pure and precious offline moments, I thought and laughed to myself.

And yes, this fetish is silly. But there’s something to be said about traveling and revisiting a physical place after some time: to experience the strange but pleasurable sensation of going back in time to a past self — naive and incomplete, longing and believing, in awe of the world — by simply sitting in the same exact spot you once did. To linger in a place you discovered years ago — Mirador de San Nicolas at the top of the Albayzin in Granada — and gaze again at the Alhambra from afar, framed this time by snowy mountain peaks, and feel a dose of your past injected into you as the sight of this majestic palace, the sounds of the many guitars plucked in this plaza, and the smiles of the people sipping wine along the top of the wall all fuse to recreate an experience. To mesh the memory you’ve held of Granada with now, with you right there, perched on a stone bench.

These moments under the Andalusian sun of people-watching and observing and thinking are lovely and all, but also a complete mindfuck. My past and present collide here in Granada — just as with any other city I’ve revisited — and they should: I’ve changed. I sit leisurely and absorb everything in front of me, but quickly realize that’s not really what I’m doing. Somehow, I’ve entered a special dimension — that space only accessible in these sorts of moments — where time truly reveals itself. Where time is more than the past, present, and future; and more than here and there and the line that connects them.

* * *

I’m here in Granada with my work team, and one evening the idea of time, physics, and multiple dimensions and universes briefly manifested itself. Online, I’m often confronted by a linear display of time; I think of Facebook’s emphasis on my life’s events placed just so, assigned with dates and slotted onto a line — a “timeline” that ultimately makes no sense when you really think about it, as our lives unfold in much richer and more complex ways. I also think about how I can fabricate time on my iPhone screen, within my Instagram app — how I can manufacture meaning and context, and thus nostalgia, with just a filter, freezing a moment as if glazing and sealing a ceramic vase that’s baked in a kiln.

And then I read stuff like this piece on temporary photography and how Snapchat and its disappearing images are “tiny protests against time.” It’s interesting that we now create things specifically to forget, or to rebel against (our common view of) time, and while part of me finds this contrived, the other part appreciates the idea.

So there are all these things we do to manipulate time and place and space on the web — temporary photographs, audio mashups, video montages, vines mashed together on Vinepeek. A collaborative digital mix of creation and destruction, of playing with time. It’s incredible.

But there’s nothing quite like thinking about time, and building montages of my life, within the headspace of my own mind while traveling — experiencing flashes of emotions and sensations of the past and present in the rawest way, where photo filters don’t exist. Where time is not linear at all.

I’m here for just another few days, still riding atop that special, inexplicable plane, where I’m observant and malleable — remembering moments from my last trip to Granada, but also discarding others for the new ones I’ve created this week. And this process makes me realize that places like this are timeless, and are vaults rich with everyone’s memories.

I thought I wasn’t going to write or post anything here until I returned to San Francisco, but it’s always nice to take advantage of that slim window that surfaces when I travel.

* * *

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

I am an editor at Longreads. For over a decade, I've worked on curation, editing, and storytelling projects across Automattic, including WordPress.com.

38 thoughts on “On Travel, Time, and (Revisiting) Granada

  1. You made it possible for me to visit a place I’ve never been. Vicarious fetish? Great images. Thanks.

  2. Absolutely not silly to make a life of non-online experiences fetishistic. While every experience on and off-line is ultimately processed and “felt” in the brain, the off-line experience often includes more air in the lungs, blood circulating the limbs, and our senses of smell, sight, touch and movement stimulated and kept vital (all of those also being deeply primal venues for instinctive self-preservation). All of that is far preferable to excessive sitting which court sciatica and subtly-torn rotator-cuffs. I’ll take a tour of Granada from you, live, any day over a self-guided online one. Just saying…:)

  3. Great post and fantastic pics. I love Granada, and for me too it is a treasure trove of memories, my own and that of others who have walked in my steps there. It’s intermingling of moments in time where deep turbulent history meets the touristic whimsies of the present day. I have posted and written a lot about Granada recently on my metaphysics blog. A place that in its insular and very mundane nature is special because it hold a piece of me there, like a shadow standing at the foot of the Alhambra waiting for my return.
    Have a great week!

  4. These are fantastic photographs. Really captures Granada’s Moorish history. Been a while since I’ve been there and this makes me want to return soon.

  5. This is a great post. You described Granada perfectly. I live here since 3 years and reading this post was like to walking down these streets. I especially love your pictures, wow!

  6. Your photographs ate stunning but your writing about Granada moved me almost to tears. I was there a few years ago and had a life-changing experience that I have not been able to write about since. You’ve inspired me!

  7. Exactly how did you manage to build this kind of wonderful crowd of commenters to your site?

    1. No secret here…I just write what interests me and stopped paying attention to what anyone else was doing/writing a long time ago. What has resulted is a blog with a pretty loose focus — technology, culture, reading/writing, travel, identity, adulthood — yet pulls in themes and ideas I constantly think about that weave them all together. I love the comments I get on this site, and actually have trouble responding — they are meaningful and ask questions and help to continue the discussion I’ve started and offer fodder for a future post.

  8. Taking photos is an ingrained part of vacationing. People go on vacation to see sights and create memories. However, there is something to be said about enjoying the moment and focusing on capturing memories on video and through photographs. You need to find the right balance between enjoying moments and capturing them.

  9. How do you take photographs and still manage to enjoy the place in the moment? I always find that if I’m visiting a new place, the camera is such a burden; it prevents me from properly experiencing the place for the first time.

  10. This collage… Perhaps part of the discomfort with having ‘settled’ down in one place for a period longer than 90 days comes from missing this. The colors, the square photos, the thrill of being somewhere new or revisiting an old place I had loved. Thank you for sharing Granada with us, and for the phrase “fetishizing online time.” You certainly know how to define our digital and real life experiences with an eye for temporality, guilt, and nostalgia…

  11. This post makes me think of your previous post about memory, where I can’t remember if I commented or not on the complexities of capturing a moment, that there are so many stimuli contributing simultaneously to the experience of even a nanosecond of life, that it is impossible to capture them all with words or photographs. Then you revisit a place, and you see and smell and feel and hear, and you are transported across time, then back again, and you reevaluate everything, and feel weird. Love this post, and these photographs. Beautifully rendered in all respects.

    1. Then you revisit a place, and you see and smell and feel and hear, and you are transported across time, then back again, and you reevaluate everything, and feel weird.

      EXACTLY! Glad that you identified with what I wrote. “We feel weird” — it sounds silly but that’s exactly how it feels . . . sitting there and absorbing and letting time come in and out of you.

  12. Ah, so glad to see a picture of your feet in a new/old place. I have been trying to decide on a next trip…these pictures may have tipped the scale.

    1. Sharon, you really should come here. I loved it the first time, I love it this time, and I want to come back with Nick and linger for a month or two. I’d recommend not in the middle of summer, but not in winter either — May/June or September, perhaps?

      You’ve been traveling recently yourself — look forward to catching up at some point — let us know if you’re up in the bay sometime soon 🙂

      1. I have been to Granada..some time ago, so the timing is right for a revisit. As it is right for a trip north…we’ll talk soon. Burma was beyond words.

  13. No way! I live an hour away from where you are right now. I know that special Albaicin romance so well…the romance began (apparently) before I was born, as my mum never fails to tell me about every year on my birthday…”I was in labour with you in our flat just off Plaza Nueva; it was August; I had ice-cubes in my mouth; we have a tape of Herbie Hancock and Foday Musa Suso [kora musician] playing on a loop; and I gazed out of the window at the Alhambra.” I wonder if I would feel such a connection with the place if my mother had lied and told me I was born in a strip-lit hospital!

    If you happen to have a spare day and want to escape to some mountains, drop me a line! Strange how online life and real life can sometimes brush branches.

    1. Strange how online life and real life can sometimes brush branches.

      Love that line above. Hadn’t had a chance to really look at and respond to comments ’til now, and I’m back in the US. You live in a wonderful region of the world. I plan to return with my husband and linger for a bit!

  14. Wonderful post!

    I’ve spent a lot of moments thinking about time. For me it’s an unending mystery, and lately I’ve come to appreciate how inseparable time and gravity are, and by extension, the sun as well…glad you are enjoying it all! 🙂

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