Early mornings are the worst. I move the awakening until the last moment and start taking care of morning routines in a big hurry and run to the bus stop. Usually, I don’t have time to drink my morning coffee, but I pour some into my travel mug and sip it during the trip. Steam is rising from my mug and the sun is rising behind the bus window. Morning mist is covering the fields of Sipoo, where straw bales are always nicely lined up. Suddenly, all my problems seem very far away and I feel terribly happy.
At first I thought that the bus trips from Helsinki to Porvoo Campus will be a boring daily burden. However, it turned out just the opposite and these bus trips became the resting place of my mind. In the middle of this hurry I have received own space, time and tranquillity. I can read a book, watch the scenery, or just sink into my thoughts. Commuting time can be a little bit of luxury and at best a creative space where ideas spring.
French anthropologist Marc Augé has created the concept of non-place, by which he means a place that has no history, or the nature of own identity. According Augé, the non-places are particularly transport and consumption places. Also he describes the artificial built super-modern environments as non-places. He probably means by that the theme parks, chain restaurants, gas stations and in general the so called copied environments.
Augé’s theory suggests at least between the lines that these commuting and waiting places do not deserve the name of the place, as they do not have the real value of life compared to the so called right places, which is according to his theory the urban culture. Non-places are devoid of history, identity or cultural value. Non-place is aptly described in the sentence: I could be anywhere.
I am a little skeptical about the theory of places and non-places. Cultural values are very hard to define. For us who enjoy traveling, the idea of travel and the atmosphere of departure sanctify the place and lift it above the everyday life. In some situations I think exactly the opposite about Augé’s definition of the non-place. A person’s own experience makes a place “the place”, and waiting is just the key word to the uniqueness of the experience.
I asked a few friend of mine opinions of places, spaces and time, which can rise you above the everyday and maybe offer a flow-type experience. One mentioned airports, hotel lobbies or waiting rooms, where you are intermediate space, half on the road. Other one loves the Helsinki railway station. The train station architecture, people bustle and scent of coffee and cinnamon bun makes her feel that she is in the middle of something special.
What kind of thoughts commuting arouse in you? Is it irritating or can it be enjoyable? Do you enjoy the airports, stations and hotel lobbies?