Lonely Planet Writer

Why does your trip back seem faster than outward journey?

Whether it’s taken by plane, train, automobile or on foot, how come a long journey always seems to go quicker on the way back than on the outbound trip?

Strike causes major luggage delays at Rome airport. Image by Sean MacEntee / CC BY 2.0
Does your flight back always seems to go quicker than your outward journey? Scientists now reveal why we think that is the case. Image by Sean MacEntee / CC BY 2.0 Image by Sean MacEntee / CC BY 2.0

Scientists, noticing the existence of such an apparent phenomenon, felt it might be because of the way our bodies measure and experience the passage of time or maybe it was something to do with our memory sequence, or arguably both.

The LA Times highlights new research by a team in Japan on the latest attempt to solve this time travel mystery. It reports that in the journal PLOS ONE, the academic probe found that the quicker effect of a return journey is created by a person’s memory, and that alone, of their trip to and from a place.

Ryosuke Ozawa from Osaka University says the effect of a journey back isn’t about measuring time itself but depends on a memory of time judgement.

Originally undertaking experiments at Kyoto University, Mr Ozawa and his team used 20 men to watch a number of movies varying in length, filmed by a member who simply kept a camera running at chest level as he walked two different routes.

Ten of the group watched the outwards journey and return leg but as a single route, the other half were given a walking video of two different trips and from two separate places.

Both films last 26 minutes but the 20 people involved had no access to outside measurement of time were then asked to guess how long the trips had taken.

Their answers showed that while experiencing both trips, there seemed little difference in passing time, but afterwards when questioned, they had a stronger feeling that the second leg of the journey felt shorter.

Mr Ozawa said he personally had felt the phenomenon himself which was why he had wanted to know more about it.