Why Does The Return Trip Seem Shorter Than The Actual Journey?

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Whenever you go on a road trip, have you ever felt that it takes you lesser time to return home than it took to reach the destination even though both these trips were equidistant? Mind-boggling, isn’t it? Do you enter a time warp zone when you are headed back or are you too exhausted that it makes even time fly by? Whatever it is, science gotta explain it.

It is interesting how we keep asking the designated driver for the road trip ‘Are we there yet?’ time and again. There is something about the sense of time. It could be the feeling of fear, awe, or excitement that makes the journey first time feel longer. It is the familiarity of the route why a return trip feels shorter.

Here are a couple of valid hypotheses given by scientists to prove why the return trip seems shorter.

1. Oh, the anticipation!

van parked beside the road near handrail and ocean
Photo by gya den on Pexels.com

Maybe it is not about the feeling that the return trip seems shorter. Maybe it is the anticipation during the first time which makes the journey longer. You are not familiar with the route, and hence, you don’t know what to expect the first time. But when you are returning back, the familiarity makes the return trip seems shorter.

Scientists conducted an experiment to prove this hypothesis right. They brought students in a lab room and then took them down to the puzzle room. Half of them were told what they’d be expecting and the other half were kept in dark. When they asked students who had been kept in dark, they said that the initial trip seemed longer.

Also Read: How Long Can Food Last In The Refrigerator Without Power?


2. Overestimation

woman and man riding on motorcycle
Photo by Ajay Donga on Pexels.com

It is not that the return trip seems shorter, it is actually the overestimation of time taken to get to a destination. It is because we are so excited about the trip and want to arrive at the destination as soon as possible. We make blunders and overestimate things while calculating the time to reach only to be disappointed in the end. So, when we start our return journey, we underestimate the time to reach as learned from the experience. This is why even the equidistant trip seems shorter when returning.

Also Read: How To Create The Perfect Travel Itinerary For A Perfect Vacation

The brain is a complex organ. It can make you think all sorts of things, even things like return trip seeming short. Anyhoo, you have the answer know. Use this little trivia to boast in front of your friends or family on your next road trip.


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