Like most Americans, I was always a little confused by the metric system, especially when I traveled overseas.
- How many liters in a gallon?
- Three feet in a what now?
- How many centimeters in a quarter pounder?
But a funny thing happened on a layover in Barcelona last year that changed everything.
I was flying to Ibiza to celebrate the end of my super intense eight-week study abroad program in Firenze. I took like two classes, guys. While I was waiting for the flight this lost (and super rude) German or Dutch guy or whatever asked me where the nearest toilet was.
I took out one of my AirPod Pros©™ and told him it was, “Like, a 100 meters or so that way.”
And in that instant, I became a living god.
Turns out that the only thing standing between me and total cosmic awareness was my weak grasp of the metric system. Who knew?
After my initial shock of using the metric system passed, the world around me started to look…different. Bigger somehow, yet easier to understand? Almost like I didn’t have to learn a complex and arbitrary system of measurement for each individual thing.
If you’ve ever spent a few weeks in Europe, you know what I’m talking about.
With my newly expanded perspective, I watched a plane land on the tarmac three kilometers away and noticed the subtle flecks of green in the pilot’s eyes while I saw each individual dust mote spinning in the air between us.
I slowed my heartbeat like a Sufi mystic and felt every liter of blood in my veins and cubic centiliter of air filling my lungs.
Studying abroad is really life-changing, guys. You should try it.
Reality became my plaything. Time, space, distance, volume, mass, and heat the crayons in my Crayola 64-pack. Once I understood the metric system, I became better, faster, stronger, smarter, more efficient, easier to work with across language barriers, more widely implemented, and increasingly scientifically accurate.
And I finally understood, deep down, that you probably don’t need to wear a jacket when it’s 19°C outside.
Unless you’re one of those people who gets cold right when the sun goes down. Then, yeah, you should probably bring a jacket just in case you stay out late for tapas.
And it didn’t take long for my new powers to grow.
I thought of how it would probably take like, ten times longer for that Flemish dude to walk a kilometer to the bathroom instead of 100 meters, and I stood atop the tallest mountains, breathing the rarified air like an Olympian God.
Clean, round metric units became my ambrosia and decimal points my lightning bolts dividing numbers at will.
Drunk with power, I pictured the breadth of 100,000,000,000,000,000 kilometers and I sat amidst the cauldron of stars at the navel of the galactic center, staring around at my creation. And it was good.
Commas and those tiny little numbers after “10” flashed by in the violent storm of naked atomic energy on my skin. I rode solar winds through the void between the planets and was finally whole for the first time.
But my godhood isn’t limited to mere parsecs. I am a master of all things, both great and small.
I looked inward (which I can totally do now thanks to a long weekend in Amsterdam), and my vision shrunk to nanometers, microns, and finally femtometers.
Yeah. That’s not a made-up word. It’s as real as the ballet of electrons spinning through air grown thick as pea soup with quantum potential.
I wept at the majesty and isolation in every speck of this priceless universe.
It was basically like that scene at the end of Ant-Man, but even more profound because I’ve seen the Tour de Eiffel.
“Le monde est une maîtresse volage de la lumière son distance et de la douleur,” I whispered to no one and everyone all at once.
(Oh, fun fact: Once you learn the metric system you can speak French. I don’t know why exactly, but it’s worth pointing out.)
The stories are true, guys. Traveling overseas totally broadens your perspective.
If you have the time, you should borrow some money from your parents, take a few years off, and book some Airbnb’s to soak up the culture. You’ll be surprised at what happens.
Maybe you’ll learn enough of another language to order food. Maybe you’ll have an intense yet meaningless sexual relationship based solely on someone’s accent.
Or maybe you’ll gain immortal powers over life and death.
Travel is really what you make of it.
Shawn Forno is a freelance travel writer, blogger, content manager, and poet. He enjoys writing about himself in the third-person. This is his first satire.
Or is it?