In a small town named Sommarøy (or “Summer Island,”) in Northern Norway, night and day don’t follow the traditional rules. For a solid 3 months in the summer, the sun doesn’t set. For another 3 months during the winter season, it doesn’t rise. Living like this where the daylight doesn’t give any indication of the time can be frustrating or freeing, depending on how you look at it. This small town sees it as the latter and wants to push for its freedom from the constraints of traditional time. Sommarøy wants to officially become the first time-free zone in the world. If you find this as intriguing as we do, we’ve got the details on this unique little town and their unusual request.
Why are Norwegians pushing for this change?
The people of Sommarøy have a different concept of time than most folks. Typically, daytime equals sunlight and productivity and night translates to darkness and slumber. Because the residents of this town don’t have the daily reminder of the sun (or the moon), they want to abolish the times that come with it altogether. While the petition presented to Parliament outlining the abolition of time was lacking details, residents are hopeful that this change will allow them to live more freely and create better, more flexible schedules. Schools could have adjustable hours, shops could be open at times that are convenient to the owner and people could feel free to mow the lawn at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.
What is a “time-free” zone?
Since this is the first potential instance of such a zone, it’s hard to quantify what it would entail. The town essentially just wants to formalize what they’ve been practicing for generations. People currently go swimming at 1 in the morning or head to the office at 3 a.m. Getting the blessing from Parliament just signifies that there is nothing wrong with how the townspeople are living.
Who will it affect and how?
If the bill passes, only the 300 or so residents of Sommarøy would be affected by the change. These inhabitants have already abolished time in their own way (represented by the bridge leading to the mainland covered in old watches), so not much would really change for the people who currently live there. The residents also all know that there will be limitations when dealing with the rest of the world that runs on schedules, such as handling business transactions and departure times for transportation. They acknowledge that at least some concept of time will still be necessary. As far as how this will affect locals on a biological level, scientists all agree that circadian rhythms (typically dictated by the 24-hour day cycle) are essential for a person’s well-being. Yet, it doesn’t seem to have hurt those who’ve lived here unconventionally their whole lives. While some are saying that this may just be a publicity stunt to boost the town’s tourism, those who live in Sommarøy are hoping that their casual attitude towards time will help persuade others to spend less time being dictated by the clock.