Are All Who Wander Lost?


(Photo Credit: piotr mamnaimie)

All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost…”
-J.R.R Tolkien

Personally, I enjoy just… wandering. It’s one of my greatest passions. Whether its exploring a new part of my city on foot, public transportation or by car, finding a new park to hike in, or a small road trip out of town. Then there are even larger trips to other countries in foreign parts of the world completely dissimilar in culture and language to my own. I can’t explain where this travel bug came from and why it continues to drive me. What is exactly I’m searching for?

Perhaps it was my large collection of Tintin comics as a kid. I’d read about his wild adventures, always globetrotting to another exotic destination with his Scottie dog and scotch-besodden Captain Haddock in tow. Tintin was supposed to be a “journalist”, but you never saw him actually do a day of work or ever have any definable source of income- it was always simply off to the next adventure in Tibet, The Moon or Arabia. Sounds like the ideal life to me!

(Photo Source: Andrés Álvarez Iglesias)

Or I could blame National Geographic magazine. I remember moving into our first house in the USA as a kid. In my room, there was a closet that sort of didn’t have a back wall- it simply ran out of floorboards and eventually became gaping holes and fiberglass insulation. But, poking around back there unearthed a veritable treasure trove of probably about 50 thick, yellow-jacketed Nat Geo magazines. I would spend hours just poring over these beautifully photographed works of art: each one transporting me to a far flung corner of the globe: Irtusk, Samoa, Zaire, the ocean depths, the snow-capped peaks of the Andes. I came to love exploring different cultures, peoples, faces, clothes, cities and architecture- all from the comfort of my little 10 year-old’s bedroom. This must have made sort of massive impression in my brain, an insatiable curiosity for the wider world.

When traveling, a challenge, potential discomfort, loneliness, confusion, surprise, unfamiliarity and unpredictability awaits around every corner. It’s not always easy. Sometimes you get hopelessly lost, you stand out like sore thumb, sometimes people just don’t understand what you’re trying to express. Travel in the Developing World can be very challenging– public transport, sanitation, clean air, safe streets, a nice hotel room- these are not always so readily available. I’ve been though South East Asia, Morocco, Turkey and a majority of Latin American countries. I do consider myself a “hardened backpacker”, but could never be those folks who do it indefinitely, or for years at a time. It can get tough, no doubt. But it’s important to realize that your life will never be as hard as it is for most people on this planet. You can always come home…

If you do choose to venture outside the developed world, traveling will open your eyes to how “the other half lives”. Most of humanity lives in grinding Victorian poverty and life is often a difficult struggle for survival. To be even able to travel to another country is a massive privilege affordable to really only a small group of us. Coming home from a trip can also really make you appreciate what you have living in an industrialized nation: sidewalks, trees, clean drinking water, someone who will answer the phone when you call 911. Try to realize how much you really have and how little you should really need to be happy: a roof over your head, good food in your belly, political stability, family and friends, and employment that pays you enough to live.

(Photo Credit: Jon Hurd)

I understand that there are many people are perfectly happy sitting there at home, enjoying the creature comforts of what they find predictable and familiar. I’m not knocking folks who don’t like traveling or want to stay closer to home. Do what makes you happy. But for some of us more hardy souls, the open road calls. Adventure is the name of the game and we’ll take as many as I can get. Some of us just gotta see what’s on the other side of that mountain off in the distance. This planet is a mysterious and fascinating place, and life without risk is not worth living. When I’m traveling it makes me feel that this is what I was put on this earth to do. It completes me.

Are you a wanderer? Do you like getting lost? Does strapping on a worn-out backpack and leaving for the airport at 4am to ports unknown sound like your idea of paradise? In what ways has travel changed your life?

13 thoughts on “Are All Who Wander Lost?

  1. This is exactly how I feel about opened my eyes to this wonderful world and its people. Thanks for this ,Greg.

  2. Good stuff here!

  3. Great start Greg, looking forward to the next one! Travel adventures are a favorite of mine.

  4. Hey Greg, Great post! I like your exploration of how you got the travel bug. I’m a mild, rather than wild, traveler. I’ve been happy to discover that I like traveling by myself. These days, all I need is a change of clothes, a smartphone, maybe a book, and I’m good to go! Love exploring new cities. Even in the relative homogenization of North America, there’s a lot of local flavor and history to be found if you’re looking for it.

    • Post Author Greg Goldblatt

      Thanks Doug! Yeah, I’ve always been a bit of a loner and prefer traveling by myself rather than on a bus package tour. There’s a lot in N America that I haven’t seen yet, I think the US and Canada can be underrated in terms of culture and regional variety, and for sure our natural beauty blows pretty much the rest of the world away!

  5. Wow, Greg, I really enjoyed reading your blog. I did Europe a few years ago with “that” backpack. And while I don’t think I am quite up there on your level of experience, I totally relate to wanting to be there. Your writing style makes this “very occasional blog reader” want to read more of your posts, which I am going to do right after I hit send (I’m a veteran Janis Joplin concertgoer). Thank you!

    • Post Author Greg Goldblatt

      A “Veteran Janis Concertgoer”? Wow, I’m jealous! My mom actually saw her at Monterey Pop. There’s actually a stage musical of her life going on in San Francisco right now that I’m gonna go to next week. Looking forward to it, but I’m sure it won’t be quite the same as the real thing… But many thanks for posting a comment, and do stay tuned for many more posts to come!

  6. Now that I’m 66, I find myself looking back on the exceptional moments of my life, most of which occured far from home. Panning for gold with Grandpa Estey, 100 fishing trips to lakes, rivers and dams, decades of camping all over California, hiking through the jungle near Mismiloya Mexico, snorkeling in Hanama Bay Hawaii, observing the floating gem like ice flows in Alaska, jazz in New Orleans, museums in NY, sailing in Cape Cod and so much more. I’m with you, Greg. Check out the world. Walk it, hike it, take a bus or a boat. Make memories that will garner smiles when you’re 66.

    • Post Author Greg Goldblatt

      No doubt. Sounds like you’ve done a lot already. I’d much rather spend my money and time on creating amazing memories rather than acquiring more crap to stuff into my garage!

  7. Yvonne Madera-Jaffe

    wonderful blog…enjoy reading your thoughts, i love to travel, want to do lots more..usually go alone, not often on a group tour, those travels to Central America and South America changed my life and added a richness of experience and new friends that widen my world and made it happier…

  8. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit ——
    Written as a series of autobiographical essays, A Field Guide to Getting Lost draws on emblematic moments and relationships in Rebecca Solnit’s life to explore issues of uncertainty, trust, loss, memory, desire, and place. Solnit is interested in the stories we use to navigate our way through the world, and the places we traverse, from wilderness to cities, in finding ourselves, or losing ourselves. While deeply personal, her own stories link up to larger stories, from captivity narratives of early Americans to the use of the color blue in Renaissance painting, not to mention encounters with tortoises, monks, punk rockers, mountains, deserts, and the movie Vertigo. The result is a distinctive, stimulating voyage of discovery.

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