“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost…”
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!
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.
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?