Not all who wander are lost – J.R.R Tolkien
Having the spent the majority of my twenties with my feet touching countless pieces of earth, it seems only fair to reflect back on what it means to be a wanderer in the most freeing decade of ones life. The vast majority of those travels have been spent as a solo traveler out in the world with not much more than the little research completed, a bag I can wearily carry on my back and a few locals to help me find my way.
This life is one I imagined for myself when I was a little girl when someone would ask that age old question “what do you want to do when you grow up?” The abstract sense of being a ‘grown up’ in my childish innocence and naivety had me imagine a life spent wandering through airports, meeting people from all corners of the globe (including one day living with someone from every country, the logistics of which escaped my simple mind) and seeing as many different landscapes as possible.
Papamoa, New Zealand/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Prague, Czech Republic/Phi Phi Islands, Thailand/West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
Following my childish heart means I never feel closer to my true self than when I am wandering as a stranger among strangers in the oft white floored airports I have found myself in over these last few years. Awaiting with lungs full of expectation and excitement about what is on the other side and the bittersweet sentiments left inside when about to depart.
One of the most polarizing experiences every wanderer knows too well is the stream of people left behind in the wake of each adventure. The memories of meeting people who I may have conversed with for only a moment, like the man who stopped me for directions in New York, he apologized for his awful accent which was only from Boston. I gave him the directions he was asking for, but almost a decade later that memory takes me back to the corner of Columbus Circle and the warmth of fall in New York. Moments like these take me back to places I wish I could return to in the blink of an eye.
Or experiences I can recall in a heartbeat that seem so unreal like stepping out into the arrivals lounge in Istanbul only this past January and having all my senses bombarded with the place I had just arrived in, this makes the yearning to see it all again pulse through my veins. Those memories keep me going through the heavy grey days on the way to the office job I currently work and they spur on to continue to live as fully as possible.
Austin, Texas, USA/James and Michael, Coromandel, New Zealand/Hiking the Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand
Some of the strangers I have met through traveling have now become some of the closest people in my life even though we see each other but every other year or less. Or my travels have landed me sharing a room with someone I consider one of the most important people in my life when we have only spent a few weeks in each others actual company.
Being a wanderer means you find closeness with others in a completely different way. A random email popping in your inbox stands as a reminder that people are still living and fine and that in some small piece of their minds you cross their thoughts enough for them to make contact. Or a text to wish someone a good week can lead to a more meaningful conversation that you may have with those physically around you.
This life has allowed me to attract like minded people who I’ve had the luck to go on adventures with or share a journey on to help them explore a new land that I know rather well. Those adventures make for deeper relationships than having brunch on a Sunday would ever allow. With time and distance I’ve only found all those people to be yearning to have more adventures on the next time we are reunited.
Alli, Rotorua, New Zealand/Lissette and I, LA, USA/James, LA, USA
So if you’re in your early twenties and when society tells you to follow your heart and at the same time expects you to give your time in twelve hour underpaid slots, than it becomes clear that following your heart and living a life of more freedom and less restraint is going to be something you have to fight for.
This path may be seen as acceptable in your late teens or early twenties, it’s all a matter of ‘finding yourself.’ However, with time and age nearing thirty, people expect you to have found yourself already and that usually involves a career path of conviction for how you will map out the next ten or twenty years of your life.
Baja California, Mexico/Istanbul, Turkey/Vancouver, Canada
Life will inevitably tell you that you have to decide about a substantial way to make a living. That the mature choice will be the solid career path that your friends are more than likely already on. That career path will change and your passions will come to the fore when you are out there experiencing everything this vast and varied globe has to offer. Remember, there is only one chance at today so how will you follow your path?
In all these years of travel I’ve heard more times than I can count at how lucky I am, that others don’t have the ability to be like me. We are though, the sum of the choices we make and when I look back at all those times people have said that, I’ve seen ways they too had the same choice and didn’t do it.
Living with the eyes of a traveler is to be someone who is constantly looking to experience life fully, to have present and satisfying moments that will bring back smiles long after the ink has dried on the passport and the bags have been unpacked. If every memory had a key than my keys would be scattered around the globe.
Berlin, Germany/Arizona, USA/Amsterdam, Netherlands
No amount of money or possession could ever be worth more than the memories made from the adventures had. No job experience has tested me as much as getting out there and seeing what I’m made of in a land I barely speak a word and all I have is on my back. No amount of money in the bank can attest to the amount of joy I’ve found and growth I’ve experienced from seeing this globe so all I can hope is that one day you’ll have a yearning to get out there too.
You are confined only by the walls you make yourself, Portland, Oregon, USA