When I was 17, I read Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road.” Travel was never the same for me again. Up to that point, trips were all about the destination. The journey itself was something to be endured, hours of boredom and distraction over pre-interstate two-lane highways or steel rails. Even the destinations were limited to the repetitive and familiar.
But imagining Kerouac’s Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity crisscrossing the country in a frantic quest for experience, produced an awakening in me. I began to understand that leaving the home base was always the beginning of an adventure, and that the unexpected was to be relished rather than planned against. The journey itself became the goal, absorbing the destination into the larger sense of exploration and discovery.
Many of us have at least a taste of wanderlust, but life often gets in the way. Work, family, finances, health all have the capacity to distract us from our youthful dreams of exploring new territories. Travel gets downsized until it fits into some pre-determined space in our lives – the short business trip or the week-long vacation. It simply loses any priority.
But some of us are born Ramblers, living to travel, drawn to seek out new places and cross vast spaces. Some find a way to make their living traveling, and others adjust their lives to support their appetite for exploration. At the extremes, some of us travel continuously, gypsy-like, untethered from any home base, settling only temporarily as the need or desire directs.
Why? What draws these Ramblers to roam repeatedly across the map? Is it some insatiable curiosity, or is it an irresistible craving for the adventure of newness, unpredictability, surprise?
It’s often said that travel is “broadening,” but I wonder if it would be more accurate to say that it’s “deepening.” I wonder if the gain is not only the experience of different people and places, but also the discovery of new aspects of ourselves. Detached from our comfort zones, do we find that the big pieces of our lives rearrange themselves? Do we discover fresh energies and possibilities in that new arrangement? Maybe it’s impossible not to be transformed if we invite life to change the rules and spin us in new directions. Maybe, Like Sal and Dean, we’re eventually irresistibly drawn to see what the road has in store for us.
Where does travel figure in your priorities? Are you a Rambler? Would you like to be? Let’s see what we can learn from avowed Ramblers, people who live to travel. I’ll find as many of these stories as I can, so that you can consider how they might affect The Rest of Your Life.