The joy of traveling is in the wandering, on purpose.

By: Joe Robinson

You won’t find it on the map..

And there are no scheduled flights,

Yet it’s the best place for discovery on the planet!

I hereby submit-the-case for going , uh, uh, nowhere.

It has many obvious attractions------ no schedules, no crowds, no 20-lb. guidebooks to lug.

But most people are reluctant:
it’s hard to pack for no particular place at all,
and how do you get there, when there’s no there there?

In a destination-oriented world, the virtues of a nonitinerary are as clear as dark matter. We’re conditioned to think we must get from point A to point B via the shortest route possible and before anyone else, even though there is no nobody else.

We wind up beating only ourselves----out of the juice of journey, the stuff in between. One of the ironies of travel is that we often get more milage out of it when we have no objective.

Set out without a fixed destination. (Try it)

Set out without a fixed destination, and the prizes multiply as you enter a collide-o-scope of people and paths attracted to you as if by some cosmic pheromone. Transit is provided by a vehicle that may need dusting off: wandering, your guaranteed ride to whatever.

It’s a time-honored route in some cultures.

Aborigine youths learned the ways of the world on walkabouts, long trips into the wilderness alone “To start from nowhere and follow no road is the first step towards attaining Tao.” wrote the Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu.

But, by God, we want results, and we want to know what they are before we leave the door------conquering Kilimanjaro, blitzing Tuscany. Nothing wrong with a mission, mind you, but obsessive quest for the most direct line to the goal turns your travel into rote, notch-on-the-belt affairs. I used to sprint through trips, congratulating myself on how much I had polished I’d polished.

Now, I know that when I wonder over to a guy grilling chicken along side the road in a town in Belize, something more delicious bagging a distant town by sunset may happen. I just may find out about life in Belize when it was British Honduras, or chat with a woman about their music, or be asked to a local dance.

Suddenly, I’m not on the outside looking in any more: I’m looking for a punta rock step.

Wandering is mobile meditation.

When I’m going nowhere, everywhere is interesting.

I don’t feel the need to be anywhere else, which is just the way my blood pressure like it. I can veer off over there if I want, zigzag to the highlights of my trip.

“Most of the interesting things are found when we wonder off the path,” says Pico Ivey, author of Falling Off The Map.(Vintage Press, 1994). But, this isn’t exactly self-evident in a society in which, on the approval charts, wandering lies somewhere between wino and meter maid. “Society is predicated on efficiency.” writes Iyer, “and wondering is about discovering all the things that efficiency won’t bring you.”

Engaged wondering is the root of all exploration, triggering the chain of data that leads to new knowledge. In fact, it was our introduction to travel, our first modus operandi. Childhood browsings led us to the interests and friends we would take into adulthood as we embraced this, rejected that.

Roving without objective, says William Glasser, psychologist and author of hoice Theory (Harper Collins, 1998,) satisfies four basic needs:-----love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun. “Fun may be the most specific need related to ....seeing new places. It’s the genetic reward for learning. When you wander, the reason is to learn.”

The footloose urge usually gives way as we reach adulthood, when survival and security needs kick in and “external control psychology” formats our lives, he adds.

Outside opinions curb wandering ways.

Before and during the Renaissance, clerics considered traveling a sin, a gluttonous feast of pleasurable sensations that put a blasphemous focus of the material world instead of the hereafter. They derided curiosity as lust of the eye.

It was only after Francis Bacon and his contemporaries proved that travel could have a purpose----scientific advancement----that the church finally gave grudging approval. The stigma remains though.

Journeying for journey’s sake has an indulgent scent, still heretical, still guilt-provoking. My dictionary defines wandering as “movement away from the proper, normal, or usual course, not keeping a rational or sensible course: Vagrant.”

Joseph Campbell’s path was anything but normal.

The late, famous, and mythologist (often featured on P.B.S.) spent much os his 20s living in Paris, Munich, and Carmel ;meeting fellow drifters like John Steinbeck, discovering and reading the works of Mann, Goethe, and Nietzsche.

He ping-ponged from Sanshrit texts to James Joyce to Carl Jung, and his wanderings led to a completely original course he might not have discovered had he opted for the familiar straight and narrow.

Not keeping to the “sensible course” made perfect sense .It’s like a tree growing.” Campbell says in A Joseph Campbell Companion (Harper Collins, 1992). It doesn’t know where it’s going next. A branch may grow this way and then another way. When you look back, you will see this will have been an organic development.”

Wandering is where the traveler crosses into that off-the-map latitude of luck, chance, and serendipities.

We spread the net of potential opportunities from a tiny universe to a huge one.

These encounters are exhilarating because, paradoxically, they’re so far fetched they seemed planned, fated, the very thing we hit the road to shake up.


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