In the past twelve hours, I’ve booked two flight itineraries for six different flights to be taken in the next three weeks. In December and January, I’ll have visited around eleven different cities (possibly more), in five different countries, on two different continents. In February, I’ll be adding even more countries and cities to my list. By the time I return to Canada in the summer, I’ll have lived in seven different countries in four continents.
I am, without question, a vagabond.
Booking a flight can make my heart race. The feeling of landing in a strange city, lost and confused, gives me great pleasure. I actually get a huge rush of endorphins, like a high, at the exact moment that I feel an airplane leave the ground. I am happiest, and most sure of myself, walking through a foreign place and watching everything around me. If I stay in one place for longer than a few weeks, I begin to get intense wanderlust.
It struck me the other day that what I’m doing is not exactly normal. Most people don’t take off from their homes for long stretches of time, and those who do most often travel in a way that’s markedly different from mine. When I meet new people, I often get thrown by their questions: yes, I’m travelling, sort of. But I’m still working. And I live in the countries I travel to. No, I probably haven’t seen that famous monument, and I quite likely don’t care much to, either.
I went to San Francisco last week, but I didn’t see Alcatraz or the Golden Gate Bridge. I went to México City prior to that, but didn’t bother with the pyramids. While I recognize that some things are tourist traps with good reason, the more I travel, the less interest I have in these things. Part of this is because they’re often crawling with tourists, especially in Europe, but another part of it is that visiting often feels empty. Sure, they’re beautiful or breathtaking or interesting, but I’ve invariably seen them already in movies and photographs. The crowd of tourists mindlessly snapping photographs of these much-photographed monuments, as though checking off items from a scavenger hunt, only exacerbates this emptiness.
I don’t want to see the world through a lens. I want to taste, smell, and feel it as well. That’s why I’m travelling instead of watching a documentary or zooming through Google Street View. I want to experience and interact with the world around me.
The true journey, as the interjection of an “outside” different from our normal one, implies a complete change of nutrition, a digesting of the visited country–its fauna and flora and its culture (not only the different culinary practices and condiments but the different implements used to grind the flour or stir the pot)–making it pass between the lips and down the esophagus. This is the only kind of travel that has a meaning nowadays, when everything visible you can see on television without rising from your easy chair.
The incomparable Italo Calvino, “Under the Jaguar Sun”
(About travels in Mexico! Must find prior to leaving.)
I’ve always been prone to making up my own rules. While I technically wrote something of a business plan (in about two hours, at four in the morning, off the top of my head), I didn’t do most of the things you’re supposed to do when running a business. Honestly, sometimes I wonder how I ever made it work, and how it continues to work for me. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I don’t really do much of anything in the traditional way—my work, my education, my relationships, my pastimes, and my travels are all plotted out according to a set of rules that exists solely in my own head.
Somehow, though, it all works. I become more and more delighted with my life as I veer further and further from the orthodox.
I’ve noticed that sometimes people don’t understand this. I received a birthday card one year that said “Don’t worry, you’ll find your place and settle down eventually,” and it took me a while to stop being offended by the implication that I’m unhappy because I haven’t roped down a man, staked out my plot in the woods, and started producing children yet. While I know that many people are happy with this sort of prescribed life, I know I’m not one of them (or at least, I’m not yet, but I sincerely doubt I’ll ever be). It frustrates me that sometimes that means people will see me as a failure, because I’m choosing to do things in such an unusual manner. I absolutely love my life, and not everyone who “has it all” would say that. Some of the coolest, best-adjusted people I know are weirdos like me.
So buck with tradition. Drop out of school, live out of your car, take six different wives. Don’t break the rules solely for the sake of breaking them, but don’t allow them to fence you into a life you didn’t choose. The world is full of people who are stuck by circumstance, but as a citizen of an affluent country, you have such a myriad of options open to you. Don’t follow the status quo just because it’s what we’re trained to do.
I want a world full of free-spirits and vagabonds.