“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
It’s cheesier than ballgame nachos (mmm, nachos), but it’s true. I didn’t really have a “style” of traveling when I left on this trip. My prior experience consisted mostly of Spring Break trips or family vacations, and the more regimented, stress-free Semester at Sea trip.
All I knew was that I wanted to travel as far and wide as possible, for as long as possible, as cheaply as possible. I wanted to see amazing things, eat delicious food and meet inspiring people.
I’ve certainly accomplished all of that so far. And I realized very quickly that my traveling “style” was simple: grab a map, draw a line through town, and then don’t give a damn if you follow the line.
In short, I wanted to wander. I wanted to get lost.
I think many people, when they dream of traveling, have grandiose visions of moonlit gondola rides in Venice, dinner in the Eiffel Tower and zip-lining through the jungle (all very admirable and attainable goals, by the way). I’m guilty of those thoughts, too.
But unless you have a massively swollen wallet or narrow your focus to a few places on a short trip, doing everything you dream of is unrealistic. Already, I’ve had to put things like Oktoberfest and the Running of the Bulls on my to-do list for next time. Painful, but necessary.
On a trip like mine, where you’re stretching a tight budget across as many months and continents as possible, some expensive side trips are out of the question. But a fun, cheap way to make up for that is by wandering.
I prefer to wander, usually spending a full day in each new city just walking around. I try to make it to all the big sights, of course, but it’s not necessarily a heart breaker if I end up stumbling across a brilliant pub or park instead.
Some of the best experiences of this entire trip have come because I didn’t have a plan. I winged it. And for some reason, that is incredibly enjoyable for me.
Running across an epic drum troupe in Spain. Bumping into a sunset over the water in Australia. Stumbling upon a back alley pub in London. None of these truly memorable instances would have taken place if I hadn’t just taken a map and started moving.
Even if all those who wander are lost, is being lost such a bad thing? As long as you don’t have somewhere to be, why not just wander? I’d rather see the world by foot than a hop-on, hop-off bus any day of the week. Hell, a truly enjoyable, sunny day was spent literally just walking from the Bay Bridge to the Sutro Baths in San Francisco last year.
If you’re considering a trip abroad, and want to stretch your time or your money, don’t fret over trying to figure out HOW you’ll travel. Just let things fall into place, as they always seem to do. If you run into trouble, just take a different path.
Wandering may not be your style, and it may seem like a waste of precious time. But the less you worry about the wasted time or the mystery return time, the happier you’ll be.
And the more random, unforgettable memories you’ll wander into along the way.