Cannot Stay in One Place

There are people in this world for whom security and responsibility are the primary values. They follow all of society’s rules, receiving responsible degrees, entering the work force when they are expected to and creating a very tidy life for themselves and their loved ones. And then there are those who do not fit that mold. The ones who question all of society’s constructs, who get degrees in the arts and then, instead of taking a career, choose to wander the planet instead, at the cost of security and financial responsibility, in order to discover themselves.

People have the freedom to choose between these two options, however, only one of them is going to earn them the praise and support of society. All of Western society is constructed to accommodate the first type of person; the one who fits into the predetermined mold. Society honors people like this because they follow the rules and do not rock the boat. Society knows that they will be a loyal tax payer and consumer, and celebrates their lifestyle.

For those who think there is more to life than receiving a good pension and wish to throw away the rule book that society offers, there is much less support. Those who take time to travel, learn about the world, experience life changing moments and gain perspective are offered very little. They have to hope for seasonal work, beg for a place to stay and not hope for anything more than minimum wage. Every establishment they work for or with assumes they have a permanent address somewhere. Tax law is not written for their circumstances. There are numerous ways that long term travelers are told by society that their lifestyle is not welcome.

Like so many have voiced, society is crumbling around the rigid constructs that it tightly enforces. If it does not find a way to make room for people with alternative lifestyles, such as travelers, it will fall apart.

The Psychology of Travel

There is a unique part of our psychology that we experience while we are traveling, and it comes much more naturally to some people than it does to others. Being home in the midst of routine and familiarity exercises certain parts of our brain, while pulling up our roots to travel and wander exercises other parts. The non-traveler is focused on organization, efficiency, duty and comfort, while the traveler is focused on whatever moment they are in.

By stepping out of our day to day lives in order to travel, we are exploring a different side of our identities. It feels that we are pretending to be someone else for a time, which for most people, is delightful and cathartic. There are those who feel very uncomfortable travelling, as if they are betraying their responsibilities to their usual identities. Studies into human behavior reveal, however, that having the ability to move fluidly between one’s stationary identity and one’s travelling identity is a sign of good mental health and awareness.

The ability to surrendering one’s sense of control in order to embrace adventure shows strength of character and flexibility. It is a sign of strength for someone to step into the unknown of travel and embrace it rather than feel nervous because of it. Humankind evolved to be able to wander. Wandering has been a necessity throughout human history. Not only has it been a necessity, it has also been an instinct. People experience spirituality, purpose, self-discovery and personal growth while they are travelling.

People use travel and wandering as a form of escapism. It is true that people can come to depend on travel too much, to the point that the compulsion to travel becomes a type of addiction rehab centre Canada private. But a degree of escapism is simply therapeutic, and people are entitled to healthy amounts of escapism. Travel is a very healthy expression of a person’s need to escape and experience radically different things than their day to day life can offer them.

Itchy Feet

The expression “itchy feet” is centuries old, but still captures the essence of wandering quite well. The expression came from the metaphorical representation of what a wanderer does to relieve their wanderlust. Where as someone with itchy feet would not be able to hold still for long, likewise, a compulsive wanderer is not able to stay in one place for very long. This can be for healthy reasons or unhealthy reasons, but their outward behavior is the same regardless.

When someone wanders for healthy reasons, it is an endeavor worth celebrating. One can wander in order to grow as a person. This type of itchy feet is good for a person who is in need of self discovery. By breaking from the things they are familiar with in order to meet the world where they are at and explore what it has to offer, they are expanding their identity and their scope. This is commendable. Often, people who do this are labeled unfairly as not having direction or lacking focus. This is a small minded estimation of a person who wanders in order to grow and reflects poorly on the person passing the judgment.

The unhealthy version of wanderlust is the case where a person is running from something, and cannot hold still for fear that it will catch up to them. This type of itchy feet ends up being destructive to a person’s behavior. Running from life circumstances is often the result of trauma or of dysfunction that entered a person’s life early on. Travel can be therapeutic for a time for this type of person, but ultimately, they will need to face the past they are running from, either with the help of their support system of the help of a professional counselor.

The expression “Not all who wander are lost” aptly acknowledges both types of people, and illustrates that not everyone who wanders does it for the same reasons. This is important to appreciate. The next time your friend or family member who is prone to wandering and traveling sets out for the horizon, give them a fair estimation of why they are traveling.