Traveling vs wandering

Yes i’m starting this blog a little late. Or maybe I’m not, depending on how you look at it. I’m in my early thirties and have been lucky enough to spend a year away from home. I’ve just returned to my desk job; broke but in high spirits! Later this year I’ll be taking off for another 6 months away and I’m already looking forward to it.
(That’s me in the middle with two German friends in Toronto, Canada)
Being out in the world for a year I’ve come to know myself better and have a new perspective on many aspects of my life. Over time I hope to post a lot of what i’ve learned here on this blog. One thing I’ve come to appreciate, and will be writing about in todays post, is the difference between taking a holiday, travelling, and wandering the world and what a difference each style of travel can make on your life.
Most of my travel up to this point of my life has been in the form of holidays; short breaks from the daily grind. I think most people would understand what I meant by holidaying. Its going to a resort for a few weeks for example, or doing a 6 week Europe Contiki tour, or heading off on a cruise. Just a getaway from the ‘normal’. The goal is usually to just relax, unwind and maybe gain a few new experiences while seeing different parts of the world, then life is pretty much back to usual afterward. You look forward to your own bed and the comfort of the familiar when you get back. The trip is usually planned out from beginning to end in order to make the most of your short time away.
(Yosemite National Park, California)
To me, travelling is more about taking the time to explore, learn, and discover other parts of the world and other cultures. Its about dedicating more time to being away from home, living a different life for some time without the comfort of the familiar. There is more of an intention of personal growth and testing your limits and perceptions.The trip may still be planned in advance with goals and places researched and for the most part booked ahead of time, with some space for spontaneity.
When I reflect over my year away overseas, I think I gradually progressed from being a traveler to being a wanderer. The first 3-6 months I was a traveller, with my first 3 months scheduled on tours throughout Europe and flights booked. In between tours I had general idea of where I wanted to go but left the details until I was on the road. I had even less details planned when I headed to North America; just a bunch of ideas of key places I wanted to see and the direction of heading east to west across US and west to east across Canada.
(dancing in front of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece)
After 6 months I had done everything I had planned to when I left home, but still had a whole year before I was due back home. I was sitting in Toronto with no plans and no idea what to do next. This is where I believe I really started becoming a wanderer. For some perspective, I’ll share with you what the Oxford Dictionary Online spat out for the meanings of holiday, travel and wandering:
holiday – “An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling”
travel – “Make a journey, typically of some length”
wandering – “Travelling aimlessly from place to place; itinerant”
To me, wandering is essentially opportunistic travel; an travel adventure of a difference variety.  I think is about taking the courage to step out of a planned and structured journey into the unknown without set plans, no advance bookings. Its everything travelling is, but on a higher level. At the risk of sounding cliche, its the freedom to follow your heart each day and seeing where it takes you, and in doing so discovering your true self.
(picking pumpkins while volunteering on an organic farm in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada)
It should be pointed out here that the 6 months that I wandered were also probably the hardest months away. It was also a time where my funds were getting low so I also had to get creative on how I was going to have enjoyable experiences without spending much. I started staying with locals, volunteering, and it pushed me to learn how to quickly make new friends and explore on the cheap. But it was this time that I really tested myself and developed as a person, and i’ve returned with interesting stories and more confidence. So I thought it was very appropriate when, out of curiosity, I searched for the meaning of the term ‘journey’ and these two definitions were generated –
1. “An act of travelling from one place to another”; and
2. “A long and often difficult process of personal change and development.”
If I could, I would spend my days roaming the planet. Just going where my heart desired at that point in time. Utter freedom; that, to me, is happiness.
I’ve met and read of a few other wanderers out there who have given up the things that kept them tied to one place and have embraced the nomadic lifestyle. Although financial circumstances forced me to return home and to my former job, their journeys will continue to be an inspiration to me. Like the lyrics of Lord Huron’s song Ends of the Earth
“What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given; If all you do is stand in one place?”
Hope you enjoyed my first post! If you have any suggestions, blog ideas, or want to share your wandering experiences, feel free to leave a comment. Thanks! – J

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