They call us many names. We have a few of our own. Frequently we go by backpackers, nomads, drifters and travellers, wanderers, migrants, transients and journeymen.
We are all and none of the above.
Put simply, we are those born with itchy feet. A new generation and a growing breed of people who want to open our souls and tread on our soles. And not the other way around.
As Carl Sagan put it in Cosmos: “Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.”
We are the ones with wanderlust. Those with a constant desire to move from land to land, hilltop to hamlet, meadow to metropolis and sleepy sea to sweeping slope.
We come from even more diverse landscapes. But it matters less where we’re from and more where we’re going next.
We are neither financially rich nor affluent and neither were our fathers before us. We are not the heirs to wealthy estates. We are not the 1%.
We work hard when we can and save today for a better tomorrow. We defer our happiness. We sacrifice the average excursions, the mediocre adventures. We pass up day trips and nights out to put money aside for the ‘unbelievable’ experiences, that money supposedly can’t buy.
We do not celebrate the big occassions like Christmas, Easter and our birthdays with presents. We celebrate the everyday, every day.
When we’re ‘at home’ we’re not really. Our imaginations never stray far from the farthest flung places, both those visited and those yet to be found. We hate few things in life, other than sitting idly by, letting moments drift past. We can’t help but wonder when we’ll wander again.
We love setting off.
And the queues.
We love the queues.
The wait. The anticipation. We get off on the excitement of sitting in airports, train and bus stations, at ferry ports and in taxi ranks. We never take the aisle, always the window. We find clarity in the emptiness and blurs that sweep past our windows. We never stop questioning what’s happening below, above and around us.
We live for those ‘once in a lifetime’ moments. We are the ones who party under the moonlight in Thailand, climb pyramids in Egypt, jump out of planes in South Africa, off bridges in New Zealand and into the reef around Australia. We swim with sharks, build homes for turtles and eat scorpions.
For us home is where the heart is. Where our hat is. And other clichés too.
We have been taken in by families in Europe, tribes in Africa and strangers in the Middle East. Their home, not their house, has briefly become ours.
We have sat on the lap of luxury once or twice but more often that not we swap the finer things for the little things. We pick street vendors over Michelin stars; favelas and shantytowns over buenas vistas and heated pools.
We rest our heads whenever and wherever we can. We dream of beds, but will take anything from planes, trains and automobiles to forest floors and sheltered sand dunes.
For us, the uncomfortable becomes comfortable.
And there is comfort in that.
We do not judge others and we welcome everybody. When someone crosses our paths, they see our smile, when they enter our lives, we see theirs. We form instant bonds with those that we meet because we know that even though we are completely different, we share their passion. Our chance encounters become friendships, strengthened with a mutual love of exploration.
We do not accept money as our currency. No note will be taken as legal tender. Out here, our exchanges are not financial, they are visceral and tangible. We swap stories and barter with laughter. It is our tales, jokes and memories that make us rich. And the best thing about it, our accounts rarely run on empty.
We are people of a different ilk. We are not all the same and can’t be painted with the same brush. We come from every corner of the globe, and all the straits in between. We have no specific age, height or weight.
We are not one gender, one skin colour or one religion.
We believe what we choose. We’ve taken the time to work it all out. We are not saying this world is the only one, but whether it is or it is not, we refuse to live our lives without seeing every nook and cranny for ourselves.
We have seen the effects of religion, politics and greed. We often find it hard to tell which controls the other.
We have seen the bad. Often first hand. We have been held at gunpoint, had knives at our throats, fallen victim to scams and lined officials’ pockets for protection. We have skirted the line between right and wrong, and have found ourselves lost on both sides. We have the scars to prove it.
But we’ve also seen humanity at its best. And found faith in it. We have seen the good in people’s eyes. The kindness in their hearts. We’ve experienced first hand their welcomes. They’ve cooked us food, provided us shelter and we’ve played games with their children.
We travel as the locals do. We blend in with the crowds. We don’t fear the tourist traps because we don’t stand out. We know the rituals. We travel to learn. Be that language, custom or philosophy. That is the point of travel. To experience the life of another.
We have learnt to value our privacy. Although we initially desire to be surrounded by similar people who thrive and buzz off one another, every now and then we strive to find ourselves alone.
We need alone time to reflect. To ‘find ourselves’. Or, to find out about ourselves. What we can handle and more importantly, what we can’t.
While you are on the daily grind, measuring success on how much money you make after tax, what the indented letters on your car say and how many carats make up that ring,we are finding out who we are, what we like and what we want. We measure success in terms of happiness. Nothing else.
So call us dreamers. Call us idealists. We’ll accept those but we’re also realists. What is life without dreams? To us, nothing, unless you make them your reality.
Don’t knock us til you’ve tried it.
There’s a world out there. We’ll see it. Want to come with?