Spirit of the Explorer: Dealing With Wanderlust and the Travelling Dream
October 14, 2019
It seems that travelling is now the modern-day equivalent of the American dream, bearing the promise of ultimate freedom and opportunity. It has risen in the collective consciousness as a way to break free from old systems and live a better life, awakening the spirit of the explorer and the possibility of living life on the road. Just like those who migrated to the new world of the Americas, so too does travelling seem to provide an exciting alternative to the status quo – the only difference is that it’s now the world that is our oyster.
There is something very ancient about travelling. Our ancestors were once nomadic and this is ultimately how tribes of humans spread out from Africa to inhabit every continent of the world. Indeed, the spirit of the explorer lives on within us all, entwined with our ancestral memory, and has exploded once more in our collective consciousness.
The travelling dream of our modern age promises that one can explore the whole world, living life on the road and immersing oneself in different cultures. The freedom of this can seem very appealing, especially when it caters to our natural curiosity and yearning for adventure. But is the travelling dream truly attainable as a permanent way of life?
The main way of manifesting the travelling dream seems to be becoming what is called a digital nomad, being able to work remotely online from any location in the world, thereby allowing people to work and travel at the same time – examples of this include website designers and successful bloggers. Other professions also permit this freedom of movement, such as those who travel around as musicians or photographers, but these transient livelihoods are not accessible to everyone.
Other people are very resourceful with how they make the travelling dream happen, such as finding jobs as they move around or getting free accommodation in exchange for volunteering. There are all sorts of opportunities to travel cheaply nowadays, but one still usually needs some financial savings or income to initially make it happen.
The highest ideal of the travelling dream is to attain ultimate freedom, living on the road and having adventures forevermore, but many people can only afford to travel for a limited amount of time before they run out of money and have to go home.
Returning to everyday life can be a crushing experience for someone who has tasted what it is to be free. It can trigger intense feelings of being trapped and high levels of wanderlust – the urge to travel and break free once again. And so an increasing number of people are caught in a cycle of travelling and then working back home to save up for their next trip.
The mythology of travelling is very present now in the collective psyche. Many adverts are targeted at us on social media, with savvy entrepreneurs promising to show us how we can break out of the rat race and attain the travelling dream permanently. Also, friends and family may fuel our wanderlust by sharing pictures and videos of their travels, but is the grass truly greener when travelling?
It is true that the freedom of exploring may satisfy people for a long time – for months or even years. It can be immensely therapeutic to remove yourself from familiar surroundings and go somewhere completely new, as it creates the space for self-discovery and opens one up to all sorts of enriching experiences and adventures. Away from the binds of everyday life, one is free to explore and get in tune with their authentic selves. It is therefore completely understandable why people may want to live on the road, and people should absolutely pursue this if their heart calls them to do so.
Eventually though, seasoned travellers can become desensitised to exotic and novel experiences, no longer in awe when they see their hundredth beach or temple. This is akin to someone who has enjoyed clubbing or partying for many years and finally grows tired of it. Perhaps the spirit of the explorer, then, is simply something that some of us need to get out of our system.
The question is, do we really need to travel to the deepest jungles of Borneo or reach the heights of Macchu Pichu to be fulfilled and satisfy our inner explorer? Is there not a way to bring the spirit of the explorer into our everyday lives?
If we choose to see it, every day can be an adventure. When we step out of the front door, we do not know what is going to happen or whom we might meet. Embodying the spirit of the explorer enables us to look upon each moment with fresh eyes and curiosity, no matter how familiar the everyday might be. And so we can travel through each day of life, in awe and appreciation of all that surrounds us.
They say that life is a journey. Indeed, journeying through life in our human bodies is the grandest travelling experience of all, if only we open up to its richness. The metaphor of travelling can be used for exploring one’s inner world as well the outer one, exploring the depths of one’s soul, which can often be much more exciting and mysterious than exploring the material world.
Indeed, the problem with travelling is that people are often searching for freedom externally, when true liberation is found within. When people travel, they are often looking to escape or break free from things, but they cannot run from themselves – their unresolved issues will follow them across the globe until they work through them. However, when you tune into yourself and journey into your inner world, you can free yourself from the blocks and limiting beliefs that reside there, liberating your authentic self and being able to fully express who you are – to awaken this joy of being is what it truly means to be free!
We are all searching for this inner freedom, but usually in places outside of us. For example, no amount of travelling will ever satisfy the ego’s yearning for freedom, for it is the ego’s nature to want more and more, just as it does with wealth or status. But if we become aware of the ego’s insatiable appetite and start to discover the inner freedom and peace that is already available to us, then we can become more satisfied with life and fall in love with exactly who we are and where we are in each moment.
Our relationship with freedom is one of our biggest existential struggles, so there is little wonder that it is playing out through the travelling dream. Paradoxically, it is our yearning for freedom that usually cages us, for the desire to be free implies that we are trapped! But if we can work on shifting our perception and be grateful for the freedom that we already have in our lives, then we will begin to appreciate how free we actually are.
The travelling dream does not seem to account for the fact that all of us are different in our ways of being. Yes, some people are naturally transient and nomadic, but others are more rooted and homely. Some people might be suited to a life on the road, while others might be satisfied with the occasional trip away. What is important, however, is for people to ask what travelling and freedom means for them, rather than being blindly seduced by the stereotypical travelling dream.
By embodying the spirit of the explorer, we can learn to travel through the everyday and marvel at whatever unfolds, both around us and within ourselves, and realising that all of this is part of the same journey. Great experiences can be had anywhere, regardless of where you are, even if you’re just shopping for groceries or sitting in a coffee shop. And once you find inner freedom, you may no longer desperately seek to liberate yourself externally, though your heart may well call you to step onto the road when the time is right.