Why do we travel? What is it that compels humans to move, to see and be more?
I once wrote that travel is a strange thing; that travel on a large scope is a huge and often life-changing undertaking, yet we often push the gravity of these decisions and actions to the back of our minds.
Now that I have come to fully realise the possibilities of a years-long trip, I being to wonder why this desire to travel exists at all?
Perhaps it is in our blood, a genetic memory of our Cromagnon ancestors; tribes moving from place to place some forty thousands years past. In the same way that most of us are fond of the outdoors for no other reason than it pleases us, perhaps travel speaks to some primordial urge to move that existed since humans first began to walk upright on the savannas of Africa.
Maybe it’s something different, maybe its the nature of today’s societies that drives us to find something different, something unusual. Living in a city or a town, working a nine-to-five job with the weekends free; this is the case for most people. Perhaps this routine slowly begins to grate, and while some are content to relieve this ennui with films and books, others may need something more tangible.
Personally, I like to think that us Irish have an inherent urge to travel, maybe in our blood, but most definitely in our culture. Since the Great Famine in the 1800’s, there has been an exodus of Irish departing our fair home to the all corners of the earth. Those first reasons to leave were horrific, and the ordeal of leaving home were no less so; every Irish person speaks of those Coffin Ships, where so many perished, with a certain sense of solemnity.
Yet even today, this exodus continues. There are Irish communities on everywhere you may care to look, Boston, Sydney, there is even a small Irish community on the island of Hawaii, where they often say Éireann go Brách.
There is a phrase that I am particularly fond of repeating, it goes:
‘Although there are only 4.6 million Irish people in Ireland, there are 100 million people of Irish descent around the world.’
I cannot speak on the truth of this, but it appeals to my sense of national pride nonetheless. It reminds me that wherever someone from Ireland may care to travel, they are likely to find a smile and a welcome.
Perhaps I cannot fully divine the reasons that we find to travel, although maybe I can find my own.
I have worked in a variety of nine-to-five jobs while I lived in Dublin, and inevitably each one began to become tedious and frustrating, so I would search for something different, another position at another company. Usually these positions were related, due to experience in a previous job leading to the next.
I toyed with the idea of moving to a different country to work, England or maybe Germany, but I never made that all-important first step.
I enjoyed my most recent job, I was good at it, and most importantly, it wasn’t stressful. It was something I could have happily made a career from. Yet even though I had this security, and tedium had yet to set in, my mind still began to wander. So I came to a decision.
I quit my job, sold or gave away my belongings, and fit my life into a backpack. As I write this I am sitting a table in an airport in Venezuela, waiting for my flight to Colombia. I have since traveled all around Peru, from cities to jungles, and back to cities again. After Colombia I intend to travel to Ecuador, and after that, who knows?
I can only really speculate on why we want to travel as a whole, as a race, although I think I know why I want to travel.
I think the main reason I travel is fear. Fear that my routines would become my life, that I would endlessly make plans that never come to fruition, that one day I would discover that I had no more time left.
Life is short. It is true, that old cliché, and each day that we do nothing, each day we lay sedentary, is a day we cannot claim back. With this in mind, I make plans to travel to see as much of this world as I can, perhaps Argentina or Brazil after Chile, and after I’ve seen all of South America? Maybe I’ll take a stroll through Africa or Asia.
As I am now, I have no intention of stopping, and there is a certain kind of freedom in that.
These are my reasons for traveling, but everyone has their own.
Remember, all it takes is that one first step. This is the one that counts, the one that you must not falter on. You must take that first step with pride and determination, and no matter what doubts may haunt your mind in times to come, you will always remember that one first step.
-The Wandering Irishman