Why do we travel?

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

I get asked this a lot. People find my lifestyle strange. Others are more blunt and call it irresponsible, escapist, unrealistic. Lately, I’ve even been called un-American and a traitor for preferring to live abroad rather than live out every single, long and drawn out day within the boundaries of US soil, which is coincidentally, not consequentially, where I happened to fall out of the void into this Earth.

I’ll take a moment to defend myself and other vagabonds.

First and foremost, as much as one may find my lifestyle absurd, I’d like to say with resounding clarity that I find their lifestyles absurd. When someone squints their eyebrows at me from their corner, a corner of monotonous, statist, stagnant boredom, I’m surprised at how someone can speak of their life as though it is the way to live. The best way to live.

Gail Albert Halaban, Out My Window, Astoria, Night Bridges, 2008. © Gail Albert Halaban, Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery, New York

Gail Albert Halaban, Out My Window, Astoria, Night Bridges, 2008. © Gail Albert Halaban, Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery, New York

You must understand that I see my life as having started at a random point and when I start with this idea, my destination is suddenly more variable. I do not see myself as American. I see myself as having been born in a land called America (For now. Countries tend to change every few hundred years.) I don’t find this consequential or defining. It’s random.

I’m a citizen of Earth. Or, even further, I’m a collection of stardust buzzing around on a much larger collection of stardust. So, don’t tell me I need a 9-5 and a mortgage and I’ll try to refrain from telling you that you need an imagination and a set of jumper cables wired up to your main arteries to thump you back to life.

Staying put seems like a crime to me.

To stay exactly where you started out. And for what reason? To stay somewhere because that is where you have always been is not a reason. It’s an excuse.

dying tree 

I’d like to turn, though, to those who find the greatest rewards in life to be those of security, stability, and predictability. I do understand that everyone has their preferences. But I cannot help observing that life is inherently volatile, insecure, and unpredictable. In a word: to seek this is to delude oneself.

My sister died when I was 15 and she was 10. This snapped my arteries into high gear. I AM ALIVE was in the thump of every heartbeat after that moment. Then it followed as such…

Time is limited here…

We know so little about ourselves…

We know so little about why we are here…

And we die before we ever know what we were supposed to do here…

Because we never ask…

Because we are so damn afraid…

And then it’s over. Then we die. The chance to learn, understand, and grow passes by. It ends.

We leave behind a Scandinavian wilderness never explored, a French beach never walked upon, a Roman cathedral never entered, a spirit never challenged.

When someone asks me why I travel so much, it’s so hard to answer. In short, I’d like to always say: because we are dying, and this is all we have.



One Comment to “Why do we travel?”

  1. I love this. Thanks for describing your feelings. I think it’s awesome that you travel. That doesn’t make everyone else absurd for not traveling. We’re all different, called to and driven by different experiences and psychological/spiritual ideals. But, we’re also all entitled to live life in our own way. I’m proud of you for living your life the way you live it. I don’t agree with your politics, but that doesn’t mean you’re un-American. I feel strongly that we have to find our own way in life.
    My reaction to her death was similar to yours, and I know at least one other person whose life was radically changed for the better because of it. I may not have decided that traveling was what I needed to do in order to live, but sometime if you want to know I’ll tell you what her death gave me the courage to do.
    I love you.


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