One of the things I wanted to do with this new blog was to write more thought pieces. Traveling is an incredibly profound experience, especially when you are intentional about the immersion in a different culture and environment. I thought I’d start by explaining how the #wanderlust mantra applies to me personally and how I straddle between the roles of the wanderer and the seeker – two similar but ultimately different perspectives on travel.
The first thing to probably note is that traveling starts off as an activity, but it really ends up becoming a lifestyle. The first time you truly understand what it means to be in a different country is when you travel by yourself or at most with one other person. Anything more dissuades you from engaging with the environment around you and causes your focus to be on your party – whether it’s friends, family or a random tour group. My first such travel experience wasn’t even that far away from home – at the age of 17, I was selected for a fully funded trip to Hong Kong to see the University of Hong Kong. It was really a ‘Taster’ program – a way to get high school students from around the region to develop an interest in the university. I was given a room in the dorm and was introduced to other participants from all over – from Malaysia to Taiwan to the Phillippines. But while the day engaged us with interesting activities around the curriculum and life of the campus, the night allowed me to sneak (literally, they had a curfew on us…) out and explore the city. I was fortunate to have friends in town to get some initial exposure with, but I ended up exploring the city by myself. I remember getting some roast duck noodles in a dingy alleyway restaurant that was celebrated in reviews online. I was sitting across the table from a random stranger who was slurping loudly on his noodles. He had a bowl of wonton dumplings in soup and I think he saw me eyeing it. He offered me the bowl and I felt so happy to share some of these dumplings with him. He spoke English of course since Hong Kong is a pretty cosmopolitan city, and he gave me recommendations on other things to do in Hong Kong. That night as I slipped back into bed, I felt energized. I had just connected not only with a random stranger but also with a whole way of life and experience. This stranger may not have known it, but he had just infected me with the bug. I was experiencing wanderlust.
Fast forward to today, and I’ve traveled to more than 30 countries and 150 cities (and probably more if I count cities that I spent just a couple of hours in). It’s a drop in the bucket considering that there are 196 recognized sovereign countries. But each trip has been so so rich in its molding of my view in the world. I’ve approached most trips with the same sense of innocent awe and wonder, walking down streets and dropping into random shops/cafes that simply say they’re open. I’m interested in what’s interesting – and I recognize that that comes in many forms. The number of travel stories I’ve recalled that start with me just following a whim or scent is too many to count, but they’re all marvelous because each place provides something different. Yes, there are truths you recognize that connect a lot of these experiences – truths that ultimately are shaping my view of the world, humanity and the cosmos. These truths provide comfort and security in an ultimately chaotic world. For example, if you ever feel alone, find a fellow wanderer to connect with. You can find them in the regular spots – walking out of a hostel, reading in a cafe, standing in a line at a good food joint. Wanderers love to connect, even though they themselves are alone. We think in a mix of short sprints and long treks – we’re ultimately on this trek alone, but we’ll sprint this leg with a companion. I’ll write more about these various forms of interaction in future posts but I wanted to establish the basic essence of the wanderer. Wanderers uncover and embed themselves into the tapestry of the city. Wanderers may seek – they may be looking for inner peace or something more ethereal, but they ultimately don’t know where’s the destination. They’re explorers and they’re mostly lost and completely fine with that.
The seeker, on the other hand, is slightly different. The seeker has a goal. They’re trying to find something. Discovery is the destination and while they may take a detour once in a while, they’re really heading towards an end point. I’ve made side-trips like these before. My journey to Macchu Picchu was one of these. Cusco surprised me a lot in what it has to offer, but I was really there to make it to the lost city. And when I made it there, the state of satisfaction and happiness I experienced was indescribable. I had heard so much about the wondrous site, hidden in the mountains and the clouds. And as I saw the clouds depart, I knew that the journey was completely worth it. Seekers are trying to solve a problem or answer a question – one that they think they may know the answer to. Seekers can be found climbing to Mount Everest’s base camp or tobogganing down the Great Wall, and they recognize that the world is both a playground and a resource for solutions to some of life’s most difficult problems.
You may now realize that there isn’t really too many differences between the wanderer and the seeker – they’re both exploring and have a sense of adventure. I personally find myself embodying both archetypes interchangeably, but I think it helps to identify where someone is on their travel journey. A seeker isn’t likely to take a spontaneous day trip to a nearby village when they’re really just trying to hit their destination. A wanderer isn’t likely to want to follow a fixed schedule for anything more than one to two days. I also think it helps you become comfortable with your own narrative and travel story. You don’t need to be pressured to want to do everything. You could be seeking or you could be wandering. That’s completely fine, as long as you’re traveling sustainably, responsibly and true to yourself.
dream & discover.