“Hold me fast, hold me fast ‘cause I’m a hopeless wanderer. And I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under. And I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under.” ~Hopeless Wanderer by Mumford & Sons
I was driving home from Snowbasin Resort and “Hopeless Wanderer” came on. I’ve played this song many times before, but this time it struck me. It wasn’t so much the specific words, but the idea of me being wanderer in this world and my passion for traveling.
According to Dictionary.com the word traveling came from the “late 14c., ‘to journey,’ from travailen (1300) ‘to make a journey,’ originally ‘to toil, labor’ (see travail). The semantic development may have been via the notion of ‘go on a difficult journey,’ but it may also reflect the difficulty of going anywhere in the middle Ages” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/traveling?s=t). While traveling is still seen as “to toil, labor,” there is beauty in this. Why?
In Laurence Gonzales’s Surviving Survival, he discusses traveling as a type of healing. “Travel is a time-honored strategy for healing” (149). Because “every time you travel to an unfamiliar environment, your brain undergoes an important transformation” (Gonzales 149). The metal maps you have in your mind to not match the new environment you are in.
“So your brain gets very busy when you’re in an unfamiliar place, but busy in a way that you can’t perceive at a conscious level. You can feel it getting busy, but you don’t know quite what you’re feeling. You may simply say that it’s exciting to travel, because even while the amygdala is trying to create an emergency response and the hippocampus is trying to take in all this new information for its cartographic endeavors, the conscious and the rational part of your brains knows that you’re safe. So even as the unconscious part of your brain is working as if it’s an emergency, your frontal lobes are putting a damper on the response with the aid of reason and logic and the reassuring knowledge that you’re safe. It is this tension, the struggle, between these two parts of the brain, that lends an air of fun and excitement to travel” (Gonzales 149-150).
In traveling, an individual gains a new understand of who they are because of the new surrounding environment and how they see themselves in the environment, their mental models and mental maps. This isn’t such an easy task.
Here’s a psychological definition of what travel is and what it can do for us. Maybe the fact that I see myself as a hopeless wanderer is not because I love to travel, but I yearn to discover myself, to rediscover myself, to learn something new about myself.
“Travel can help many of us. And the more intensely challenging the activities you include with it, the more effective it is as therapy” (Gonzales 151). In the words of St. Augustine, “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Go. Travel. Explore. Adventure is waiting.
Gonzales, Laurence. Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience . New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012.
“traveling.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 20 Jan. 2014. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/traveling>.