January 17, 2016

To the Wanderers Who are Told they are Running Away—Maybe Not.

Courtesy of Author, Toby Israel

I have read several insightful articles recently on the subject of traveling, wandering and running away, and while I appreciate them, they have left me dissatisfied.

I do not profess to know any of you, to know what is in your hearts, but then, neither does anyone else. I do expect that some of you are not, as general wisdom would have it, manifesting elaborate escapist fantasies through your travel decisions.

I expect some of you are like me.

I have been “nomadic” (or vagabonding, wandering, what have you) now for 14 months. I have friends and loved ones spread across the globe whom I love dearly and miss sincerely. I work, play, eat and sleep much as anyone else, but every two weeks to three months, I pack my one bag and wander on.

Of course, I have issues in my life, but this passion for adventure, exploration and wandering long predates them, and—I suspect—long predates me.

And so I travel.

Why do I—why do we—do it? Ah, I think that question has an answer far more complex than, “running away.”

I think, for some of us, the call of the world is simply too strong to disregard.

The corners of maps are sirens, and we must sail to our own destruction—or perhaps not. Answering the call needn’t be so grim.

Every generation has had its seekers, explorers, adventurers and vagabonds. They have been the believers and inventors, the storytellers and seers. And just because the empty spaces of the maps have all been filled in, doesn’t mean there are no frontiers left to cross.

I believe that this spirit flows on, and even in my generation—of tech babies and millennials—the compulsion to wander holds steady.

And so, this is for those of us—wanderers, vagabonds, nomads and travelers—who have been told we are running away.

Maybe, we aren’t running away.

None but ourselves can know our own hearts—each a singular constellation of passions and desires.

Maybe, some of us are running toward.

Toward the faded edges of things.
Toward the lilting siren corners.
Toward the dusty recesses of the “known.”
Toward the dusky mystery of the unknown.

Maybe, for some of us, the world calls.

Adventure calls.
Breathless uncertainty calls.

And it is louder than our troubles.
Louder than our fears.
Louder than a society that demands we settle.


Dig our heels in and


Sometimes, it’s the lost who wander.
But other souls seek just to seek.

None but ourselves can know our own hearts.
Let’s allow each one to speak:

To those who say we are running away… Maybe not.


Relephant Read:

Only What I Can Carry. {Photos of a Wanderer}


Author: Toby Israel

Image: Courtesy of Author // Matt MacGillivray/Flickr


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Barbara Mar 26, 2016 7:13am

Loved this article! I not only wander, I often pick up and move when I get bored of a location. People always assume I am running from something and often their parting words are "I hope you find what you are looking for"… But to wander is in my soul and I couldn't stop it, even if I wanted to. Thank you for the article and affirming there are others out there just like me.

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Toby Israel

Toby Israel is a vagabond and storyteller with a metaphorical closet full of hats. She currently works as a creative facilitator, editor, and writer, and as Chief Storyteller at NuMundo. She is also a full-time lover of movement, food, and words. For the moment, she lives in Costa Rica. (She came for a master’s degree in Media, Peace, and Conflict Studies from the UN-mandated University for Peace—and stayed for the papaya, sunshine, and conscious community.) Share her journey on her website, and on FacebookInstagram and Twitter!