I had someone say those words to me right before she stopped talking to me. In fact, I’ve had quite a few people say that to me and other seemingly restless travelers. What the hell is wrong with me? What the hell is wrong with us?
I’ve spent the last few years roaming around the world and the country searching for something better than stagnation. Most people are comfortable with stagnation. Whether you have a job you need to hold onto or obligations you need to maintain. Most people are stagnant and are comfortable with that. If you are, I’m not criticizing you, but stagnation has always been more painful to me than seemingly years of aimless wanderings.
Last week I left Illinois for the Bakken formation, a booming economic area in western North Dakota. People thought I was missing and perhaps dead. A missing persons report was filed for me. I suppose I should have told people why I was moving again, but they would have told me a dozen reasons why I shouldn’t move, why I shouldn’t leave and why I should be comfortable with my stagnation. Contrary to their belief, I’m not dead and I’m actually more alive than the last year of stagnation in Illinois.
The move up here hasn’t been easy. I’ve spent the majority of my money, and I thought I was going to be homeless yesterday. I also needed a hair-cut. I’m certainly not a hippie or a drifter; I am a traveler. I offered my beloved computer, my window to the world, as a deposit for an apartment. To my surprise, my landlord refused. Not only did she refuse, she also happens to cut hair and offered me a hair-cut. You can be a traveler, but you still don’t have to look like a homeless person. I now have a place to live, a job and a hair-cut thanks to the wonderful people of Culbertson, Montana.
Am I looking for a hand-out? No, absolutely not. If I was looking for a hand-out, I would have stayed in Illinois. With the same job, the same people and the same stagnation that seems to plague me when I return home. Is the problem me? Perhaps it is. There are some of us that are not content with stagnation, however comfortable it may be. I am one of them.
I built Generation Passport, on the premise that you are never stuck, no matter where you live or how hopeless things are. There is always a giant planet out there and you are free to roam it, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. The travellers of history are the people that found new lands and started whole economies, in which you now reside. We are not travelling just for ourselves, but for interaction with other lands and people who we normally should not be in contact with. In essence, the travellers of today are the Oregon Trail pioneers of the future. We’re going places, whether we fail or succeed for the hell of it, and who knows what will be built in our wake.
Think about any city you know. What is it named after? Who settled there and what are the economies built on? Those who conquer an area can try to change things as much as they want, but they can’t conquer the history of an area. History is history, and how you act and think is built on the blood, genetics and laws of the past. It may be covered up and hidden, like in the Soviet Union, but the history is there for you to find. The very foundations of stagnant life, were built by very mobile people sailing their ships and roaming tribes.
So what the hell is wrong with us wanders of the earth?
We’re busy building the future, whether we know it or not, and connecting humanity in ways which will not mean anything to this generation. We’ll be remember as the pioneers of the future though, when the lands that we travel to and live on will build whole societies and economies on our very footsteps. If that means sailing a hand-built raft on the Danube or freezing to death in North Dakota, so be it. This is a great big scary world, and we shouldn’t be afraid of it.
Joe Platt is the founder of Generation Passport, writer, photographer, traveler, English teacher and EMT-B. Joe has backpacked Asia and was the first foreign teacher in two schools in the former Soviet state of Georgia through the program Teach and Learn with Georgia. He hopes to teach others how they can use the internet to work and travel 2.0. Follow Joe on Generation Passport.
This post forms part of the Why Don’t You Get a Real Job? series.