Wanderlust: Why do we travel?

A lot of people put 'travelling' under their hobbies and interests. Sometimes I ask these people where they've been. They sometimes shock me with far-flung corners of the globe that I could only hope to one day be able to afford. More often they are the same wonderful but hackneyed places: Paris, Barcelona, New York, Sydney, Bangkok. Accompanying their exploits are Facebook albums of average photos often with boyfriend or girlfriend in tow in a variety of identifiable locations. Good on them, they've got out. They've had a holiday. Were they travelling? In the etymological sense, of course they were. They took a train or a bus or a plane to go somewhere. But were they really travelling because they 'love travelling' or because, more possibly, they like getting away somewhere new. Is there a distinction? Maybe not. But maybe there is. I wanted to set my mind to thinking about why we travel.


I love travelling. That same sentence proclaimed by many. And yes, sometimes I hop on a bus to the mountains near Madrid in order to escape the city – as wonderful as it is – and breathe the clear air and empty my head. But spending day after day on the beach? No. Travelling to a city to check off the monuments and galleries from the list? No. Well, maybe a couple. I like playing computer games now and then. I like to go jogging by the river. Photography is a passion of mine. I supremely enjoy reading a good book. These are all things I like to do. But none of them are so vital to me as food and travel. If I'm not travelling – wherever it may be – or sampling some new food I get restless and antsy. I start to feel trapped, the weight of life and its inherently real but unnecessary requirements covering me layer by layer. To travel is as important to me as breath. 'I love travelling'. No. I need to travel. It forms an intrinsic part of who I am and I can't live without it. To see a new city, drive though the landscapes of an unvisited country, to sample its food and its wine, especially its wine, and to let one's eyes and camera lens fall upon its people, is a happiness that I presume is only rivalled by the feeling of being in love – and I have yet to encounter that. Therefore travelling remains a sensation of utmost importance and profundity. When I say 'I love travelling', its understatement must be viewed on a galactic scale.


I work, among other ventures, as a food tour guide in the beautiful Spanish city of Madrid. The clients I receive are travelling for myriad reasons: to get away from everything; 'here on business'; honeymoons and romantic getaways; it forms part of a larger European or Spain tour; 'I always wanted to come'; 'our child is studying here'; and, with the nature of my job, the odd foodie who heard Madrid was the best in the land. These are all valid reasons. They are all different; yet at the same time the same. For whatever reason all these people have ended up in the same place, often doing the same tour with the same red-faced Englishman. No matter what the eventual reason – unless forced by one's business, really it seemed, to a greater or lesser extent, to boil down to the same thing: Wanderlust, no matter how distilled.


Stereotypes. Whether it’s the middle-class student somehow annoyingly backpacking across South America and returning with stories of how they felt in touch with the impoverished and sporting new multicoloured linen trousers and necklaces; or the plucky pink working class bloke who has escaped to the Costa del Sol to soak up some sun with his equally sunburnt wife in Benidorm; or the young writer who quits his job in order to walk across a country, or get away from anywhere known to deeper understand a place and have fodder to scribble down; or whether it’s the honeymooners off to spend far too much money in Paris celebrating a wedding where they also spent too much money; or maybe the businessman on his boat in the Côte d'Azur or the teenagers camping in the woods in Canada. It's all different and all the same. Something in their genes, in their inherited sapiens biology is making them travel. Making them – whatever the reason they think it is - need to be on the move in some way. Rare and sad is the person who never travels, or wants to. And I genuinely pity and fail in understanding them.


Why do we travel? Maybe I haven't got an answer. I don't know; there's an answer. Or maybe it's as simple and inane as 'well, because some of us want to'. But I can't believe that. I like to think that we have to. Wanderlust: A deep desire to travel. Part of what makes Homo sapiens sapiens.

I'd coin wandermust if it didn't sound so truly awful.