“The Road goes ever on and on,” according to J R. R. Tolkien. Some of us feel compelled to follow the road wherever it goes – to learn, live and explore. Being on the road isn’t a literal path. It doesn’t mean we’re pursuing the same road eternally (wouldn’t that be terrifying?) but it’s more of a yearning to travel; to see new things and seek out new experiences.
When I went on holiday as a child, the most exciting part was the day after we arrived. Typically we would arrive at night, too exhausted to do anything except collapse into bed. The next day, however… there was a whole new house to explore, and the surrounding area too. Anything could be around the corner. A newborn foal, a crooked tree with a crude rope swing, a little stream nestled away from the road.
I read adventure books too, and in my naivety the idea of having an adventure was so glorious, so enthralling that I began to imagine my own. Perhaps I was a character in my own early adventures, but as I grew older I found myself designing my own characters. Often they had ridiculous names and personalities as two-dimensional as my rough sketches of them. The plots were riddled with clichés and almost everyone involved was either divinely heroic or monstrously villainous.
As I began to mature, my writing did too and so did my taste for adventure. At one point I realised that what I really needed was to see the world – or at least, as much of it as I could. The idea of immersing myself in another culture, living out of a backpack or suitcase started to become more and more appealing. As I finished university, I had an opportunity to get out there and see a little bit of somewhere else.
In 2008 I went on a road trip around Europe. It was both magnificent and ridiculous. The first thing I realised as we arrived in France, packed into an old van bought on eBay was that there is nothing more liberating than escaping your life. Days were not defined by their usual restrictions. We went to places, we saw things, we met people. I soon forgot I’d ever been unable to function without a daily dose of the internet. Through the windows of our van I drank up the new terrain of a Europe I hadn’t experienced before. We had our own adventures, through foolishness, inexperience and bad luck – and they were all vital parts of the trip. We met people – many were friendly, polite and kind; some were not.
By the end of the trip I realised that what I’d long suspected was true. I had an urge to travel, and I would never be quite content to remain in one place forever. The word wanderlust is overused, but it describes a unique feeling. A restlessness, a readiness to hit the road at any available opportunity.
It would be several years before I travelled again, and it wasn’t until very recently that I was able to plan my own adventure around Europe – this time, I picked the route myself. No vans to dump my belongings in, but a series of hostels, weird and wonderful. Over the following posts, I will be detailing my second trip around Europe. There were ups and downs, beautiful beaches and gloomy skies, cramped coaches and disastrous ferry journeys.
Little by little, this blog will be my attempt to write the world – or at least, my experiences of it. It may be a small voice in an ocean of chatter, but that’s how we all start out as travellers – curious children lost in a very big universe, driven by some odd compulsion to turn over rocks and walk to the end of the horizon.