The road goes ever on...

I recently read a quote by the intrepid explorer Richard Francis Burton that struck me: “One of the gladdest moments of human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Hope, man feels once more happy.”

Now, certainly Burton was speaking of far more exotic things than I am used to — searching for the source of the Nile or sneaking into Mecca, for example. The words don’t lose their power, however, even when applied to a short jaunt. There is something magical about adventure. It starts with a slight tingle in your toes and makes its way up to your heart, which dances a giddy two-step.

Though I have always loved traveling, it seems like now more than ever I’m experiencing wanderlust. Where it was once a fun pastime for summer breaks, now it has become an overwhelming drive, a near obsession. Mindless hours spent comparing airfares and researching hostels have now replaced my passing obsession with cat videos.

But travel isn’t a solely personal endeavor — it seems to be a common interest. I need only mention a possible trip somewhere, and suddenly everyone chips in, asking where I’m going and if they can come along in my suitcase.

Trips near and far — from a biscuits-n-gravy run to the neighboring state to a historical tour of South Korea — suddenly seem obtainable. The world is opening, beckoning for us to shrug off our sleepy towns, replace our “cloaks of Cares” with lighter ones that are suited for adventure.

I admit to being a homebody, despite my penchant for travel. If there is anyone more like a hobbit, I’d like to meet them — and then invite them in for tea. Truly, I love nothing more in life than a warm fire and a kettle, with a loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese and a good book on the side. Perhaps, however, as the reputable Misters Baggins have shown us, a little bit of adventure is the best thing for this sort of person.

The moment you go “out your door,” it’s as if nothing can hold you back. Any problem or obstacle that you reach is just a learning experience, an opportunity in waiting. Living in the same place, experiencing the same people day after day, can only foster a feeling of sinking, stagnation and fatigue.

As another one of my heroes, Oscar Wilde, once said: “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” I truly believe that there can be nothing better for a person than, once in a while, getting up off the couch, shaking off a few layers, packing a bag with just the essentials, and discovering the world as it was meant to be discovered. To be spontaneous, to be imaginative, to surprise everyone, including yourself. What could be better?

Emily’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at

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