What makes a traveler?
We all travel, and for many reasons. We plod from the living room to the bathroom on television commercial breaks. We drive to the store for peanut butter. We commute to work, transport goods, visit family in other cities, and take vacations in distant places. Whether trudging or sprinting, going near or far, paying for the privilege or getting paid to do it, human movement coupled with intent is decidedly travel.
But we are not all travelers. Clearly, it is not the act of travel in itself that makes a traveler, because we reserve this term for people who demonstrate particular forms of this purposeful movement. The word traveler evokes a mental picture of rough-hewn backpackers sleeping in train stations; or mustachioed explorers in pith helmets stamping through dense jungle thickets; or svelte writers huddled in café corners and the recesses of dark taverns with their journals and pens and strong drinks.
Yet this conceptualization is too limited. We conflate a lifestyle of travel with the travelers themselves, and neglect to acknowledge that one can be a traveler in other meaningful ways, on much smaller scales. Technology has played a large part in making mundane travel the making of modern travelers.
Consider the amateur restaurant buff snapping photos of his dinner and showing them off on Instagram to his drooling followers. Consider the expert local praising her favorite small businesses on Yelp for the benefit of anyone who happens to stumble onto her reviews. Consider the Geocache hunter wandering through parks and parking lots, scrambling for goodies left by fellow treasure seekers and reveling in the discovery of those hidden surprises.
They all count as travelers.
To be a traveler is to yearn for meaning beyond the usual. It is to have the desire for greater experiences, and to do the actual work of attaining them. It is to seek and to find and to share. It is to make one’s life storied, and in the telling of that story – in whatever medium it is told – to make life bigger than it is.
To be a traveler is to move through the world with unnecessary purpose. And we can all do that anywhere.