Going the Distance
The Road to Travelosophy
The word traveller covers a broad spectrum of people on the move. Most people associate the word with short-term travellers, as in tourists or backpackers. Certain types of travellers would fall into a more long-term category. They would practice travel as a lifestyle or as a necessity or possibly for a combination of complex reasons. Some would be members of the Traveller or “Gypsy” communities and are often from Roma or Irish descent. Their families would have been practising the Traveller culture for decades, if not generations. Others fall into a group which I like to refer to as Modern Gypsies. They would have taken up travel as a lifestyle, along the way of having a perfectly “normal” life. This would have happened due to circumstances, influences or events which altered the course of their lives. Alternatively, their original short-term journey may have been prolonged indefinitely, not necessarily out of personal choice or of their own making. Some of these individual journey-makers may have lost their way in the often harsh and difficult world we call reality and would consider their personal journey nothing less than a struggle. Yet, others may have been influenced by a calling of a spiritual nature and have over time become pilgrims of life.
They may very well have started off as natural seekers, searchers and pathfinders driven by an insatiable desire to learn. Not all travellers on this path are at first consciously aware of the process they are participating in and will not always, eventually seek out the deeper meaning of their journey. They will be satisfied enough to simply experience “what they do” as an instinct, which drives them and prompts them to keep on moving, to keep on going, occasionally or frequently. Due to the escapist nature of the process of travel, it serves its purpose quite effectively and there would be no reason for further questioning. Regardless of the finer details of people’s traveller-lifestyles, it may not be entirely compatible with the conventional, survival-of-the-fittest, rat-race, status-orientated, materialistic, consumer-driven, modern ways of thinking: Society does not always look kindly on such roaming and restless mountaineers and pioneers, which in turn could make it hard for said travellers to acknowledge to themselves completely, or yield entirely, to their own destiny, which was prompted by deeper inner forces in the first place.
It will not happen for everyone and indeed it will not need to. For some it will take longer than for others, but when it does, they will throw off the shackles of uncertainty; they will see themselves confidently and clearly and fully embrace their style of life, for the realization will be that it is simply who they are, who they have been, all along. There is the potential for any person engaged in a personal struggle to be naturally liberated through the course of his or her personal life-journey or while on the road, whether that journey may be spiritual or actual. Once they come into their own, their lives and lifestyles could reach an amazing sense of fulfilment as they gradually lose their sense of “being lost” and develop an understanding of their natural path. As they start looking forward by looking back, they start to realise how their eventful life history was part of their natural and unique route, written in the sands of time.
Often, people who became “Modern Gypsies”, were those who had experienced some form of adverse event or events in their lives – sometimes during childhood and sometimes later on. They may have been forced off the tracks, unwillingly or unwittingly. When such events happen, those events could hold the potential key for a person’s spiritual awakening. That is not to diminish, at least in the short-term, the painful effects of life’s greatest challenges. Due to its painful nature, the positivism of a negative event may take time to filter through into consciousness. Therefore, inevitably, in life it is almost always a struggle first and a journey later.
(Written in late 2006, while in the North of Ireland)
Text and Photograph by Jean-Jacques Montagnier