The World's End Pub by Jean-Jacques @
The World’s End Pub, Camden Town – Photo by JJM.

 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

© 2006


Explorer, Philosopher, Photographer


  1. Michelle

    I like it! 🙂 Very “chic” colour scheme too.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I was feeling so depressed.. and stressed. I really hate moving in winter! Well.. I’m going to try to keep up blogging anyway so you will find new stuff to read. 😉

    Take care

  2. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

    Thanks for being my first “commenter”, Michelle! Yes I can imagine the inconvenience, the timing is not the best… but (as you said), the blogging should keep you going – I’m probably not the only one who would have missed you I think 😉 .Your blog is a regular inspiration for us “regulars”. I hope you’re feeling better and that things are working out regards all the Christmas planning, etc.

    PS: Glad you like “the look” – yes, it’s similar to Blogger’s “Scribe” template, but I like the large font and clean feeling of this one. – It took a bit of getting used to, but I’m happy so far 🙂

  3. Hayden

    I’ve known a couple of people who engaged in travel as a way of living, at least they did for some years. It seems to offer many riches that I admire, not least a sturdy self-reliant, self-confidence. This is to be distinguished from ‘drifting’ which (in my mind) assumes a much more helpless posture. Both rely to some extent on luck – ehh, I need to think more.

    Most of us never test ourselves in circumstances that deeply challenge our intrinsic ability to thrive and survive.

  4. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

    Hello Hayden – Yes, I think some drifters depend solely on luck to survive, (and on the extreme end never stop relying on luck) while those who travel more purposefully, are more self-reliant and they wish for good luck in addition to their own planning and ability to negotiate the route they have chosen. But generally I prefer not to make a clear distinction, because for me the theme overlaps all the time. Some people are born into that culture and that’s just what they do.. Even when having a conventional lifestyle it could take years of blissful drifting to discover one’s true direction in life. Many people drift from job to job/career to career/relationship to relationship/friendship to friendship/ belief system to belief system, or on to philosophies and so on – its all part of the process of “trying out life” (life’s for trying after all) and doing so confidently is extremely liberating and very powerful in terms of personal growth. It can be a life-time’s journey, to eliminate the “who or what I am not”, in order to find the “who or what I am…” (Not everyone goes the distance) If we combine the personal search with moving from place to place, town to city or even country to country this process could take on a whole new dimension. There are of course individuals who don’t travel physically at all, but who may have travelled spiritually – further than anyone can even imagine. In other cases a person may experience a certain ‘calling’, an instinct to personally go and see what’s out there. A feeling so powerful they are absolutely compelled to act on it…
    This amazing film that deals with this concept:
    (The “live wild blog” is insightful too)

    In terms of being destitute, down-and-out or homeless and relying on hand-outs & the goodwill of others to survive – that of course is something different because the choice aspect has been removed. From my experience there’s almost always a “story behind the story” (often tragic). Very few of us would choose such a lifestyle. People might become emotionally or psychologically scarred or damaged (in the way of depression for example), or in other ways affected such as through drug or alcohol abuse, or worse and become unable to uplift themselves as their lives spiral out of control. Yet, many make it back from the abyss and are stronger for it. (But its a high price to pay to grow stronger)

    Your average non-affluent person – (working class or even middle class, but in debt) who lives a moderate lifestyle is often only a few (lost) pay checks away from being destitute him/or herself – if their income should be threatened. Scary thought, but it all depends on which safety nets are available in the form of family support, personal savings, social benefits and so on. When several or all support systems fail, more vulnerable members in society might be catapulted out of reality as they know it. Not everyone is equipped for such events. I suppose its the uncertainty, of whether we’d make it or not in such times of crises, which holds us back from choosing to test ‘our intrinsic ability to thrive and survive’ as you said. Yet, in some cases it could be the best thing to happen to a person – to be challenged – to have his/her foundations shaken a little bit…

    There is a positive side to this, because (as you’ve also said), survival is genetically coded in us humans and will see us through. Except if its not meant to be. There’s no doubt that survival can bring a sense of confidence and contentment – the knowledge that you can and will indeed make it on your own. And when you become good at survival, you might become excellent at thriving under the right conditions…

  5. hayden

    “And when you become good at survival, you might become excellent at thriving under the right conditions… ”

    great thought!

    haven’t seen the film, but was in line to get the book when it came out and wasn’t dissappointed. Amazing book!

    I wonder if there isn’t a selection of genes that pushes an individual to travel, just as did nomads and explorers of old. Or, a short generation or ten ago, to ‘take to the sea.’

    A hunger for the stimulation of change. There are many who do not understand the thirst that leads to mountain climbing, to trekking, to exploring. Sometimes it seems to me that there are parallel worlds – those who confidently assume the risk in exchange for the great value gained, and those who simply can’t compass that there IS value there at all.

    Perhaps I’m mistaken to combine your variety of movement through the world with mountain climbing, but it seems to me that while the challenge is quite different, it speaks to the same hunger.

    If your not familiar w/ Craig Childs’ books, you may be interested…?

  6. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café

    “I wonder if there isn’t a selection of genes that pushes an individual to travel, just as did nomads and explorers of old”

    Yes, I sometimes wonder if it’s a spiritual calling or in the genes or maybe both? – that’s the tricky part. (for example, if its in my genes, why not in my brother’s?)

    “to assume the risk in exchange for the great value gained” “those who simply can’t compass that there IS value there at all.”

    That’s exactly it. There seem to be different value systems. For some the value of life experiences are much higher than any comfort zones or material things (the latter can always be recreated later, but we only have so much time to get the experiences in)

    “…but it seems to me that while the challenge is quite different, it speaks to the same hunger.”

    Great analogy – whether we climb a mountain in our own backyard or go trekking 10 thousand miles away (or backpack the world relentlessly) it’s just our own personal manifestation of that hunger TO GO.

    I looked into Craig Childs and found his home page. Very interesting (person) – will see if I can get hold of his books locally. Thank you Hayden.

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  8. Debra Malmos

    Hi Jacques – I can relate on a smaller scale – used to call myself a vagabond. I’ve moved 15 times since high school, along with 11 years of 50/50 business travel, I’ve moved from places like NYC, LA, Dallas, Kansas City, Seattle, Tucson, AZ, only my stays averaged 4 years. It was liberating to sell everything off for the freedom to turn on a dime. It was a mix of reasons and opportunities and I wouldn’t trade the experience. Enjoyed this article – remember how I loved other articles you wrote in Ireland. love, in lak’ech, Debra

    • Jean-Jacques

      HI Debra, thanks for commenting! Very interesting to hear about your vagabonding past (come to think of it, it makes a lot of sense that you used to be a traveler) ! Seems like you have stayed in amazing places! I’ve moved countless times and it seems I’m still at it. I think I cut the groove so deep when I started off with traveling that it’s embedded in my cycle to the extent that its inescapable, but the initial reasons why I set off were the deep catalysts in the first place. I’m glad you enjoyed the read – this was one of my very first articles on my blog (I sent the newsletter while testing it and it included the first two posts for some reason). I actually miss writing these kind of articles that deal with the philosophy of travel. Since I got into the Mayan mythology and culture (including the calendars and prophecy) I’ve been so preoccupied with it all that my other travel writing has to an extent suffered as a result. But I guess we also transition in what interests as we go along. I have quite a few tales I can still tell about travel experiences and may still get around to that one day – hopefully!

      In lak’ech,

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