You’ve seen him or her before. She’s the girl at the airport running to her terminal with a lightweight backpack, perfectly disheveled hair, and a henna tattoo. He’s the guy flying standby, willing to wait hours for any fruitful destination. You think, now that guy is living, that girl seems fun. Truthfully, that guy is a mess, that girl is a hot mess. Her Facebook fills your feed with interesting pictures of sunsets, snowstorms, or wildlife. You think, “they have a life worth living.”
Little do you know, the life of a traveler is far less glamorous than what appears on Facebook or Instagram. Her hair is perfectly disheveled from both the lack of showers and the lack of a hairbrush. That scarf she uses to wrangle her mop of a head has not only been used as a hair accessory but also as a wipe rag, a blindfold for nights spent in an airport, and a bandage for when she fell on a hike and her ego told her not to bring Band-Aids.
His casual attire lacks any formal washing. He knows to bring polyester fabrics to ease the noses of passengers he sits beside. His beard is not a fashion statement but proof of a length of time without a proper bathroom or a proper tool for to groom.
You probably see them at the airport, usually scouring the premises for an open outlet to charge their dying devices because where they go has no electricity. If you don’t see them at the airport, they sit like ‘hippies,’ squatting at an establishment soaking in the free outlet for a time before they leave to find the perfect campsite.
The truth about a traveler is far more than appearances. She’s tired from trying to sleep on a plane. Her mouth contains painful ulcers from eating salty, unhealthy food as a late night resort from hunger. His skin burns red from rationing the small bottle of sunblock. She tries to remember the last time she brushed her teeth. A normal sleep schedule must be around here somewhere, they think.
The Traveler is Not a Tourist
The perfect tourist orchestrates a well-planned experience of leisure: resorts instead of hostels, taxis instead of trains, appointments instead of spontaneity, and days instead of weeks; weeks never turn into months. The tourist shall not be devalued. The tourist deserves the leisure to escape the job which allots only a brief time to experience the allure of travelling. The traveler, on the other hand, thrives on new experiences and finds any means to travel. Hitchhiking, backpacking, walking, biking, by bus, train, or subway, the traveler will find a means and a means within her means of money, which isn’t much at all. Months of travel never seem unattainable to the traveler. The tourist feels the pull, the undercurrent, of society, job security, and money. The traveler ignores the calls to settle and pushes to freedom, uncertainty, and happiness in the wander.
The Traveler is Not Rich
The traveler always finds a way to travel. Five dollars can buy a bus ticket but a thumb could hitch so much more. The traveler tolerates camping, late nights in an airport, sketchy hostel stays, and friends of friends’ couches simply for the joy of experiencing a new day in a new place.
The Traveler is Cursed for the Traveler Must Travel
The traveler might seem like a hippy wandering between paycheck to paycheck. The traveler may seem to be escaping the inevitable way of life. The traveler may appear to scam or to cheat. The traveler appears to these stereotypes simply because of the jealousy bubbling in the tourist, the 9 to 5’er, or the pessimistic elder. Do not hate the traveler but do not envy the traveler. The traveler is cursed. The curse of travel pushes, forces them to wander.
No amount of new places or experiences will ever satisfy the travelers for they must always see more.