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Not Possible to Travel the World

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I must admit that after ten years of vagabonding I have gone next to nowhere, seen next to nothing.

Now that I have tasted a morsel of nowhere I can better gauge the incredibly large feast this planet has to offer a traveler.

I traveled in the US state of Arizona for three months. I started out working in the Sonoran Desert near Quartzsite. I would work 5 days a week and stay in a company sponsered hotel for four nights, and then travel around for the remaining three nights. Then I went up into the mountains and worked in the Tonto Forest for around 9 weeks. I would work four days a week, stay in Payson for three nights, and then travel around for the remaining four nights. I saw a good chunk of Arizona during this time, but it was just enough to let me know that I had not seen anything of this single state — one out of fifty in a single country.

Vagabond Journey travels in Arizona, USA

Vagabond Journey travels in Arizona, USA

Each region that I travel to just provides me with the knowledge of how many more places there are to visit in that region. The world is full of places, regions, locales, and you realize that as you travel through more and more of them your resolution increases: the further you get into a single region the larger it becomes, the more populated with names, faces, landforms, and horizons it becomes.

It is much like viewing a computer generated map. The lowest point of resolution is perhaps a continent. If you look a little closer you will see dividing lines in the continent — countries. Withing the country a slight increase in the resolution will show you states or provinces. With a closer look, within these states are lots and lots of little dots — cities, towns, and villages. If you keep increasing the resolution you will get into a single city, and will see tons of streets and roads going every which way in a complex mess. If you increase the resolution even further and go down into those streets you will see houses, places, people, things, action.

The further you increase your resolution the more you will see, the more you see, the more you know is there. The more time you spend in a place the more you realize how little of it you have actually experienced.

Each place in the world is its own Leviathan. Each place in the world deserves a lifetime of travel.

There are many ways to travel, many ways to see the world at different resolutions. I believe that tourists really speak honestly when they say that they “did” a place. This statement could only come out of the mouth of someone whose experiential resolution was not very fine. It is my impression that the general routes of tourism only show the most external rim of any place. If I travel in this way I know that I will see nothing of a place, all while taking away the impression that I had seen it all.

When I hear someone speaking as if they really know a place, I suspect automatically that they know little about which they speak — that they only observed the place at its lowest resolution. A hostel common room is perhaps the prime location for listening to people who think they know a lot about the place they are traveling in — people whose actual experience is actually very superficial. Because if they really did venture deeply into a region of this planet, it is my impression that they would know how vast it really is, and therefore know that they have really experienced little of it and know next to nothing.

Travel does nothing if not humbles a person.

I once thought that I have seen a lot, experienced many of the places on planet earth. Now I have become humbled by my own lack of achievement: I have seen just about nothing and gone almost nowhere. Going to a country does not mean that I experienced it — it just means that I have acquired a brief impression of some small stretches of places that I immediately saw, and people that I immediately met.

I have never “done” a place in my life. If I had, there would be no reason to ever travel there again — to “do” a place means to be done with it.

It is my impression that it is not possible to “do” a place, to spout a phrase that many European travelers often use to mean that they went somewhere. Traveling the world is like drawing a single line in a coloring book. I would not conclude that a coloring book pictured is colored if it only has a single line running through it. Likewise, as I travel the world I do so in single lines — ever connecting one side of the picture with another. Sometimes, the lines over lap, sometimes they grow thicker as more streaks are added, as I return to the same regions that I have previously ventured to a second and even a third time.

The only place that you can “do” is right under your feet right now. A hundred meters over yonder, over that next hill, and no, you did not do that place.

When I look at the lines that I have colored through the coloring book of the world, I am appalled at how much of the picture is blank white. In ten years I have gone next to nowhere and seen next to nothing. My resolution of the world is such that I know how slim of a territory my tracks have covered. I know how small I am.

It is my goal to draw at least one single line through all of the uncolored pictures of planet earth, it is my goal to at least obtain a brief impression of a single path through all of the countries on the globe. I want to be able to sit down to a table with a stranger, and when they ask me what countries I traveled to I want to be able to say, in a dull monotone, “All of them.”

I would say this in the hopes of ending the conversation, as I would otherwise be embarrassed to admit that in a lifetime of travel I have only been able to color a skinny little line over the surface of a gargantuan planet.

I say that I travel the world, but I know that it is not possible to do any such thing.

I say this with a touch of joy and an eternal sense of excitement, for I know that I am well into a journey that can never be “done,” that can never be completed. My eyes are still as wide open as they always were when I gaze into a map of the world. my stomach still turns with the anticipation of a school child each time I step onto an airplane, each time I board a train, each pace I make to the next horizon, because I know that each step I take in any direction will be one of discovery, contemplation, and fresh, raw experience.

After 10 years of travel the world is still a blank slate

After 10 years of travel the world is still a blank slate

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Filed under: Arizona, Perpetual Travel, Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Cincinnati, Ohio, USAMap