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The Job Of The Traveler

Modern historians?

I began writing this in July of 2015. I have no idea where I was when I wrote it or what I was doing. I just found it in our unpublished archives and decided to let it rip.

The job of the traveler is to go out into the world, observe and learn about what’s happening, and then report back to everyone at home.

We now call them historians, but in their day they were travelers who wrote. They provide the documentation of what happened. Again needed. The narratives of our world are not being told by people who go there. They are being told by people in cubicles staring into laptops on the other side of the world.

Not about discovering new places or that which has been obscured by time but that which is happening and staring now. We are in a new age of discovery. Changes happening so fast we can’t document it let alone make sense of it. Massive movements are being carried out by those who don’t find them remarkable and are not going to write down the tale.

Travelers are valued because we are outsiders. We can look towards the inside and notice and see the remarkable for what it is simply because it isn’t common to us — it’s new, strange, and we know that we don’t understand it. We don’t take our surroundings for granted, so we ask questions.

It is this later point that gives that outlier writer their advantage. We know we don’t know so there is always a drive to understand. So like children we walk through the world comfortable with our ignorance, at liberty to ask questions about whatever confuses us.

Insiders cannot ask questions like this. They are expected to know the answers already — or worse, they think they understand so find no reason to question.

Children ask upwards of a hundred questions per day. The traveling writer just about has them matched.

I still tell people that I’m a travel writer, but then I always feel the need to quickly qualify it by clarifying that I don’t write about recreational travel — least they will expect tips on resorts or tourist destinations. I don’t know anything about that. I hate UNESCO and all of that crap. Preserving bricks is great except when it’s at the expense of the culture they rise from.

Instead, I hang out in the middle of nowhere. On the side of the highway in truck stop towns. In places that have no “attractions,” writing about the little things that make up the big picture.

Filed under: Perpetual Travel, Travel Writing

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3544 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Astoria, New York

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