Journeying; Travel without destination

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you travelled.” – Mohammed

Journeying; Rowing boat on Ullswater in the English Lake District on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Some transportation methods are slower than others

This is one of my favourite quotes; however maybe in the modern era, relating how you travelled is more relevant. Is it possible to still make the journey the true adventure? Flying has taken a great deal of the ‘journeying’ experience out of travelling; it is merely an inconvenience most travellers today simply endure.

Many tourists only have a two-week holiday each year, the first port of call when planning the annual trip abroad is the internet or travel agents. These two resources generally allow booking flights, cruises, and possibly trains or overland travel by vehicle. This suits most single destination travellers, as there is not enough time for them to spend savouring the journey, all their energies are directed towards enjoying the destination.

True Vagabond spirit

Independent travellers often spend a great deal of their time on extended trips but still normally have a specific itinerary in mind. Round the world trips are usually booked in advance, as airlines only accept a trip for less than twelve months. This is hardly conducive to the spirit of true ‘journeying’.

There are still some that embrace the concept of ‘slow travel‘ using trains, boats and cars to travel from destination to destination. This is possibly where the true spirit of ‘journeying’ can be found, it enables the person to stop off and explore anywhere along their chosen route. There maybe an ultimate, planned destination, but there is enough flexibility to allow the traveller to fully enjoy the chosen route.

Is the true spirit of adventure, finding the unexpected where it is least expected? The ‘golden age’ of discovery is long past; Columbus, Magellan, Cook and Marco Polo have names engraved on the pages of history for good reason. They embodied the spirit of exploration and journeying, it is hard to imagine how it must feel being the first to explore a completely undiscovered land. I wonder what they would have thought about the modern convenience of flying, they probably would have embraced it wholeheartedly, but elements of  the travel experience will be lost.

Journeying; Travel by any transport means,tuk-tuk in Marrakech, Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Getting about in Marrakech

The opportunities for explorers to explore anywhere new or make a discovery are now limited, there are however still many possibilities for adventure. Climbing in the Greater Ranges, unexplored forest regions and caving or cave diving still offer the adventurous an opportunity to discover an unexplored place. They are however diminishing and involve some risks.

There are even opportunities for specific ‘adventurer’ challenges to be attempted; climbing  the highest summit on each continent, reaching the two poles, even combining these two separate challenges which is known as the ‘Explorers Grand Slam’. Some purists even consider all fourteen peaks over eight thousand metres need including.

Achieving such incredible feats is beyond the scope of most us, not necessarily because we are incapable but more likely we lack the incredible drive required to raise funds and make the sacrifices required to continue chasing such dreams.

Journeying; Riding a bike at sunset in the Lancashire resort of Blackpool on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Getting on your bike

The journey is the adventure

This does not mean that we do not seek adventure, lack ambition to explore, or that there are always great risks involved. Adventures are relative, it is the spirit of exploration that is more important, and those possessing a suitable attitude will always find exciting experiences.

“Every journey has the potential to become epic; it is the mindset of the traveller that defines the adventure”

Many celebrity travellers have ‘journeyed’ around the World or across continents by any means but they include a full complement of film crew and support team, hardly the spirit of independent travel. I am not decrying their achievements, some are genuinely accomplished travellers, but ultimately it is merely about entertainment.

Some fulltime travellers that have been on the road constantly for several years are probably the closest to the ‘ideal’ of a modern nomadic nature. They still have an itinerary most of the time, but the lack of time constraints allows great flexibility enabling them to meander around any country or continent at their leisure.

The methods that used to circumnavigate the planet are mind-boggling, hiking, biking, sailing, in-line skating… probably and even segways; almost certainly one day soon! It does not need any great skill to travel in this way, determination of course, but many ‘ordinary’ people have managed extraordinary round the World trips.

These are the modern-day nomads and explorers, it is unlikely that new discoveries are about to be made, but they have adapted exploration to fit into the current state of the planet. There are very view regions of the planet which have not been mapped extensively, therefore discovering on their own terms the many amazing sights the world still has to offer has become the goal.

Journeying; Nile feluccas near Luxor in Egypt, Africa on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Feluccas on the Nile

This maybe how epic journeys are now defined; spending time travelling slowly around the planet. Using different forms of transport, and visiting ‘offbeat’ destinations, increasing the chances of an adventure.

I have never personally experienced this form of freedom, travelling on climbing expeditions or shorter trips but all to specific predetermined destinations. A round the world trip is an ambition but the option will still probably be a year round ticket so whilst I hope to gain some freedom, most of the itinerary will require pre-booking.

It is possible I do have a nomadic spirit however, in the past I’ve used various forms of accommodation and transportation methods to aid in my travels. Apart from the obvious of camping, a hammock is always carried, couchsurfing and hitching are budget options also often employed. Combining these tried and tested methods with other overland options and some modern compromises should offer me or any other traveller with an all important feeling of independence and freedom.

Travelling in this way is almost certainly good for the soul, it will certainly immerse the traveller in the journey and is much more eco-friendly than merely flying around the planet. A nomadic spirit of the Bedouins and similar ethnic groups has a certain amount of romanticism attached. It is a lifestyle many of us yearn for, perhaps in some small way it can still be achieved even now.

I look forward to enjoying some greater experiences of ‘journeying’ in the future, where the destination is not the ultimate aim; it is just a part of the  travelling experience.

“To the true traveller the destination is merely an excuse to make the journey”

Journeying; Quad bikes and ATVs in a Berber Camp in the Egyptian desert near Sharm el Sheik on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Getting the transport ready


Comments 17

  1. Gail Gillespie

    My personal definition of a traveller compared to a tourist is an independent traveller who tends to prefer more intrepid travel destinations rather than someone who travels on organised tours to the more refined destinations. One is not necessarily “better” than the other. It depends on what the individual prefers. Some people do like the luxuries and tend not to really see the real place because they limit themselves to hotels and resorts where everything is in one place…. a beach, entertainment, sun etc. Relatively few people have the luxury of enough time and money to travel non stop taking whichever transport they can.But you can still take bites of several weeks at a time to travel in this way in a destination where people still live in a traditional way which really is fascinating.It is usually necessary to have a loose itinerary which can change as opportunities crop up.Plane flights in and out are definite as may be some forms of transport.Overland trips while having a loose itinerary have to be open ended as things happen that delay your travel and you have to change your route or stay longer in one place while things are sorted out.They do not have”a destination” You are travelling from one point to another. I have been from London to Kathmandu and Johannesburg to London overland… one place was the destination.The travel, while by vehicle was about the adventure through the many countries.We arrived in London 6 weeks late.(Africa) …due to many different reasons….all part of the adventure. I hope you get to achieve your dream some day.

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      Thank you for commenting Gail, you have a viewpoint which I agree with quite wholeheartedly, there is a post on my site ‘Tourists travel too’ which you maybe also be interested in, it takes the theme of tourist/traveller and discusses it a little further. Enjoying the journey and not being fixated on the destination is the essence of ‘journeying’ and you have certainly enjoyed your share of adventures which seem to ‘conform’ to this way of travelling. I will have to take a look at your site and read about your adventures soon.

  2. Erik

    I already said it on twitter, but this is a seriously great post. You really get it. It made me think a lot about the way I take trips. Everyone needs writing like this to help them be more introspective about how they interact with the world.

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      Thank you Erik, I really appreciate your kind words and glad it gave you cause to think a little about your own travelling.

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  3. Tom Allen

    Spot on. I’ve just found your blog through a Twitter post. A bicycle is a good thing to set out on, from my experience, if you accept that the journey will be primarily amongst people rather than true wilderness. Your range and flexibility can be quite staggering to the unacquainted. And the inherent humility of the bicycle brings you so close to the places you pass through and those who live there. But I think the main attraction of a bicycle and a tent is the utter simplicity – keep eating, keep pedalling, and see where you end up…

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      I am already a convert Tom, ex triathlete and mountain biker so spent plenty of time in the saddle. I own both racing and mountain models and hired bikes on my travels a few times. I would imagine it is a great way to travel, and hence why it is so popular and definitely an option I would consider. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  4. Dan Wedgwood

    Hi Iain,

    I’m signed up to do one of our adventures that we run over at The Adventurists – and I reckon it’s a good combination of some of the things you talk about in this post – a (rough) schedule, independence, the company of other teams (by that I mean good solid piss ups at the beginning and the end) but retaining a heavy dose of adventure, unpredictability and chaos. Plus what you write about here – the whole thing is about the adventure along the way and you get more freedom than you can shake a stick at!

    It’s a lot to ask of just over two weeks – to feel like you’ve had the crap kicked out of you by a big adventure, to meet some interesting types doing the same thing, to have complete freedom over where you go and when you go there once you’re on the road, but ultimately be heading to a designated finish line and know you’ll somehow get back in time to not lose your job…

    They way it’s done in our case is by choosing a vehicle that is utterly and totally unsuitable for the job – in my case on the Mototaxi Junket it’s a very, very bad Motorbike made into a trike with a bench on the back. Then you take that unsuitable vehicle and point it straight at mountains (Andes) and jungle (peruvian amazon) that most people would only consider in a tricked out exped 4×4… No back up, no set route and no prize for arriving first. You’ve got to make life difficult for yourself!

    If you want a big adventure that also involves a massive amount of interaction with people along the way this format is handy because you’re pretty much guaranteed to get lost and stuck and need to enlist the help of people and mechanics along the way.

    Obviously I’m completely biased as I work for The Adventurists but I do definitely think that even with two weeks you can fit in a big trip with some kind of end goal but still wake up each day and not really have a clue what will happen, what route you’ll take or where you’ll end up.. You just set off in roughly the right direction and go from there.

    Not everyone’s cup of Darjeeling of course but I think some people I speak to who have plans for these huge, expensive, very long and preparation-heavy adventures, journeys, expeditions or round the world trips could probably get bouts of what they’re after with short, sharp adventures without having to wait years or give up their job / dog / partner in the process!

    Enjoyed the post, thanks – I’m off on the Mototaxi Junket in Peru, so will be doing some blogging of my own later this summer before I head off.

    All the best,


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      Thanks Dan I was of course already aware of The Adventurists and can see where you are coming from with finding adventure in short trips, and is worth the plug 😉 I have experienced plenty of short adventures but also believe that to really expereince a destination and become immersed in it time is required. It does not always have to cost a great deal monetarily, it depends on the expectations of the traveller. Sacrifices are inevitable if the long term option is taken and ultimately a certain degree of selfishness is required to do so, leaving family, friends and employment behind. As with any travel it is personal choice and travelling on your own terms.

  5. Gina SuuperG Stark

    Iain…I love your ponderings and perspectives on travel and journeying and experiencing. As for “newness” and discovery, even when we return to a beloved locale, I believe we are always still discovering, so long as we have an open mind, spirit and even heart (oh wait…also palate! 😀 ) I think traveling alone or with different people can certainly influence the experience and perspectives the locals or your travel companion offer. Just some random thoughts your meanderings conjured 😉 Thank you for sharing your always positive and enthusiastic travel thoughts! Your friend in adventure, Gina

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      Thank you Gina I know we have common perspecitives on the subject of travelling, we have the same excitement and wonder about the experiences it opens up to us. I am glad you enjoy my ramblings guess the enthusiasm sometimes manages to sell them Very grateful to be able to call you friend 🙂

  6. Judy

    I love the way you think about traveling. So i am using your words because this is how I feel. “I look forward to experiencing some greater experiences of ‘journeying’ in the future, where the destination is not the ultimate aim; it is just a part of the travelling experience”.

    Judy 🙂

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      I always appreciate your comments and support Judy, thank you. I am glad you appreciate my thoughts about travelling though now you have repeated that passage think I over did the experience bit just a little 😉

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