Time to Cultivate a Spirit of Wander

by Bill Apablasa

There is a time for departure even when there's no certain place to go. - Tennessee Williams

Time to Hit the Road

When was the last time you just got up and left? Your feet twitched and the road called? Not on vacation, or a day at the beach or trip to the spa, but a head out the door for an aimless stroll to nowhere?

It's called wandering, moving without a fixed course, allowing mood and curiosity to be your guide. Depending on your personality, that may or may not sound like kryptonite. It's certainly not easy for me.

Truth is, most of us aren't wired to wander or, more accurately, we've forgotten how. We've been so conditioned by teachers, parents and bosses, so manipulated by schedules and deadlines and have-tos, that we no longer have the time or the space between our heads to go anywhere unless the destination is clearly marked on the map, with something practical waiting for us at the end, like a paycheck or a cold Corona.

Doing nothing we get, but going nowhere is for college dropouts or meth addicts. We may wander, but for only as long as it takes for our GPS to kick back in. For most of us, wandering is what you do when you're waiting for real life to start.

And I get it. Who has time to wander when there's chicken to stir-fry, kids to pick up, MBAs to be earned, clients to meet, dogs to be cleaned up after? Life keeps us busy.

Of course, life also keeps us in the same room.

And therein lies the great challenge of our lives. How do we live in a world, but not be of it? How do we pay the mortgage, take out the trash and still find time to expand our awareness?

If you have the answer, call me. We should do lunch. I know I don't have the answer. But I do know the balance of my life will hinge on how well I try.

I know that if we truly seek reinvention, if we truly seek to escape the one room we're living in, there is a call for us to transcend life itself, or life as we think we know it. We need to zig while the rest of the world zags. Emerson had it right. Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

It's not an easy lesson, but once learned, it has the capacity to change our lives forever. That said, let's cultivate a spirit of wander.

We can start with a commitment. At least once this week, pledge to leave the house with no objective and nowhere to go. Spend at least three to four hours on the road, six is better, and all day ideal. No itinerary. No final destination. It's called wandering - spontaneous travel without map or purpose. I know it's tough.

How Do I Get Started?

Step out of the house, turn left or right, then keep walking. That's it. Grab a bus, take a train, get off when you feel like it. But, don't rely on public transportation entirely. And definitely don't use a car. The problem with roads is that they're clearly mapped, with neatly defined on and off ramps. We follow them automatically. They drop us off in the same expected places. Wandering takes us where we don't expect to go. It surprises us.

What Should I Take With Me?

You should have money, as well as ID and a cell phone. Practicing safe travel is always advised. You should leave behind your schedules, to-do lists, newspapers, books and all reminders of your everyday life. And while you're shutting down, turn off the Wi-Fi, close up the email, put the phone on vibrate. You're off the grid, my friend. Life will still be waiting for you when you get back.

Where Will I Go?

Does it matter?

What If I'm Too Busy?

News flash! You're not too busy, too valuable, too expendable or too anything, or at least that's what my wife is always telling me. Most likely, nobody will even know you're gone. And face it: we can always clear our schedule for what's important. We do it for American Idol all the time. And beers with our friends. Facebook. The opening of Hunger Games.

I realize most of us are stretched and pulled in ten different directions. We have spouses and significant others, bosses and clients, parents and children, in-laws, friends, co-workers and pets. Everybody wants a piece of us. We're too busy for a shower and a glass of wine, let alone for a walk about town.

But, here's the question: when will you make time for yourself if not now? And when I say time, I don't mean time to go shopping or clean the gutters on the roof. I mean time to be alone, to question, to observe, to experiment, to see the world in ways you've never seen before?

No one's asking you to abandon your family and hop into a box car of a moving train. It's a stroll around the city. Give up a couple of TV shows this week; get up early to finish a project ahead of schedule; find a sitter; work evenings. Do whatever you can to free up the time for an afternoon of wander. If you can only go for an hour, go for an hour.

What matters is that you start, that you send an immediate FYI to yourself and the universe that your journey on this planet is as important as anything else you do in life. It sends a message that you are ready to travel where there is no path.

It sends a message that you are ready for The Other 999 Rooms.

Wandering teaches us that without the pressure of ambition or purpose or destination, we can stop trying, relax, and let go. We can slow down, pay attention, and walk with eyes wide open.

We can slip through life with the knowingness that something wonderful could always be around the next corner - your next best friend, your new spouse, a child who needs help, a stranger who might make you laugh, or think, or believe, or act.

Wandering teaches us that what is most valuable is often unscripted...and that in every moment there exists the possibility for new awareness.

Enjoy the trip. We'll see you when you get back.

Bill Apablasa is a writer, social experimenter, nomadic homebody and creator of theother999rooms.com, where he writes about reinventing your life...one room at a time.