Not all those who wander are lost

Eight states, over 800 miles and all covered in only two days. The journey had me thinking about both the “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” line and also Nowhere Mag’s entomology of the word Wanderlust.  The quote, not just from pillows, posters and inspirational prints, is actually from a J R R Tolkien poem in The Lord of The Rings, a book about logging some serious mileage.

Both ramble and wander express walking in a leisurely or casual way.  To ramble without direction, carelessly, is to roam. To travel constantly without a fixed destination is to rove.  All of these words can be applied to people; Nowhere talks about the wanderluster, a once common term used to describe a person with a desire (lust) to hike (Ger: wander).  Not sure if this was replaced solely do to Marshall Tucker, but rover and rambler are used much more often than wanderluster or roamer, according to Google Trends.   There are more contextual uses of rover in our language and culture – Land Rover, Range Rover, Mars Rover, Rover the dog’s name, first documented in the 16th century.  Rambler has become eponymous for cars, houses, and even roses.  Those crafty Germans, the people who brought us wanderlust to begin, even have a term for the antonym of homesickness, fernweh – combining German for far, afar (fern) with hurt (weh) the craving for far away lands.  Wanderluster remains unique. It just has more oomph.  And no cars associated with it (as someone pointed out to the driver of a Hummer – how many soldiers does it take to fill that?).

According to Merriam Websters, and Wikipedia, all these terms are in a way synonymous.  What was not listed as an exact synonym was nomadRover and wanderer are listed as its synonyms, but it’s the definition that gives the difference away – “a member of a people who have no permanent home but move about according to the seasons” according to Princeton’s Wordnet. Nomads may have traveled but their travel was both purpose driven (pastures, herding, subsistence travel) and without a base to return to or a home to be sick for.  The wanderer, roamer, rambler and rover all circumnavigate, if not in a perfect circle or by design, to a point of origin. Not necessarily the same person, as Heaney points out, but still returning.

During one leg of my travels, I overheard a man and a woman talking about Myers Briggs personalities, and how the woman was in conflict with another woman who was not the same type as her at all.  I think I may not be identifiable through Myers Briggs, but am definitely a fernweh wanderluster who likes to rove in new places.

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. – St Exupery

the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back/ Out of the marvellous as he had known it. Seamus Heaney

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