I’ve been completely hooked by the word wanderlust. There is a mixture of excitement, foreign spices and long journeys in the sound of this word. Maybe it’s logical that this word itself is foreign, being lent from German - wandern means to hike and lust - desire.
When I saw Rebecca Solnit’s book titled “Wanderlust” with a cover that encapsulates the meaning of the word so well, I was sold instantly. As a side note - I am not fully sure whether I can use “never judge the book by its cover” ever again.
This book is about walking. At first sight, it looks very trivial. But looking deeper, there are so many nuances to walking, and walking has so many forms. Sadly, the most common definition nowadays is getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. But when you really start walking mindfully, the whole act takes on a different meaning.
And trust me, walking is different after reading this book. It felt really good to think through the act of walking and then do it. Try concentrating only on walking while you do it. No thoughts about shopping lists or that closet you promised to clean up a month ago. Just perceive how you move through the environment with your steps. After reading the book I went hiking in the Dolomites last summer and this approach added a cool new layer to how to enjoy the mountains.
“Or perhaps walking should be called movement, not travel, for one can walk in circles or travel around the world immobilized in a seat, and a certain kind of wanderlust can only be assuaged by the acts of the body itself in motion, not the motion of the car, boat, or plane. It is the movement as well as the sights going by that seems to make things happen in the mind, and this is what makes walking ambiguous and endlessly fertile: it is both means and end, travel and destination.”
There are many great references in this book to the history of walking - from the pilgrims to deep thoughts from great thinkers towards walking - Kierkegaard, Rousseau, Thoreau et al. But it’s not just walking - Rebecca manages to link to many interesting topics. Firstly, about owning things:
“Walking is, in this way, the antithesis of owning. It postulates a mobile, empty-handed, shareable experience of the land. Nomads have often been disturbing to nationalism because their roving blurs and perforates the boundaries that define nations; walking does the same thing on the smaller scale of private property.”
While the last quote already brought us to countries and nationalism, the next one about Greek Sophists really got my thoughts running:
“Whether or not the Sophists were virtuous, they were often mobile, as are many of those whose first loyalty is to ideas. It may be that loyalty to something as immaterial as ideas sets thinkers apart from those whose loyalty is tied to people and locale, for the loyalty that ties down the latter will often drive the former from place to place. It is an attachment that requires detachment.”
What an excellent quote. This might even explain the roots of the refugee crisis in Europe, because all countries have two type of people: the ones who are more tied to places and the ones who are more tied to ideas. The former are usually against refugees because they seem them as a threat to their place - their homeland. And the ones who value ideas more don’t feel that threatened.
The more I think about it, the more it seems that this is an unsolvable problem because it’s a fundamental difference. By continuing the debate, both sides are only digging themselves deeper into their respective trenches. If somebody has their nationality and their country as their highest priority, it’s almost impossible to persuade them to think otherwise. And vice versa - if for someone, their area of expertise is much important than their nationality - how do you turn this thinking around?
“Much of the terminology of location and mobility—words like nomad, decentered, marginalized, deterritorialized, border, migrant, and exile—are not attached to specific places and people; they represent instead ideas of rootlessness and flux that seem as much the result of the ungrounded theory as its putative subject.”
If currently there are 232 million people in the world living in a country they were not born in, the UN estimates that this will double by 2040, which is probably a conservative estimate. It’s constantly getting easier to travel around the world and exchange ideas with people all over the place. The millennials care less about owning things and also less about where they live - they chase ideas more.
We are seeing at Teleport that an increasing number of people will work and live in the communities that represent the right ideas for them and less people will stay in an area they were randomly born in. (Do read Silver Keskküla’s post “Good Luck Being Born Tomorrow!” on this topic). I am sure this trend will only increase in the future.
This will create a very complicated task for governments/countries. How can they be attractive to those talents and not anger their more nationalistic population? You probably cannot have both. So, cities and countries that are tolerant and are finding niches that are interesting to talents will probably be the successful ones. Why? Whatsapp was created with 55 people and sold to Facebook for 19 billion USD. That is bigger than GDP of 9 European countries.
Kristjan Lepik is part of the Teleport Team, working on business development and helping cities worldwide to reach talents better. When he’s not busy with doing three-digit calculations with his pocket calculator, he likes to hike and travel to strange places all over the world.