Are you more of a homebody or do you long for adventure? Why do some of us often seek new horizons? What is it that wanderers find so appealing?
Four answers come to mind. First is the desire to explore new places and the unfamiliar. I’m fortunate to be enjoying my morning coffee while watching the sunrise over a cinnamon-colored beach of the Atlantic near Daytona Beach. The color of the sand fascinates me. I google it and find it’s composed of crushed coquina shells. These colorful clams, the size of a fingernail, have abounded on Southwest Florida beaches for thousands of years. I return to the beach at low tide and spot a sight I’ve never seen before, hundreds of coquina shells.
A second plus of travel is to experience the unusual plant life, scenery, and wildlife. Right now I’m viewing various shorebirds such as brown pelicans. Inland, several “Tortoise crossing” signs give me hope of sighting a gopher tortoise. I also saw my first family of wild boars and three majestic white storks. If my husband and I are lucky, we’ll get the chance to view wild manatees, which will be another first.
Learning about the history, culture and cuisine of an area is a third reason people travel. Earlier in the week, my husband and I had the chance to take the trolley tours in Savannah, Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida. We viewed amazing architectural wonders such as stain-glassed churches and historic hotels. As we rode down cobblestone streets, it was easy to imagine elegant women in petticoats perusing the quaint shops. We contrasted that with a later tour of a historic sugarcane mill where slaves toiled in the fields. Exploring a new culture also allows the wanderer to sample the local cuisine such as BBQ chicken or fresh Gulf shrimp.
The ocean waves roll only inches from my feet and I take another sip of my morning coffee. Later my husband and I will head to a beach bonfire hosted by new friends we met while playing pickle ball. Chatting around a wood fire while watching the ocean turn iridescent in the darkening sky will be another first for me. The opportunity to connect with people is a final plus to travel. New acquaintances might be like-minded, or totally different. I loved watching the CBS Charles Kuralt vignettes that ran mainly in the 70s after the evening news. “On the Road with Charles Kuralt” painted pictures of small town life featuring people as varied as a lobster fisherman in Maine to horse traders in Montana.
Since leaving my home town, one of the more colorful characters I’ve met was an older whiskered man who kept no schedule, traveling where the wind blew him. All the while he and I talked together on a bench, his eyes kept flickering to the horizon. He struck me as a deep thinker and a restless spirit.
I finish my coffee, but I don’t dare leave the ocean yet. The waves are powerful, and two surfers show up with their boards. I watch them, fascinated. I won’t be able to visit with them, but earlier I did chat with two young bicyclists who plan to pedal from Florida’s coast to San Francisco and then head north to their home in British Columbia.
While checking into a Georgian motel a few days earlier, my husband and I enjoyed a visit with a man who, when we mentioned having a cabin in northern Wisconsin, asked if we’d ever eaten the chicken and dumplings at Pitt’s Cafe in Land O’ Lakes. My husband explained that the restaurant used his grandmother’s recipe. Even though thousands of miles separated us, we found a connection.
As my travels continue, I will picture myself as one of the ultimate wanderers, Johnny Appleseed. I’ll offer seeds of connection as I meet new people, some of which might take root forming friendships. And that’s one of the best attractions to this life as a wandering spirit.