For the past week I have spent several hours a day commuting into the city of London for a spring internship program. Each morning commute, the stunning rustic Surrey countryside slowly fades, to be replaced by the gleaming skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. By the time I have rubbed the sleep from my eyes and attained my morning dose of caffeine, the rolling hills have been replaced by waves of businessmen and the fertile green plains built over for financial gains and social status.
I often scoff at the ‘Britain is overcrowded’ argument, referring to recent reports that less than six percent of the UK is classified as ‘built-up urban areas.’ Even regions notorious for being concrete jungles are not as they seem. The University of Warwick, where I study, is surrounded by luscious greenery and forests. Yet, it is just twenty minutes from Birmingham- the midlands industrial capital. This argument seems diminished somewhat by central London. Only the most artificial of ‘natural areas’ remain, and often the only nature visible is that depicted by graffiti.
Londoners seek solace in these rare green spaces as a way to escape the grind. For an hour or so, you can forget the looming deadlines, never ending emails or demanding clients and simply enjoy this re-creation of nature. Soon the lunchbreak ends, and our noses return wearily once again to the grindstone. In our modern culture, this ruthless work ethic is not only accepted, but celebrated. Hidden among the artistic London snapchat filters is the bold ‘Embrace the grind.’ Whilst the accompanying emoji appears joyful, my fellow commuters appear more like zombies than willing participants in the capitalist system. As each individual strives to achieve riches, we deplete our greatest resource: time. This issue boils down to the ideal of working to live, and the reality of living to work.
Vagabonding defies this movement. Instead of financial success it strives for something much purer. It is about using work as a means to an end, allowing a sense of freedom to explore in an almost childish fashion. Vagabonding isn’t a travel fad, nor should it be viewed as an extreme ambition viable only for young students, the wealthy or social outcasts. It is an active choice to live life to increase personal experiences, rather than personal possessions. That’s not to say these two ideas are mutually exclusive (after all, I am studying a business degree.) The cohesion between these ideas begins at the divide between a career, and a calling. A career is a nine to five, with a set hierarchy and progression. A calling is a passion, something that shapes you, as much as you shape it. A calling allows you to be free from the chains of other peoples ventures and define your own path, to find the road less travelled.
The quote ‘The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page,’ is often attributed to Saint Augustine. A call to travel from a man who had access to only a horse and carriage, rather than planes and cars. The problem with this statement, however, is that too often, travel is seen as a tick-list; with the focus on the destination rather than the journey. Vagabond doesn’t subscribe to this view. Indeed, one of the most famous Vagabonds, Henry David Thoreau, didn’t even leave his home country. A more insightful expression of vagabonding is Thoreau’s belief that ‘not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.’ So, I will you to get lost. Pick any direction of travel and attempt to find adventure in every facet of your life. Even the most mundane of tasks can be enlivened if you bring with it a youthful spirit and an open mind.
I take the pledge to live life with less materialistic focus, less stuff or clutter. To step off the hedonistic treadmill, or at least tap pause for a while. I pledge to find my own way, and be less fearful of social pressure. Will you join me?
By Jamie Donovan