The traveler has a recognizable look. Hair in need of a trim, beard long enough that is doesn’t have to be shaved. The traveler wears a t-shirt, perhaps from a local brewery picked up in a small town along the way. Never one from Machu Picchu or the Eiffel Tower, although the traveler has certainly been to both of those places. His khaki’s hang on his hips, looking threadbare and comfortable; they could easily be slept in if needed. Well-worn but supportive sandals adorn the traveler’s feet; the type of shoes that would be equally comfortable hiking in Utah or meandering through Rome.
The backpack is a telltale sign of the traveler. But not just any pack. The traveler’s pack is frayed at the edge. The straps hang loosely from years of gravity pulling them towards the Earth. A carabineer dangles from one of those straps, ready to secure a water bottle, roll of duct tape, or a bag of snacks for the bus ride. The fabric, no matter the original color, is tinged with brown, the product of riding down dirt roads and through rainstorms on the roof of a bus.
When the traveler is faced with a delay in his travel plans, he calmly finds the quietest corner of the bus station, sets down his pack and uses it as a chair back, seat cushion, or pillow, depending on his preference that moment. He pulls out a worn paperback, maybe The Alchemist or Siddhartha, and reads in that corner, able to simultaneously blend in and ignore all of his surroundings. Hours may pass, but the traveler doesn’t get frustrated; it’s all part of the journey.
If the traveler finds himself in trouble, perhaps unexpectedly caught an airport in an unfamiliar city in the middle of the night, there’s no need for concern. He simply looks around for the other travelers and asks what they are planning to do. Together they ride in a $2 taxi to the only hostel in the city that still has available beds. The travelers share a room for the night, unconcerned with sleeping next to strangers. In the morning they may part ways or perhaps they will continue on together, for a day, a week, a month. No need to plan, the traveler take each day as it comes, making decisions along the way.
If you’re on the road and happen to see the traveler, buy him a beer and ask him for a story. You will hear about the teenage boy that appeared in the dunes while he was camel trekking in the Thar Desert in India or the woman in Honduras that invited him to eat with her family and taught him to make tortillas. It will be well worth the few dollars you spent on the beer. Maybe you will continue your vacation to the Holiday Inn and sit by the fenced-in pool. Or maybe his stories will inspire you to buy a backpack, grow a beard, and become a traveler yourself.