I read a story yesterday about a real life Forrest Gump who lived in California and appropo of nothing, bought a plane ticket to Florida and decided to walk back. This is apparently something called a gap year. A gap year is taking time off to travel between life stages. Not necessarily a year in length, but certainly longer than a two week vacation.
I find this concept fascinating and that scares me a little. Take the story above of "Hobo Nick", he said he was under so much stress and just decided enough is enough, I'm out! He did this with no money, no food, just started walking. I can't decide if that is mental instability or bravery, probably a little of both. One of the most telling comments he makes though is this one, "'It's really meditative and therapeutic,' he said. 'In a 20-minute sunset while I'm alone, it seems like I get 10 hours of thinking done. My thoughts are so clear.'"
www.gapyear.com has a whole list of potential ideas from working a ski season in Canada, to traveling overland through Africa, or riding the Trans-Siberian railroad. A lot of these ideas involve volunteering in some way or giving back and from what I have read the people who partake in this come away from it with a renewed sense of gratitude for life and appreciating the little things.
What is it about wanderlust that appeals to us then? Why do people like the idea of completely upending their lives to spend time on the road either in exotic locales or walking across the southern US? Is it just the escape from the mundane affairs of life, or is it something that stretches back to our more primitive nomadic roots? I don't know, I can tell you I want to hit Argentina and Peru. What do you think? I personally am ready to dig out the hiking backpack frame and give it a go at least on a smaller scale for a weekend. Who's with me?