The spirit of vagabondage possesses the nation. Call it what you will, reiselust or go-fever, we are most of us subject to the same malady: driven to wander by the same uncontrollable impulse – naturalists, sportsmen, loafers, pioneers, cosmopolitans, climbers, explorers, bohemians, beach-combers, empire-builders, traders, poets, writers of books, and painters of pictures, goaded from land to land, as helpless as poor I to fight against the gadfly of unrest. Many of us are furnished with no plausible excuse – I speak as a vagabond – we have no mission or message, have added nothing to science, made no collections or maps; neither have we converted the heathen, nor even tried or pretended to do any of those things: but in travelling we have simply obeyed an instinct, or been victimised by a disease, which has impelled us to abandon the comforts and luxuries of civilization, “all that ever went with evening dress,” and to embark in a succession of unnecessary and unimaginable hardships.
The sufferings a vagabond has undergone when a victim to these strange attacks are amongst his most pleasant memories; for it is a symptom of the disorder that after each pilgrimage imagination subdues the memory of agonised endurance, smooths over the ruggedness of the journey, and paints in the brightest colours a canvas of unrelieved monotony and gloom. By an equally beneficent order of providence the initial stages of the malady are alleviated, and one is spared the horrors of anticipation. So it becomes part of the vagabond’s philosophy to dwell on the past rather than to build on the future, and by voyaging he learns to regard the present, as grammarians do the future-perfect, not as a prominence from which we are to gaze into the unknown beyond so much as a period to which it will please us to look back when we have crossed the hills that lie before our path. The attitude is oriental. This way one forms a picture-gallery in the mind, which is the inheritance of the traveller, the only fruition of his toil. His miseries are buried in a palimpsest of superadded emotions. The shadows fade soonest in the canvas of his past. I have often wondered what induces men to travel.
A Vagabond in Asia