We are soon to be off again to seek more Chance Encounters. The Wanderlust has fallen once again like Fairy Dust, descending on our camper in preparation for transport to faraway magical lands. That’s if Massachusetts can be considered faraway and magical. Arnie and I are headed for a contract job with the Army Corp of Engineers for the summer months. We will be embedded in a natural setting for four months with a three-week stint of exploring on either end of the trip.Yes, the Wanderlust does not stay at bay for long with us. And we choose to respond to the call of the Gypsy Heart rather than cultivate a strong immunity to it.It is in our blood.
A Chance Encounter of the Feathered Kind: There is just something about making new friends. Cracker met these two friends in the most unlikely place. They were touring the Great Smokey Mountain National Park with their people too.
In my college years, two dear friends and I embarked on an adventure that was epic in our own adolescent minds, even for the sixties. Today it seems rather tame, but back then, it was unusual enough to be tempting to three fast friends touched by the wanderlust of youth.
Penny, Rosie and I pooled funds and purchased a retired mail delivery box van. My Dad spent weekends and nights gutting and re-habbing the interior into a bunk house with storage, the sixties equivalent of an RV. We repainted the US MAIL insignia on the rear of the van to read US FEMAIL and hit the open road.I remember departing with my Grandmother weeping in the driveway from the sure knowledge that this would be our eternal undoing.
What a season of life that was, despite breaking my Grandmother’s heart. Three hipee chicks off to see the country in a FeMail Van with AAA maps. Our karma must have been righteous because we met and stayed with some wonderful people who housed, fed and encouraged us in our quest. It was a first naive foray from home for us and the memories are strong all these years later. We traveled hither and yon, We celebrated Easter in a Philadelphia cathedral with Penny’s minister friend, welcomed the coming of Spring in Shenandoah National Park with Gallo wine in a basket bottle, and visited Key West where my vacationing parents treated us to a motel room for a night. In between, good people, took us under their wings and showed us the land and their interpretation of what is was to be American in that distinctive decade.
The wanderlust has never left me. I feel the call of new places like an ache in my soul and I am plagued with an intense curiosity that itches to be scratched. I realize that there are plenty of people who never feel the urge to leave their home, but I never understood why. They’re content to stay where they came from and let the lazy-boy transport them around the world via TV. In a fashion, I envy them their contentment in their space and the comfort of the familiar. I envy that schedule, structure and the rituals that work for them. Sometimes I think that they may be the lucky ones because the wanderlust does not interrupt with its beckoning call. Fish on Friday and church on Sunday, Saturday night beans and franks, spring cleaning and a good tonic after the long winter are all routines that keep the suitcase in the closet. I recognize the value and the need for predictability and the comfort of knowing what comes next.
Then there’s the rest of us: the people whose contentment originates with change and not with status quo. We keep Anthony Bourdain saved to Favorites on the TV and always keep a back pack fully loaded just in case. I’ve never succeeded in fully embracing the homebody lifestyle. Just as I settle in, I get bit by the bug once again and off I go. My comfort is in planning and packing for the next chapter, researching what’s around the next bend and who might be out there to meet and learn from. I unfailingly chose the adrenaline over the endorphin rush and chose the car seat over the lazy boy. .
Is it wanderlust, a love of travel or regular old curiosity? Who knows: the fact remains, the thirst to explore simply cannot be quenched, no matter how many curious journeys you take.For members of this club, there’s always something new to see, something different from you’re used to. They enjoy day trips, but they also realize there’s only so much to be seen in 24 hours. It’s the trip to nowhere with the serendipitous find at the end that is fulfilling. It’s the Chance Encounters that whisper to them, “Let’s go down that road there and see where it takes us.”
I know I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember and in talking with others with wanderlust, it is the same story. We’ve met so many wonderful people happily living the nomadic camping lifestyle. What is driving this? It turns out that it may be the gift of ancestry that has fueled the gypsy heart of folks like us.
According to recent scientific claims, it may have been embedded in our DNA. One school of scientific thought believes that this inherent urge to travel can be traced back to one gene, which is a genetic derivative of the gene DRD4, associated with the dopamine levels in the brain. The gene itself, which is identified as DRD4-7R, has been dubbed the “wanderlust gene,” because of its correlation with increased levels of curiosity and restlessness. In reality, however, those who carry this genetic information typically share one common theme, a history of traveling.
The gene is not all too common; in fact, it’s only possessed by about 20 percent of the population.Therefore, we should thank all of the responsible folks lacking this gene for staying home and keeping the home fires burning while we 20 percenters jaunt out with reckless abandon, leaving them crying in the driveway like my Grandmother.
Assuming that all forms of human life originated in Africa, Chaunsheng Chen,who conducted a study in 1999, supported the premise that “the DRD4-7r form of the gene [is] more likely to occur in modern-day societies where people migrated longer differences from where we first originated in Africa many thousands of years ago.”
In short, here, Chen implies that civilizations that have diverged further from Africa, the theoretical origin of mankind, are allegedly more susceptible to being carriers of this mutant DRD4-7r gene that is linked to “curiosity and restless.”
A separate study done by David Dobbs of National Geographic supported these findings – and provided reason not to just draw the link to curiosity and restlessness, but specifically a passion for travel.
According to Dobbs, the mutant form of the DRD4 gene, 7r, results in people who are “more likely to take risks; explore new places, ideas, foods, relationships, drugs, or sexual opportunities,” he went on to say that bearers of this gene, “generally embrace movement, change, and adventure.” I can relate more to some of these than others and I’ll leave it at that!
According to LoPorto, while carriers of this genetic variant might be “incredibly resourceful, pioneering, creative,” and more predisposed for wanderlust, they also might be “utterly out of control.”
Now that I have some insight into the madness, which my dear husband thankfully shares, I am seeing it in a bit more mundane light. I don’t see that the urge to make this next trip into the Wild Wood is another pressing grand adventure. On the other hand, I’m not just fulfilling some old promise that I made a long time ago; a promise to my teenage self to keep traveling all through life. A promise to never lose curiosity and creativity. It is more all encompassing than that. It is a call that must be answered. It is through the Chance Encounters that life unfolds to a fuller potential of learning and loving.
So, as we wrap up plans for the next adventure, we hope you will come along with us in spirit. But a warning……we all might as well de-condition the notion that this will come off perfectly. If history repeats itself, despite all of our careful planning, this trip too will challenge us with plenty of unexpected bumps in the Open Road.
Look for posts about wild ponies, more swamp hikes, mountian music and characters from the road. This trip we will take you through the eastern states watching for interesting birds and fellow nerds. Join us at the Woodbine Opry for bluegrass, on the Blueridge Parkway and in Lancaster County as we meet new folks along the way. Listen to some old time Mountain music along another section of The Crooked Road in Virgina again and some folk music in Rhode Island. Spend the summer with us serving with the Army Corp of Engineers at a dam site in Uxbridge, Mass and welcome a new grandbaby boy as he begins his own unique and creative journey in May.
We hope you enjoy the upcoming experiences along with us and maybe offer an occasional prayer for your dare devil pals, the Jaquiths. Most of all, we hope you enjoy following along with us as we embrace our running starts, celebrate being daring at our age and remember that there is much to be learned from Chance Encounters out there Where the Wild Things Are. Especially when you are one!