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WHAT MAKES SOME OF US hop off society’s path of expectations, pull out our machete and carve out a path in the direction we are pulled?

For me, it was Karl Langdon.

When I was 22, I was invited to Ulusaba, South Africa to Richard Branson’s private game lodge. My assignment was to write an article on the glam and cush of a $1000/night safari vacation. However, much to the chagrin of my editors at the time, I decided the story was not about the Big Five or the osso bucco over borlotti beans. It was about our game ranger, Karl Langdon.

Langdon, 28 at the time, had recently returned from a two-year journey from Cape Town to Cairo.

On foot.

During his travels, he endured stress fractures in both feet, famine that dropped his body weight in half, malaria, dysentery, and gunshots across the bone-yard stretch in Malawi. All the while he had two film canisters and one mission: Fill one with sand from the beaches of Cape Town, South Africa and the other from the beaches of Alexandria, Egypt.

Four thousand miles into the trek, Langdon took his one and only break in Dar es Salaam. There he met up with his fiancé. After two weeks recuperating he knew he had to push on. To part with his fiancé and head, yet again into the bush, was seemingly unimaginable.

“It was the biggest mind-fuck. Having to say goodbye to her. Me in tears, she in tears. How I’d love to go back with her, but how I can’t go back with her. I knew I couldn’t. My desire to complete the mission could not be swayed.”

It was Langdon’s burning desire to accomplish something that seemed impossible and seemingly quixotic that gave me the metaphorical machete to begin carving my own path in this world.

One year of after that trip, I bought a van, left New York, and headed west. I found myself on the Blackfoot Reservation herding cattle and falling in love with the indigenous ways. From there, I made my way to Alaska fishing for mackerel on the Bering Sea. To Hawaii, Mexico, the purple mountains of Arizona, then east to the rolling waters of the Mississippi. I became so addicted to experience, that I spent the next seven years traveling to 40 countries. All the while I had no destination, only movement.

This phenomenon of movement, I have come to cherish. We have no word for it in English, but in Spanish, they call it vacilando; a wandering with intention yet no destination. On the road I met others who were alive and in vacilando. And we together were experiencing life uncut. The fear, the bonds, the laughter, the tears, and the curiosity to not know the next step and continue while having the courage to make sense of it out along the way.



About The Author

Matthew Abrams

Matthew is the founder of the Mycelium School, an 18-month program in Asheville, NC, designed to provide a co-learning environment for emerging entrepreneurs to develop the resources, connections, and living-systems framework essential to fostering resilient local economies.

  • Candice Walsh

    I adore this.

  • Catherine Stirbis

    Did you have expenses like student loans when you were on your travels, or were you only worried about making enough money to eat and for other basic necessities?

    • Mycelium

      I worked while I was on the road. Sometimes for a little stipend like herding cattle on the Blackfoot Rez and other times I made good money, working on a fishing boat on the Aleutian Islands (don’t recommend that though ; ). Other times I just had fun… Maui

  • Catherine Stirbis

    Did you have expenses like student loans when you were on your travels, or were you only worried about making enough money to eat and for other basic necessities?

  • Ryan Peligrino

    For me it was when I went I went back home few years ago and got hold of my old notebook when I was still in primary school. I wrote down that to travel around the world would be my greatest dream. After reading it, it made me decide to start doing traveling. One place at a time! YOLO! :)

  • Clare O’Donohue

    We spend so much of our lives on automatic pilot – who hasn’t driven home from work and not remembered the trip? I travel because it’s not possible to be on auto when everything around me is unfamiliar. My brain wakes up. I feel more engaged, because I actually am more engaged, more awake. Lately I’ve been traveling more for work than for fun, but articles like this remind me that I have to change that.

  • Christine O’Neill

    Once bitten by the travel bug, the fever never diminshes!

  • Turner Wright

    vacilando. I’ll have to remember that one.

  • Turner Wright

    vacilando. I’ll have to remember that one.

  • Turner Wright

    vacilando. I’ll have to remember that one.

  • Scott Hartman

    At first, as a member of an expedition to a river, an unrun river, in NW Peru. Then when I got home from that one (and with no small amount of momentum) I discovered that if I walked, and walked… I didn’t fall off the edge of the world, but instead, after walking for twelve months, arrived back where I’d started, and that in doing so, I’d traveled.

  • Claire Gillis

    Love this piece and vacilando and I want to more about this Karl. I’m working on a project consisting of a 3 year walk from the UK to Cape Town…. although I’m not actually walking :0.

    • Mycelium

      Hey Claire – Karl is an amazing guy indeed. I just submitted a 2500 word piece that highlights his entire journey – let the editors know you want to see it in print ; ) — Thanks for reading!

  • Park Frbch

    I think what threw me into traveling was a combination of my upbringing and an obsession with experience. I’ve never felt like it wasn’t acceptable to make up words to fit new situations, and I have come to believe that there is something that every traveler is chasing when they go out and put themselves beyond the reaches of their normal home environments. Even through vacilando, the intention is fueled by something, and I think it’s a desire to chase ‘uncomfort’. I put myself out into the uncommon because I love to adapt, I love to be stressed out our and uncomfortable. It’s not discomfort, it’s a kind of comfort in being disquieted with one’s own situation.
    At least, that’s what I think fuels me. In the limited examination I’ve had of other travelers, it makes sense to me.

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