Have you heard of the medical condition known as”mad travellers’ disease” or more officially as “dromomania”? What a lovely word! This condition describes people who are driven to wander long distances due to irresistible impulses. They have an exaggerated desire to wander or travel.
The word is derived from Ancient Greek dromos–a running/race, and mania-insanity.
Wikipedia offers the following: “Dromomania, also travelling fugue, is an uncontrollable psychological urge to wander. People with this condition spontaneously depart from their routine; they may travel long distances and take up different identities and occupations. Months may pass before they return to their former identities. In the common English vernacular this is often rendered simply as ‘wanderlust’ (directly from the German), although dromomania does imply a psychological compulsion, usually on one’s own and often without one’s conscious knowledge, rather than a more generalised desire to travel. The most famous case was that of Jean-Albert Dadas, a Bordeaux gas-fitter. Dadas would suddenly set out on foot and reach cities as far away as Prague, Vienna or Moscow with no memory of his travels. Jean-Martin Charcot presented a case he called automatisme ambulatoire, French for ‘ambulatory automatism’, or ‘walking around without being in control of one’s own actions.’ More generally, the term is sometimes used to describe people who have a strong emotional or even physical need to be constantly traveling and experiencing new places, often at the expense of their normal family, work, and social lives.”
Rachael Jones constructed her own fiction based on dromomania. How many of us feel driven to travel around our own countries or abroad as often as our finances can manage? Are you a dromomaniac? Am I a dromomaniac because I feel driven to walk the length of the Derwent River, while I hope more dollars will find their way into my bank account so I can travel overseas again?
Blog follower Ch alerted me to the book Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, viii, 326pp.).
Joseph Anthony Amato’s review of the book (Journal of Social History 35.1 (2001) 209-210) claims “This work is not quite a history of walking nor is it a study of Wanderlust. Rather, title notwithstanding, it is essentially a perceptive cultural commentary about what writers, thinkers, protesters, and Solnit herself have made of their walking in the last two centuries.”
In conducting internet searches I found the following quotations from the book (a copy of which I must locate and read):
“For [Jane Austen and the readers of Pride and Prejudice], as for Mr. Darcy, [Elizabeth Bennett’s] solitary walks express the independence that literally takes the heroine out of the social sphere of the houses and their inhabitants, into a larger, lonelier world where she is free to think: walking articulates both physical and mental freedom.”
“A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape.”
“Roads are a record of those who have gone before.”
“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors…disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.”
“Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented society, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking.”