I often write about my travels and the things I experience while traveling. The adventure of it. 😊 Particularly getting back to Nature and hiking in the wilderness. Something I do whenever possible. And the urge to travel, or to continue traveling once on the road, is always at the surface.
Lingering, like a Tiger ready to pounce on its prey.
Frankly, I like that feeling. For it drives me to drive. Gives me reason and purpose. An impetus to greet Grandfather Sun each day.
Now, you all know how I love words, and I was recently introduced to the word “Dromomania.” It means an abnormal and obsessive desire to roam. Another definition is: “an irrational impulse to wander or travel without purpose.”
Dromomania, also called “traveling fugue,” is also defined as an uncontrollable psychological urge to wander. A condition which drives people to “spontaneously depart from their routine, travel long distances and take up different identities and occupations.” This “abnormal” desire also apparently causes people to “travel beyond their means and sacrifice job and partner or security in the lust for new experiences.”
I found this word in a book that my friend Supernatural Hippy suggested I read, Ghost Riders: Travels with American Nomads by Richard Grant. It’s a great read!
I’m about half-way through the book. Already past that point of no return. Roaming through the pages. 😊
Also mentioned was “Drapetomania.” Today considered to mean an uncontrollable desire to wander away from home. But, the origins of this word are a bit dark, to say the least.
Drapetomania was coined by one Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 as a “mental illness” causing black slaves to flee captivity. Its derivation is from the ancient Greek δραπέτης (drapetes, “runaway slave”) + μανία (mania, “madness”).
Cartwright was a U.S. physician and an outspoken critic of germ theory. Needless-to-say, his so-called disease theory has been discredited.
I love to look at the origins of words. They give us a clue as to their true meaning. Just what were those folks back then trying to describe. Words are wonderful, but they can also be limiting.
Both of these terms include the suffix “mania,” which is defined as a “wild or violent mental disorder; specif., the manic phase of bipolar affective disorder, characterized generally by abnormal excitability, exaggerated feelings of well-being, flight of ideas, excessive activity, etc.” Or, “an excessive, persistent enthusiasm, liking, craving, or interest; obsession; craze.”
The origin of the word “mania” is said to be from Middle English derived from the Late Latin, which in turn comes from the Greek word “mainesthai” or to “rage,” and akin to the Greek “menos” or spirit.
The raging spirit!
In Roman and Etruscan mythology, “Mania” or “Manea” was a goddess of the dead and chaos. She along with Mantus, ruled the Underworld. She was said to be the mother of ghosts and the undead, and other spirits of the night. In Greek Mythology, “Mania” is the goddess of insanity and madness.
Well, in both cases, these words’ origins imply that it is “abnormal” to have a “compulsion to flee.” Or as I would say, the desire to hit the road and have a bit of adventure. In fact, from the roots of these words, this is a mental illness. An illness where one abandons their partner and discards their identity along with their productive occupation. To have this disease means you’ll have rage, be prone to violence, and surely you’d be insane.
So, from the classical and historical definitions of getting the “bug,” the “travel fever,” it is an extremely dangerous illness and the people with it are not only ghostly, chaotic, and violent, but they are inexplicably running away for no conceivable reason and lacking any sense of purpose.
Humm, so afflicted . . .
I’m not sure what I am supposed to be “fleeing” from. Perhaps it’s boredom. But I’m certainly not filled with rage or crazed to commit violence. Nor am I abandoning anyone or casting aside my identity. And I don’t think that I’m insane.
Well, maybe pleasantly unbalanced. 😊
A more colorful and more descriptive alternative to dromomania and drapetomania might be the word “wanderlust.” But there are many other terms, such as: nomadism, wandering, wayfaring, flitting, vagabondism, roving, drifting, peregrination, train fever, rambling, hoboism, cruising, trekking, pererration, bumming, itinerancy, straying, traipsing, globe-trotting, and expeditioning.
Where am I going with all of this?
Well, I hadn’t heard of dromomania and drapetomania before this book. Nor of its implications of being a dangerous disease, or that involving people who wanted to escape slavery.
Nor had I heard the story of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca. Let me repeat that name. Short form. Cabeza de Vaca. Ever hear of him?
Me neither. And that’s where we’ll pick up tomorrow . . .
Photo: The open road. Somewhere in the Southwest.