If you’ve been around the Internet awhile you have probably stumbled upon the adage, “Not all who wander are lost” by J.R.R Tolkien.
The idea behind the famous quote that seems to resonate with countless nomads and backpackers around the world is that just because they live nomadically without a conventional job/house/family/whatever that doesn’t mean they are confused about their purpose in life. On the contrary: for many of those people “wandering”, they feel they have found exactly what their purpose is.
[expand title=”The history behind the quote”]
So the quote actually comes from a poem from The Lord of the Rings called All that is gold does not glitter (This line is an inversion of the quote from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “All that glitters is not gold”.)
- All that is gold does not glitter,
- Not all those who wander are lost;
- The old that is strong does not wither,
- Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
- From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
- A light from the shadows shall spring;
- Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
- The crownless again shall be king
Apparently “those who wander” from the second line refers to a character from the novel, Aragorn’s, wanderings around Middle Earth to suss out the political situation so he can be a better king later on. I don’t know anything about The Lord of the Rings – if you want some more deep reflections on the poem, check out this Quora forum posting.
But I think there’s more to the whole “lost” story; I don’t think that being lost or not lost is necessarily related to wandering or not wandering. Some wanderers are not lost, yes, but some are.
For the stationary folk? The ones with the conventional jobs/houses/families? Well some of them are lost too. And some aren’t.
And why should being ‘lost’ be a bad thing anyways? It doesn’t mean you’re incompetent, irresponsible, unintelligent…It’s just a normal part of the human condition.
In conclusion, I would like to propose an addendum to the quote, as follows: