Stories about roads and journeys are as old as humankind. One of the earliest ”on the road” stories was Homer’s Odyssey, from 800 B.C.E., the story of Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan Wars.
From Homer to Dante, Xuanzang , Marco Polo and Cervantes to Halliburton, to Kerouac, Durell, Theroux, Iyer, writers have taken their readers along on their roads, whether the journey is fiction, non-fiction, or a combination of both.
The words, “on the road”, can mean many things. To the salesman, it is a time away from home trying to sell products. To the explorer, it means setting off on an adventure. A road trip for athletes means that they’re playing in a different city. To a homeless person, being on the road means the search for food and shelter. To a Buddhist, the road may symbolize the path to enlightenment. For refugees, the road is an escape route and symbolizes hope and safety.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
- Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien