Walking the Earth

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"I'll just walk the earth... You know, like Caine in Kung Fu. Walk from place to place, meet people, get in adventures."

Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction

Footloose and fancy-free, we set off among the Adventure Towns, seeking the next place, rather than our fortunes.

This trope is bottomless, it seems. The audience wants to believe life without roots is romantic and full of adventure. The character has no home, no job, no money, no identification, no friends, and no visible means of support, yet is always healthy, well-fed, clean, and welcome wherever he goes.

Most of us would agree with Vincent Vega's response to Jules: "You're gonna become a bum! If you don't have a job, a home, and legal tender, that's all you'll be is a bum. Someone who picks in garbage cans and eats the stuff I throw away." Most people who go Walking the Earth by themselves are male (or disguised as male). Females generally belong to a nomadic group, mostly for defense purposes.

It's much easier when you have a valuable skill... but this is a different trope. You can get away with just Walking the Earth in settings with sufficiently strong traditions of Sacred Hospitality, though—like Homeric Greece (obviously), the Muslim world (where hospitality is a religious obligation), the Balkans if you're not from next door, and the American South. Some Walkers, however, have some skills like craftsmanship that they utilize to make a trade/earn a living while traveling, like Hobos.

For many years there were few Walking the Earth shows; the trope lay fallow until fall 2005, when a Walking the Earth show entitled Supernatural premiered.

This trope is a very American one. As far as big TV producing nations go, The U.S. of A. has the geography best suited to this form of adventure. Australia also has the tradition of the Walkabout, where young men would wander the land for months as a spiritual journey. Notable exception: Doctor Who, largely because the protagonist isn't limited to walking the Earth. Also a very common trope in older Westerns.

When one is forced to walk the earth against one's will, this trope becomes the much darker Flying Dutchman.

If a character Walking the Earth has a strict code of honor and spreads justice in his wake, he's a Knight Errant. Same code of honor (and wanderlust) usually results in passing the Leave Your Quest Test.

Most Wuxia heroes fall under either Knight Errant or (if they do not have a code of honour but merely wanders the land for enjoyment) this, they will master their arts and search for worthy opponents, either before a remarkable quest calls for them or after they already finished their quest in life and decides to drift off to other places.

Subtrope of In Harm's Way. See also Stern Chase and The Drifter.

Examples of Walking the Earth include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mushishi is a good example of this because its main character, Ginko, goes from place to place studying the mushi and helping others with mushi. While it's true he has friends and tends to revisit places, he has no real home.
  • Blame jumps several steps ahead and has a protagonist walk the Solar System! Not that the journey is particularly romantic, carefree, or easy.
    • not to mention that it's nigh impossible to accomplish too. Getting from one level of the superstructure to another involves penetrating nigh indestructible wall/ceiling/floor, it also involves fighting endless hordes of mindless robots and nigh indestructible endlessly regenerating super cyborg agents with weapons of mass destruction. It's no wonder people stare in disbelief when he claims that he has traveled over 3000 levels or possibly more. They find it hardly believable that someone is from just the next level.
  • The anime Golden Boy is about a young man who bikes the Earth.
  • The cast of RPG-trope specific Pokémon also engaged in Walking the Earth, as especially pointed out via the amazing Ghibli Hills landscapes in the ending credits of the first movie. If the game is any indication, it's a-okay to wander the world alone at the age of ten! While Ash and his entourage all do have homes with families they can fall back on (Pallet Town in Ash's case, Pewter City for Brock, Cerulean City for Misty, and so on) they're rarely actually at home.
  • Kino's Journey has a main character and a talking motorcycle travel across a fictional world. She has a pretty good reason.
  • The brothers in Night Head Genesis.
  • In Ranma ½, the Saotomes had been doing this for about fifteen years at the opening of the series. It's left up in the air whether or not their time in the Tendo Dojo qualifies as the end of their Walking the Earth, or merely a temporary respite. Also, antagonist Ryoga Hibiki always Wanders The Earth, due to the fact that his sense of direction is so bad he gets lost trying to walk across a room. Ukyo Kuonji also spent about ten years doing this after Genma stole her father's cart and abandoned her, while minor single-arc antagonists are often implied to be doing this, like Natsume & Kurumi (anime) and Ryu Kumon (manga), who are travelling all over Japan in search of their father and the counterpart to their school of martial arts respectively.
  • Vash the Stampede and Nicholas D. Wolfwood from Trigun are examples, except that the planet isn't Earth.
  • A lot of the immortals in Baccano! do this. The most notable are the years between 1970-2002 in the novels where Maiza, Sylvie, and Czes spend a long time with the broad needle in a haystack reason of finding the other immortals who have scattered across the planet over a few hundred years.
  • The setting of The Slayers
  • The Saiyuki gang could be considered to be part of this trope; although they do have a destination, they get side-tracked so often that they might as well not have one. Luckily, Sanzo has a credit card. The kind that's accepted everywhere. Even in small, rural villages in the middle of nowhere.
  • This makes up most of the plot of Scrapped Princess...but they do a lot more running, so to speak.
  • Simon and Boota did this at the end of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Not all fans were pleased with the circumstances.
  • The characters from Blood+, literally circling the world by the time the series is over. Particularly Hagi, who not only accompanies Saya on her journey during the series, but also wanders the earth during her dormant periods as well.
  • Kenshiro is introduced doing this in Fist of the North Star, and generally wanders when he isn't dealing with a specific foe.
  • Guts wanders Midland in Berserk when we first see him, searching for demons to slay and trying to track down Griffith, his former commander and best friend who betrayed him during the Eclipse, until the "Conviction" arc gives him something to focus on.
  • Rurouni Kenshin subverts this trope, showing what happens when a swordsman who'd been wandering around Japan for 10 years actually settles down in one place for a while. Kenshin does leave Tokyo occasionally, but it's always for a specific place and a specific goal, and he always returns to the Kamiya dojo in the end.
    • It's also played straight: Soujirou, Shishio's Dragon ends up Walking The Earth after the Kyoto arc.
    • Kenshin’s mentor, Hiko was a wandering master swordsman, before he took Kenshin in.
  • C.C. ends up doing this in Code Geass.
  • Kusuriuri-san (The Medicine Seller) in Mononoke.
  • Van from Gun X Sword was Walking the Earth before the series began - more specifically, before he met Elena - and then ends up wandering about nearly aimlessly in search of The Clawed Man who killed her. After he gets his revenge, he leaves his comrades to continue his aimless wandering. The last shot of the series, however, indicates his wandering may be cut short.
  • Rain in Immortal Rain.
  • Inuyasha
  • In Dragon Ball Master Roshi sends his students to walk the earth and get stronger. Goku does this for most of his childhood.
  • Kuro and her party in Shoulder a Coffin Kuro. The purpose of the journey is actually to find a cure for Kuro, though.
  • For One Piece, it would be "Sailing the Earth" instead.
  • Claymores don't have a home. They are constantly given assignments that take them from town to town and never settle in one place.
    • Although, Claymores aren't necessarily welcome wherever they go. It's more like: "Uh, great. Can you kill the shape-shifting demon really quick and go away? Oh, and don't become a demon yourself and eat us. Thanks..."
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has this revealed during the ending. The real "Syaoran," or the male Tsubasa, curses himself to forever do this as payment for not disappearing when his parental paradox starts resolving itself. Rather than wandering one world, he's wandering the multiverse. It isn't that bad, though, as he's got two travelling companions and can stop by his girlfriend's place anytime he wants to as long as he doesn't stay too long.
  • The titular character of Vampire Hunter D."
  • It's fairly implied that is what Juudai of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX will spend his life doing after graduation, using his abilities to communicate with Duel Spirits (and other nifty powers) to help people.
  • The Christian series The Flying House has the main characters "walking through time" in the titular house as they try to get back to the present day.
  • A series from the 1970s called The Adventures Of Hutch The Honeybee (from Tatsunoko of Speed Racer and Gatchaman fame) has the title character doing this while searching for his mother.
  • Likewise, Hana no Ko Lunlun is a shoujo series from Toei that has the title Magical Girl "walking Europe" with a talking dog and cat in search of a magical flower.
  • Remi from the Ienakiko Remi anime series. Both one from the early 80's and the Gender Flipped one from the nineties. In both of them, the travelling musician Remi travels through France either on his/her own or with their master, their best friend, and/or their animals.
    • And both are based in a French novel where the (male) lead character does the same.
  • Early in Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed and Al travel across the country searching for clues on the Philosopher Stone. At the end of the series, the Elric brothers part ways and start their own journeys with Al traveling east and Ed west to each learn more about alchemy to later combine their knowledge to help others.
  • In all but the last few chapters of +Anima, Cooro and his gang wander around the kingdom. it seems like Cooro was collecting Anima for Fly, but he really just wanted to get away from him and find friends.
  • Allelujah and SoMarie after the events of Gundam00, wandering the Earth to find the true meaning of their existence...until the movie rolls around.
  • Renton & Eureka literally end up like this by the end of Eureka Seven for over 1 year until they find their way home. The Gekkostate lifestyle is also full of this, considering they are mercenaries. The couple Ray & Charles as well.
  • Parodied in Silver Spoon with Yugo's older brother, who is an awful cook. He believes that the ramen chef he was apprenticed to sent him out on a quest to find the best ramen ingredients in the world, when in actuality he was fired.

Comic Books

  • Doctor Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk. Given his alterego's reputation, it's never a good idea to stay in one place for long.
  • Miyamoto Usagi of Usagi Yojimbo, much like the historical figure he's loosely based on, Miyamoto Musashi. And many others.
  • Groo the Wanderer
  • Y: The Last Man has Yorick and 355 going from Washington D.C. to Paris the long way by the time the story ends (Dr. Mann got dropped off in China to continue her father's work). It started out an escort mission to get the titular last man to the nearest cloning expert in Boston and things kinda snowballed when her lab was burned down.
  • Green Lantern and Green Arrow spent some time Walking the Earth—or America, at least—together in the early '70s. It was a coming-of-age time for the comic book, as much of what they saw was commentary on current politics and social situations.
  • In the unresolved Elf Quest: Rogue's Curse storyline Rayek walks the World of Two Moons accompanied by Ekuar and tormented by Winnowill's vengeful spirit.
  • Lucky Luke rides around everywhere, often to wherever one of his missions take him. And he doesn't mind sleeping on the prairie ground with his saddle for a pillow.
  • This is a major plot point of the graphic novel Midnight Nation, where a man has to walk from Los Angeles to New York in order to get his soul back.
  • Travis Morgan spent most of the The Warlord doing this; sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. (Actually it was 'walking the hollow Earth world of Skartaris', but close enough.)
  • This is The Phantom Stranger's hat (well, his other hat, he also wears a tasteful fedora). He sums it up thusly - "I have walked hundreds of billions of miles across this Earth... across time and space... through the blinding light of the Elysian Fields... and the darkest depths of Pandemonium... where the stench and despair of the chaoplasm is always a potent reminder of how far man can fall. I am the Phantom Stranger. And the stranger comes... when the stranger is needed."
  • In the final issue of Avengers: The Initiative, this is what Trauma is revealed to do after the Initiative is discontinued. Literally, the exact words are that he "was last seen walking the earth, like Caine in Kung Fu." His actions since this have become Shrouded in Myth; he's either studying under Dr. Strange or looking for a man named Karl in Minnesota.
  • Douwe Dabbert does this. Throughout the series, he repeatedly refuses to settle down.
  • J. Michael Straczynski's first Superman arc, "Grounded," has Supes walking across America in order to re-connect with humanity after his sojourn on New Krypton. Because apparently humanity is American.
    • Or because Americans are human, he's based in America, or part of the deal is that he's not flying on his journey and it's rather hard to walk to other continents.
  • European comic Aria features a rare solo female example and an Anvilicious one at that who chose this lifestyle because she wanted to remain childfree and, most of all, man-free.
  • Red Sonja, much like her occasional ally and rival Conan, has no home in Hyboria, traveling wherever her whims take her.
  • In Judge Dredd, when a Judge retires from active duty in Mega-City-One, he/she must embark on The Long Walk. The Judge is, essentially, exhiled to the Cursed Earth or the Undercity where they must wander and travel for the rest of their lives and "bring law to the lawless".
  • Superman did this just before the DC reboot. After feeling he was out of touch with the american people, he decided to remdy this by handing in his US citizenship and litterlay walking all over America looking for people to help. Amazingly, no-one noticed Clark Kent was doing the exact same thing at the exact same time in the exact same places.
  • From The Sandman, Destruction has taken to this, but he doesn't limit himself to Earth, wandering the entire multiverse in an attempt to find purpose.


  • In First Blood, Rambo is wandering around the United States, unable to mesh with society. The later films usually give him a home, which is portrayed as being somewhere in Thailand.
  • Forrest Gump trekked (sometimes ran) quite a bit about the US countryside (not to mention a tour in Vietnam) despite his homestead in Greenbow, Alabama, which seemed to maintain itself during his adventures.
  • Into the Wild (biopic about a real person)
  • As written above, Kung Pow has The Chosen One walk the earth for the first part of the movie after being raised by what seem to be rats.
  • The end of Teeth implies that our heroine will spend the rest of her days as The Drifter, Walking the Earth and, um, chomping off the penises of sexual predators.
  • The Man With No Name in Spaghetti Westerns, who rides into town, kills the bad guys... and leaves again, presumably on his way to some other town to do the same thing over again.
    • This derives from the Akira Kurosawa movie Yojimbo, where the yojimbo of the title is pictured wandering aimlessly around rural Japan before he comes into the village where the events of the film take place. In fact, he finds his way there by following the direction pointed out by a stick he tossed in the air.
  • North travels around the world trying to find parents that are better than his.
  • Easy Rider
  • Jules Winnefield decides to do this after surviving a point-blank shooting, considering it a miracle of God, claiming God will guide him to wherever he needs to be. Vince immediately points out how impossible that would be.
  • Max is this in The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, wandering the wasteland in search of gas.


  • Older Than Feudalism examples in The Bible:
    • Cain in Genesis is sentenced by God to walk the earth for the rest of his life, because he killed his brother, Abel. God says to him: "Now you are cursed from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood you have shed. If you work the land, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."
    • From the Book of Job: "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it."
  • Jack Reacher from Lee Child's books. After spending his life traveling the world with the army and living overseas most of his life, he chooses to become a drifter to see America. He never intends to make connections or put down roots, each of his adventures takes place in a different location, and he never buys anything he can't throw away.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife series of books, after the interracial couple realizes that they don't fit in with either his or her families anymore, they go on an extended honeymoon that lasts 1 3/4 novels, visiting various landmarks and enjoying each other's company while they tried to figure out where they were going to live for the rest of their lives.
  • Ulysses as portrayed by Dante in Inferno
    • This characterization was picked up by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem about Ulysses. He gave the same story a more sympathetic treatment, but without removing the desire for adventure.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees:

  • Note that Dante, at least formally believing the Aeniad's conceit that the Trojans founded Rome and became the national ancestors of the Italians, has it in for Odysseus, hence his position among the False Counselors in the Eighth[?] Circle of Hell.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's blind singer Rhysling, composer of the song "The Green Hills of Earth" in the short story of the same name. Until the accident that blinded him, he had been a spaceship engineer; after the accident, he took advantage of the informal custom that a spacer could have one free trip home, using it to wander at will all over the solar system.
    • His most famous character, Lazarus Long, spends centuries wandering the galaxy. His wanderings are fueled both by boredom, and by needing to move on from a community before the locals start to suspect his immortality.
  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian and all Conan-derived characters. Conan himself, at least, has some explanation for how he makes a living while wandering (thief and occasional mercenary soldier).
  • Randall Flagg, Big Bad of Stephen King's The Stand and The Dragon of The Dark Tower, is the rare villainous version of Walking the Earth. And Walking Alternate Universes.
    • In The Dark Tower V: Wolves Of The Calla, Father Callahan reveals that he had spent the time between the events of 'Salem's Lot and his arrival at Calla bryn Sturgis wandering the Earth.
  • In John Steinbeck's East of Eden, Adam walks the earth for several years after leaving the Army-he doesn't have much want or need to return home.
  • Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn... possibly in part inspired by Twain's real life experiences - for that matter, two of his autobiographical books are named Life on the Mississippi and Roughing It for a good reason.
  • The Old English poem The Wanderer.
  • In Middle Earth:
    • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf the Grey spent two millennia Walking The (Middle) Earth while searching for ways to resist the return of Sauron.
    • Aragorn and the other Rangers have a bit of this as well—in fact, it's implied that this is a good part of the reason why Aragorn and Gandalf are such good friends.
    • Bilbo develops a taste for this after his adventures in The Hobbit and leaves to do just that near the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.
    • In The Silmarillion, Maglor took up a life of wandering beside the sea and singing a lament over his own violent stupidity at the end of the First Age. The same is true for Daeron, who vanished after Lúthien's disappearance. Fanon commonly has them as Ships That Pass in the Night.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • In the Casca series by Barry Sadler, Casca is the Roman soldier who stabbed Jesus in the side with a spear. Christ dooms Casca to walk the Earth until his second coming. Casca busies himself during this time be being involved in numerous wars and adventures throughout history.
  • This ebook wears the trope on its cover, as the anthology is called Wandering Djinn and stars... well, look at the title.
  • Played straight with Vianne and Anouk in the novel Chocolat. Played with to chilling effect in the sequel The Lollipop Shoes in which Zozie manages to live this way using a combination of fraud, identity theft, murder, magic and spiking people's food and drink.
  • Turms in Mika Waltari's 1956 novel The Etruscan wanders across the 5th century BCE Mediterranean, joining pirates, fighting in wars and participating in politics in various places. Most of Waltari's historical novels have the same theme. (e.g. The Egyptian, 1945; The Adventurer, 1948; The Dark Angel, 1952)
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is this, but Recycled in Space. Also something of a Travelogue Show.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, the reason offered by Astreus is not at the Christmas feast.
  • In the Earth's Children series, Jondolar & Thonolan spend the first half of The Valley of Horses walking from (modern-day) France to the Ukraine, where Thonolan dies and Jondolar meets Ayla. In The Plains of Passage Jondolar & Ayla walk back to France, albeit this time with the assistance of two horses. Other characters in the series have walked from the Ukraine to Africa & back, and from France (or Germany) to China.
    • Also Ayla herself at age 5 wandered the earth not knowing what to do or even what to eat, until she was picked up half-dead by the Clan.
  • Walking the South America is part of Rivarez's backstory in Gadfly. Unlike many examples, it's portrayed very darkly and is the source of much psychological trauma for Rivarez.
  • Michael and Fisk in the Knight and Rogue Series. Especially by the third book, where they've had a good two years to wander around while the audience wasn't looking and have accumulated a load of interesting stories that are vaguely alluded to.
  • In Death: After the death of his sister in Portrait In Death, Crack went on this sort of journey. He comes back in Visions In Death.
  • Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker book finishes with two characters (or arguably three) departing for this kind of life, with one warning the other that it won't be easy.
  • The soulscapers in Storm Constantine's Burying the Shadow. Justified in that there are so many of them in their home city that they have to wander far from home in order to find work.
  • Voyage of the "Princess Ark" (first published as series in Dragon magazine, later collected in Champions of Mystara) is a log of an Alphatian airship wandering the skies of Mystara (and beyond), as narrated by the captain and a few other officers.

Live-Action TV

  • The Incredible Hulk has David Banner walking the United States.
  • Doctor Who is a classic example of this, though it's helped by the fact that the Doctor, with a TARDIS and Time Travel, really doesn't need to worry about food, shelter, or expenses.
    • A Tardis food replicator, several bedrooms, and a large costume wardrobe have all been shown, but he still makes runs to Earth when he wants milk, and the source of his money is a mystery.
      • The Doctor used the sonic screwdriver to get cash out of ATMs in "The Long Game" and "The Runaway Bride."
    • In the 3rd series finale, Martha Jones has walked the earth for one year in order to tell everyone left on earth the story of the Doctor who has saved them countless times so that at the right moment they can all think of the Doctor and save the world.
    • Subverted by Donna during her off-screen time between Christmas 2006 and series four. She started Walking the Earth after having met the Doctor, but got bored after a few weeks after she realised that "it's all bus trips and guidebooks and don't drink the water and two weeks later you're back home."
    • In the Series Five Finale, Rory, who has been granted a new life as an Auton, chooses to protect the Pandorica -- which holds Amy's body, waiting until she can be restored -- for the next two thousand years. The Pandorica's said to have gone everywhere, even the Vatican, and "the lone Centurion was always with it."
    • In Torchwood, Captain Jack Harkness walks the Earth after he makes the heart-breaking decision to kill his own grandson in order to save millions. After six months, he realises that the Earth is too small to make him forget, and he beams up into space to start exploring the universe again.
  • Dr. Richard Kimble, going from town to town, searching for the One Armed Man in The Fugitive.
  • Hercules and his sidekick Iolaus of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys also wandered the ancient world battling monsters, gods, and warlords.
  • The protagonists of Highway to Heaven—though again, having an Angel of the Lord riding shotgun probably makes the little things easier to deal with.
  • In The Immortal, has Christopher George as Ben Richards, who runs from the employees of a terminally ill, wealthy man who want to capture him for transfusions of his blood because he has every immunity there is, and is likely to live forever, and would do something similar for anyone who got transfusions from him. The exact opposite of Run For Your Life (see).
  • Caine in Kung Fu is, of course, the Trope Namer, and did a lot to show people how easy it was to apply the model of Adventure Towns to an ongoing series.
  • The Littlest Hobo was this kind of series, only the central character was a dog. (And Canadian, which makes this a rare non-American example.)
  • Some versions of Lassie also depict her travelling alone, a la Littlest Hobo.
  • Quantum Leap: Like the show article says, replace "Earth" with "Timeline."
  • In Renegade, Reno Raines was a Bounty Hunter on the run from the law while trying to clear his name of a false murder accusation.
  • The lucky guys in Route 66 got to do it in a Corvette.
  • In the mid-1960s series Run For Your Life, Ben Gazzara played a terminally ill man who roamed the world, trying to live as full a life as possible in the time left to him. See The Immortal for the inverse.
  • In the Saturday-morning live-action adaptation of Shazam!, Billy and his Mentor "travelled the highways and byways of the land on a neverending mission."
  • The TV version of Starman.
  • Supernatural. Partly justified in that the Winchester boys have been shown to be competent enough forgers and con men to make a living.
    • Most other hunters do this too, though some have a base of operations.
  • Then Came Bronson has Michael Parks, as Jim Bronson, traveling around the country on a motorcycle. The opening credits have Bronson briefly talking to a commuter next to him at a traffic light:

Driver: Taking a trip?
Bronson: Yeah.
Driver: Where to?
Bronson: Oh, I don't know. Wherever I end up, I guess.
Driver: Man, I wish I was you.

  • The Touched By an Angel spin-off Promised Land featured a family that traveled the US while living in a trailer home.
  • Parodied in Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads, where Bob points out to Terry that his dream of doing 'whatever I like' can't happen except in America. Terry flees anyway, and gets as far as Berwick-upon-Tweed.
  • Xena and her sidekick Gabrielle from Xena: Warrior Princess wandered ancient Greece (and Rome, Egypt, China, India, Scandinavia) fighting warlords to atone for her past as the worst warlord of them all.
  • Every week Jarod was in a new place with a new job in The Pretender while running from "the Centre."
  • Travelogue Show as a genre in general is arguably a nonfiction version of this trope.
  • Feasting On Asphalt is a travelogue show about road food starring Alton Brown.
  • Celeb chef Anthony Bourdain's travelogue show No Reservations. In fact, the original premise of the show was that he would be dropped off at a location without his knowledge ala Man vs. Wild or Survivorman and forced to experience the local culture on his own, but that premise was quickly dropped in favored of well-researched and carefully-planned itineraries.
  • Movin On with Claude Akins, who plays a long-haul truck driver, and his co-driver who quit law school one credit short of his degree.
  • Adam 'the Knight' of the Yorkshire Television series The Wanderer. His mentor and his love interest also seem to spend a lot of time on the road.
  • Knight Rider has Michael Knight driving the Earth the United States and fighting crime with his cool AI car/buddy, KITT.
    • The 2008 revival series has Michael Knight (Jr.) also driving the USA California and fighting crime with the new incarnation of KITT, after its mid-season retool.
  • Nowhere Man has Thomas Veil (Bruce Greenwood) walking the earth due to his Loss of Identity the entire series as the only main character.
  • Played very straight in Firefly, with the crew of Serenity being constantly on the move. Though they do live in a comfortably-sized spacecraft, the crew has to constantly deal with Perpetual Poverty and is always on the run from the law, and they sometimes complain about not being able to stay in once place for longer than a few days at a time.
  • Arguably inverted in The Riches in which the premise is that of a family of travellers that stops walking the earth.
  • Mac references this in an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia saying that it would be cool to adopt the lifestyle of a hobo "travelling from town to town solving mysteries" but that it would be impractical.
  • In the short-lived FOX series Danger Theatre one of the two rotating series was "The Searcher," a parody of Renegade and Knight Rider.

Someone needs help, so they called me. That’s what I do. I help people in trouble...They call me: The Searcher.

  • The short-lived Judson Scott TV series The Phoenix also followed this model, except the man doing the walking was a space alien.
  • The western series Wagon Train featured a group of people "walking the earth". According to Gene Roddenberry, the show's format of wandering from place to place and encountering different characters and adventures was the template for his own Star Trek.


  • The song by the group Lobo, Me and You and a Dog named Boo tells a story of a guy and someone else who is apparently his Love Interest, as he, his girlfriend and their dog are "travelin' and livin' off the land."
  • Walk This Earth Alone by Lauren Christy is nothing short of an apology of this trope.
  • One line in Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall.

I feel like walking the world, like walking the world

  • Danish Metal band Wuthering Heights has several songs that cover this theme; "The Wanderer's Farewell", "Lost Realms", "Through Within To Beyond", "The Road Goes Ever On", "Highland Winds", and "Land of Olden Glory"
  • Gogol Bordello has a song Wanderlust King, based on the real life of group's frontman, Eugene Hutz.
  • The Wanderer, by Dion:

Oh yeah, I'm the type of guy that likes to roam around
I'm never in one place, I roam from town to town.

I have been a rover
I have walked alone
Hiked a hundred highways
Never found a home
Still in all I'm happy
The reason is, you see
Once in a while along the way
Love's been good to me.


  • Odin did a bit of this, enough to earn him the nickname Wanderer.
  • Medieval Christian folklore held that there was a Jew who taunted Jesus on his way to being crucified, and was thereafter cursed to keep living and wander the earth until the second coming. The details vary wildly between stories, but the myth is now largely forgotten due to modern Values Dissonance and Unfortunate Implications, particularly after the Nazis made a viciously anti-semitic propaganda film named for the legend (Der Ewige Jude, the Eternal Jew).
    • This legend has also been conflated with Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to the Roman authorities, so the "wandering Jew" may be "wandering Judas."
    • The legend got its start due to Matthew 16:28, in which Jesus says “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Since the Second Coming still hasn't happened yet, some have speculated that one of Jesus's listeners must still be alive wandering the Earth anonymously.
  • Many religions have tales of wandering saints who occasionally stop by to give help where needed (usually in disguise).

Newspaper Comics

  • "Bum-Bill-Bee", "a pilgrim on the road to nowhere" from Krazy Kat.

Tabletop Games

  • Too many Dungeons & Dragons adventuring parties to count. (Although all those dungeons mean that they have some means of support, at least...)
    • The Oeridian deity Fharlanghn is an extreme example. As befits the God of Roads, he is always traveling and exploring the Multiverse, never in one place for long. Being an actual god, he is often in more than one place at a time, but always traveling. His petitioners and worshippers tend to do the same, as his faith and dogma encourage traveling in order to learn and experience the world.
  • Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 who feel too confined by their society's rigid structure are allowed to pursue the Path of the Exile and become Rangers, though they usually respond to requests from their craftworld to return and offer their skills (and sniper rifles) in defense of their race.
    • The Orks have their own inversion- Ork society is based on any boy doing whatever he wants, as long as it doesn't get him krump'd by da Boss. For some younger, 'rebellious' Orks, the pressure is too much, and so they decide the best option is to enlist with the Stormboyz, whose training includes un-Orky training like marching and regimented training drills.
  • Dwarf Slayers in Warhammer Fantasy Battle are banished from Dwarf society and doomed to seek out battles so they can meet an honourable death.
    • It's All There in the Manual - Dwarves who have been disgraced must seek out their own death, and cannot commit suicide due to moral code (their gods would deny them a peaceful rest). They have 2 choices: Join the side of Chaos, or become a Troll Slayer. If they don't die as a troll Slayer, they try to become a Giant Slayer. If they still survive after that, they become Daemon Slayers. Its hinted at that there's a class beyond even Daemon Slayer (Dragon Slayer), but in-verse such a thing would be impossible as Daemon Princes would pose the bigger challenge.
  • Promethean: The Created sets this up in the very metaphysics of the titular characters—stay in any one place too long, the locals get restless and the land blights beneath your feet. That, and the more you explore the world, the more of a chance you have of getting all that to stop.
  • A lot of hardcore members of the Occult Underground in Unknown Armies end up like this. Some of them are on the run, some are forced to wonder around because of their archetype (The Pilgrim, the Masterless Man, possibly also the Flying Woman) and some just have nothing left back in their homes, so they set out seeking knowledge, power and trouble.
  • The Silent Striders tribe in Werewolf: The Apocalypse are forced to do this by virtue of being forced out of Egpyt millenia ago by the Followers of Set.
  • Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Secrets of the Surface World. The Wandering Hero archetype is a monk from China who wanders the Earth fighting against injustice and helping people.


  • Underneath The Lintel, a play by Glen Bergen, is about the narrator following the clues left behind by The Wandering Jew (see Mythology, above) across the world. Note that the treatment of the Jew is not based in racism, as the original myth is.

Video Games

  • Trent in Freelancer is a young pilot who flies the space. The game provides quite enough missions to give him cash not only to keep himself well-fed and groomed, but also to outfit his ship with enough firepower to destroy entire space stations (if only the game would actually let the player destroy space stations, which are indestructible by the player. Still, the player can eventually destroy any ship in known space. Or 10).
    • Of course, Trent doesn't want to fly the space. The backstory sets up that he was just looking to make a quick buck and had it within his grasp before being sent back to well before square one, setting up the main game's plot.
  • This is the plot of the RPG Romancing SaGa - a main character wanders around the world, fighting monsters and righting wrongs with no greater goal in sight, until the lord of all evil rises from his prison and the player gets the job of sending him back again.
  • Most, if not all of the Wild ARMs games. They're called "Drifters" for a reason, you know.
    • Of course, in Wild ARMs mythology, Drifters are less about walking the earth and more about living day to day, doing odd jobs (which tend to be monster hunting) to earn a living. They don't wander because they want to either: more than a few characters have become drifters by necessity rather than by choice.
  • Subverted in Orstead's Ending of the Final Chapter in Live a Live He does wander the earth but with nobody around
  • Link of The Legend of Zelda.
    • In the original game, killing Ganon and saving Hyrule was framed as one of his many adventures; he was a wanderer already, and was going to wander off with the Triforce once he was done. He hung around to help the kingdom rebuild itself in Zelda II.
    • Link's Awakening, Majora's Mask, and Phantom Hourglass are similar wanderings (presumably of different Links), outside the Hyrule story. Majora's Mask occurred when Link was looking for an unspecified friend. Hopefully not Navi, but perhaps Saria, or Nabooru, or the Skull Kid, or...?
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild downplays this, as there is an optional side quest that lets Link buy and then fix-up a house in Hateno Village. The lore heavily implied that it was his house before he had to take a hundred-year nap to heal himself. Still, he can't exactly stay home much, considering his mission, even if it does give him a free place to heal and store weapons and armor.
    • Beedle is this too, overlapping with Intrepid Merchant. In games where he appears, he differs from the typical merchant in that he's never in one place for long, traveling Hyrule to sell his wares. Kind of a boon for Link, of course, seeing how much he fits the Trope.
  • Ike from Fire Emblem does this. He turns down a chance to be a noble in order to wander around with his posse of mercenaries, and all of his endings involve him leaving Tellius forever, presumably to do some more earth-walking.
  • Guy in the ending of Final Fight, after clobbering fellow player character Cody for practically ignoring Jessica to get to the next big fight despite their epic adventure to rescue her from the Mad Gear gang.
  • This trope is what you do in more or less every Console RPG. When you can get money simply by killing monsters (they somehow drop it or have it in their blood or something), freeing you from having to have any kind of steady employment, and there's an Item Store in every town that conveniently sells everything you might need to survive and an Inn in each of those same towns that can constantly keep you in perfect health, it seems like a lot more viable of an option than it does in Real Life.
    • Especially if you can use magic. Conjuring your own food and water helps, as does being able to teleport in case of emergencies. Obviously, this means that this trope can be perfectly reasonable in fantasy settings.
  • Street Fighter's Ryu embodies this trope. His ending in Street Fighter 2 even calls him simply a "wandering warrior."
  • Zero at the end of the first Mega Man Zero game, separated from his allies for almost a year.
  • It is only implied, but this supposedly happens to Vayne and Pamela in their ending in Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis. This is probably because Pamela is a ghost, and she hasn't grown out of her habit of scaring people.
  • If you don't find Ancardia in Maria's route of Knights in The Nightmare, she and the Wisp wind up doing this for the rest of their lives.
  • Bartz (and his chocobo!) in Final Fantasy V. He starts the game as a wanderer, following his father's dying wish that he carry out this trope. He returns to this after saving the world.
    • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, when he's threatened by Exdeath by being told that he'll wander forever in the void after being defeated, he calmly replies that that doesn't sound half bad, but then goes on to win anyway. He personifies the wind, after all, and the principle attribute of the wind is that it travels.
    • Another Dissidia example: Golbez, being not only The Atoner, but the only Warrior of Chaos not to bite the bullet, does this until he feels that he will be able to join younger brother Cecil in the light.
  • It's implied that The Jedi Exile did this after the Jedi Council exiled her and she disappeared for ten years in Knights of the Old Republic.
  • This is pretty much the MO for Sonic the Hedgehog - every time he trounces Eggman and saves the world, he's off looking for the next big adventure.
  • This is essentially what you do in Pokémon. You do generally have a goal in mind, beating the Gyms and the Elite Four, but beyond that you're just traveling around the region, occasionally helping out and saving the world.
  • A staple of the Fallout series where the protagonists travel the Post-Apocalyptic Wastelands while saving the world.
    • The Vault Dweller is sent out to do this in order to find a much needed replacement water chip to save Vault 13. Afterwards he is exiled from his Vault and returns to travelling the Wasteland. The sequel reveals he's eventually settled, founding a village and starting a family, then several years after his wife dies and at a great age, he mysterious vanishes into the Wastelands once more.
    • The third game actually refers to the player character as The Lone Wanderer after his escape from Vault 101.
  • Radiata Stories Human Path and its part of what makes that ending such a downer.
  • Allowing for the 'walking' to be done by horse, boat or teleportation magic, The Elder Scrolls protagonists tends to do this, as a side-effect of the Wide Open Sandbox. Why rush to finishing the main quest when you can travel around Tamriel/the Iliac Bay/Vvardenfell/Cyrodiil/Skyrim finding random stuff to do/take/buy?


  • In Sluggy Freelance Oasis started doing this after the "Dangerous Days" arc (though so far we've only seen one of the Adventure Towns she's visited).
    • Turns out she did it until she found Podunkton, then stopped. So there wasn't much wandering after all.
  • Ohforf'Sake, the main character of The Noob is continuing to wander the world of a MMORPG.
  • Galatea in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob.
  • Subverted in Cwen's Quest where Cwen is cold, hungry and miserable during a walking the earth phase in her past. Even in the present, while she is on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, her life is often shown to be less than glamorous.
  • Para-Ten seems to be going this way, though it's nominally only a month's journey.
  • Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger traded home for the stars and doesn't regret it.
  • Monique encouraged Squigley to ride the rails as a wandering hobo in Sinfest.
  • The Exiles in Homestuck, who took Skaia's self-defense portals to Earth and have been wandering its ruins ever since.
  • Off White revolves around a pack of wolves who are Walking the Earth to meet a mysterious sage.
  • In Darths and Droids, it was revealed that Ben (who had played Obi-Wan Kenobi through the first three Episodes ended up doing this in the interim between Episode III and Episode IV. Turns out he forgot to write or call and everyone had thought the worse, especially his sister Sally.

Web Original

  • Common in Dimension Heroes, from Wyn traversing the Earth to the Dimensional Guardians traversing Creturia.
  • New York Magician: Seems to be the Djinn's fate. Well, walking New York, anyways.
  • The Walking Man, currently residing at Everything2, does nothing but.
  • Land Games: At the end of Act 2, Brand is defeated by Serge. Defeated players are normally "captured" and basically made guests of the winner. Brand opts to go explore the planet instead.

Western Animation

  • Samurai Jack, though he does have a purpose to his wandering, however: he's looking for a way back into the past. A journey without a specific destination, but with a very specific goal. Another reason he never stays in one place is because Aku is always watching him, meaning any community that takes him in is never safe.
  • Ben 10.[context?]
  • Sonic and Tails in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.
  • Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
  • Scooby-Doo, in all its incarnations, is centered around this trope, as the teenage heroes roam the country solving mysteries for local townspeople, without getting paid, without having any recurring family or friends, and without ever worrying about school or jobs. Later spin-offs, adaptations and supplemental material refer to them as "Mystery, Inc.," though it's only in the more recent entries that they're generally recognized as investigators, and even then there never seems to be any payment involved. Their wanderings are subtly parodied in some spin-offs: at one point, the Mystery Machine drives through a snowfield to a scientific outpost, followed by a cheerful announcement: "Here we are, gang -- Antarctica!"
    • Suspension of Disbelief however, states that they probably have some kind of (short-term) employment when they aren't solving mysteries.
    • Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated show retcons the whole shenanigan - all the mysteries the gang solved in previous incarnations of the show actually happened in their hometown of Crystal Cove, which has made it famous as a supernatural hotspot, and most local business is based chiefly on tourism. So much so, that Velma and her tendency to bitterly point out that every last one was a hoax pose a significant danger to the local economy all by herself.
  • Adult Swim's Xavier: Renegade Angel.[context?]
  • Any show (Hanna-Barbera or otherwise) that involves a traveling musical group (e.g., Josie and the Pussy Cats, Jabberjaw) can be considered a subversion, since they're likely on some kind of indefinite "tour."
    • The Hanna-Barbera series Devlin is also a subversion, since the main characters are part of a travelling circus. Well, technically the title character is; his brother Todd assists him with bike maintenance and the like, while both are the legal guardians of their sister Sandy.
  • The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin starts out this way initially, but then they return to Newton Gimmick's house until the next adventure, making it another subversion.
  • The Gaang must do this in Avatar: The Last Airbender, initially traveling from the South to the North Pole and making a lot of detours/helping people along the way. After the first season, they get more involved with the Earth and Water militaries, and their destination keeps changing, often with them on the run. While the nature of the Avatar's duties call for a certain amount of walking the earth, they do generally have homes they return to (e.g. Kyoshi Island and Roku's island), and Aang would probably would too if not for certain events.
    • Similarly, Zuko spends three years walking sailing the earth, mostly in pursuit of the Avatar, and spends a couple of months wandering around in the Earth Kingdom. Said wandering did more for his character development than just about anything else.
    • On that note, the Air Nomads lived their lives walking the earth.
    • In The Legend of Korra, the sequel, Zuko explores the world again, this time as a peace ambassador, after he retires and his daughter takes over as Fire Lord.
  • In Transformers Prime, it's Wheeljack who does this with the galaxy. It's later revealed that a fellow Wrecker of his, Seaspray, did the same until Dreadwing killed him. Wheeljack then pursued him to Earth and has since given up the whole galaxy wandering - but now he wanders the Earth instead.
  • In the Netflix version of Carmen Sandiego, Carmen has no home, nor does her accomplices Zach and Ivy. While Player does serve as their Mission Control, they spend all their time traveling the globe, using a portion of the funds pilfered from V.I.L.E to pay travel costs and lodging. Indeed, one episode shows that she's become a rather troublesome drain on V.I.L.E.'s finances, and they do NOT like it...
  • In The Real Ghostbusters, the Babylonian god Marduk is always traveling, partially because he is God of the City, and partially to avoid his eternal nemesis Tiamat. Although he claims New York City is his favorite.

Real Life

  • Teresa Carey is a blog written by a female solo sailor who gave up her home, her job, and most of her possessions to simply... sail around. She's been doing this for years by herself on a minuscule 27 foot long sailboat, taking up odd jobs here and there (if you look carefully in her blog, it's quite a list.) She even has has a scrappy but lovable animal sidekick, Dory her cat. Because she's technically not walking the Earth, one could argue she's the Lady of Adventure minus the tea.
  • Jack Kerouac.
    • Also Neal Cassady, Kerouac's best friend and personal hero, whom he immortalized in his books as Dean Moriarty/Cody Pomeray. A lot of Cassady's wanderlust came from the constant moves and travels of his childhood, especially on freight trains with his poor alcoholic father. That said, Cassady's a bit more of a case of Driving The Earth, especially when he helmed the bus Further while with the Merry Pranksters.
  • Paul Erdős. He went from mathematician to mathematician, staying over and helping them in their work.
  • Historical example: Miyamoto Musashi, the famed swordsman and author of The Book of Five Rings, spent much of his life as a Ronin, wandering Japan as part of a Musha Shugyo (warrior pilgrimage).
    • A generation later, Yagyu Jubei embarked on a similar pilgrimage and disappeared from all records for a dozen years.
  • Chris McCandless, as documented in Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild, and the subsequent movie adaptation.
  • It's a tradition of the old guilds, once one passes apprenticeship to become a journeyman and walk the Earth plying one's trade to accumulate knowledge enough to add to the craft.
    • Although journeymen did often travel around, the name comes from the fact that they were paid by the day (French journée).
    • There are Real Life trades that not only allow, but make people walk (or drive, or sail) the Earth with their job and change often their employer: sailor, diver, oil rig worker, truck driver, miner, geologist...
  • It's also a tradition amongst the devout, both amongst classical Christians and Muslims, to go on a pilgrimage (in the latter case, specifically to Mecca). One can book a flight, but one is supposed to walk, except, of course, when Oceans block the path.
  • A man named Peter Jenkins did this in 1973, and wrote a book about it titled A Walk Across America.
    • Jenkins went from coast to coast. His walk from Louisiana, where he ended the first book, to Oregon where he completed his journey, is chronicled in the second book, The Walk West. Not only did he make the cross-country walk, but he got married shortly before setting out on the second leg, and his wife went with him. He followed that up by walking through China.
  • Upper-class European youth often took a "Wanderjahr" or year abroad between finishing school and the rest of their lives. They were supposed to soak up culture, usually in Italy or Greece. The "Gap Year" is the closest modern equivalent.
  • Many nomadic societies throughout history (the Mongols are one prominent example). They live on land that isn't suitable for stable agriculture, so they make a living hunting, grazing livestock, and raiding towns or other tribes.
  • There was a global nomad in the documentary Encounters at the End of the World.Growing up in Communist Eastern Europe caused him to cherish the freedom of travel. He kept a backpack packed at all times so he could up and leave at a moment's notice.
  • Zero Dean is doing this right now. And you can decide where he goes next.
  • A journalist named Mark Boyle decided to walk from Bristol, in England, to Gandhi's birthplace in Porbandar, India, without money or food, in sandals, relying entirely on the hospitality of strangers. He got as far as arriving in France, where it apparently came as a revelation to him that the people in France (a) speak French and (b) aren't that hospitable to non-French-speaking freeloaders who they think are asylum seekers. He quit in Calais and went home, where he is now living "without money"... and blogging about it.
  • China, around the Spring and Autumn Period until the end of the Han Dynasty, had the Youxia, or wandering blades. These were typically armed men who spent their lives wandering about China (or even beyond) for various reasons. Some are merely poets, travelers, and philosophers whose swords are merely for protection as they contemplate a "floating" existence while some are complete thugs who'd be willing to raise hell for money.
  • Rory Stewart walked from Iran to Nepal in 2001-2, then across Afghanistan in 2002, then went back to Scotland, put in his resume with the British civil service, and became a provincial governor in Iraq. And here we thought they didn't make Scots like they used to.
  • On May 1, 2011, Laura Milkins set out from her home in Tucson, Arizona to walk to her mother's house...
    • ...in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2000 miles away. She arrived there on October 3 at noon.
  • Mildred Norman, known as Peace Pilgrim, took a vow to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food." She wandered the United States for 28 years before dying in an auto accident.