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' quote above: "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 or Old West. Some Walkers, however, have some skills like craftsmanship that they utilize to make a trade/earn a living while traveling, like hobos. Some occupations such as cobbler and tinker are traditionally nomadic because you would use up your customer base in a location and have to move on to the next only to circle back when your first customers had worn out their shoes or pots.
There have been few Walking the Earth shows lately; the trope lay fallow until fall 2005, when a Walking the Earth show entitled Supernatural premiered.
This trope is a very American one and is quite common in older westerns. 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. However, this trope is by no means exclusive to the U.S. and Australia; a common case in point of this is the British franchise Doctor Who.note Then again, this trope is largely made possible due to the fact that the protagonist isn't limited to the Earth, and takes his magical fully-stocked mansion with him.
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. Having Random Transportation is often used to provide the science fiction or fantasy versions of this trope. See also: Stern Chase, The Drifter, Flying Dutchman.
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Anime and Manga
Wolfs Rain: The series basically forces this on the majority of the cast. The wolves are natural wanderers to begin with, as they're searching for Paradise. Quint is hunting after the Wolves, and Hubb is searching for Cher. It's revealed early on that the Earth itself is dying, and as the series progresses, Quint and Hubb end up traveling together, and everyone just keeps moving, just to continue living and surviving.
Lady Jagara's Knight: "So where're you from, old man?"
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.
The cast of RPG-trope specific 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!
In Ranma ˝, 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 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.
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 Kenshinsubverts 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 by Soujirou, Shishio's Dragon, who ends up Walking The Earth after the Kyoto arc. Kenshin’s mentor, Hiko was a wandering master swordsman, before he took Kenshin in.
The Medicine Peddler in Mononoke travels around exorcising spirits.
Van from GUN×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.
Inuyasha and his group constantly wander the countryside in their effort to collect the shards of the Dismantled MacGuffin and defeat the Big Bad all of whom have personal reasons to kill him with the exception of Kagome who is responsible for the Dismantled MacGuffin being in that state in the first place. They all settle down after both the Big Bad and the Dismantled MacGuffin (which turned out to be the Ultimate Evil) are defeated.
Kouga and his two side-kicks takes to wandering the countryside in their effort to defeat the Big Bad who was responsible for the destruction of their tribe. At least until Kouga is given a wake-up call by his people that he needs to return home to the last survivors and be a proper leader to them.
Sesshoumaru (accompanied by his servant Jaken) wanders the land on a quest to become as strong as possible. Unlike both Inuyasha and Kouga's groups, he and Jaken continue on as nomads at the end of the story, although his ward Rin settles down with Inuyasha's group.
In Dragon Ball Master Roshi sends his students to walk the earth and get stronger. Goku does this for most of his childhood.
Tien and Chiaotzu take this trope even further. They walk the Earth for their entire lives going on training journeys.
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.
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.
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 Anime/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.
Poppo from Ano Hana travels around the world to spend money in his part-time job and he has mappings of his travels. He actually does this to make him forget about the bitter memories of seeing Menma drown and not being able to save her years before.
In Arata Kangatari, this is what Hinohara and his group need to do to make the 12 Shinshou submit, as they all live within their assigned fiefdoms in Amawakuni.
Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns: After Ash and friends help him stop Giovanni from capturing the cloned Pokémon, Mewtwo decides to let the other clones live natural lives in the wild, while he wanders the planet to find the meaning of life.
Bartender has an interesting variation. The main character was sent into the world by his mentor, and has travelled and worked in the best bars in the world to hone his skills. The manga begins when he has become one of the world's best bartenders and returned home with skills no-one can match.
Ergo Proxy: Vincent Law's journey as an emergent from the Mosk dome to the Romdeau in a After the End world along with many others while seeing it as a dead wasteland. His journey back to Mosk on a Steam Punk windship with Pino and Re-L Mayer however he sees much more life and the Earth is regenerating from its great disaster. Mind Screw is a dominating trait in the series and during Vincent's second journey from Mosk to Romdeau he and Pino have their dreams invaded which tells them more about the world.
The Legend Of Mother Sarah is a rare solo female example. Sarah goes from one location to another, looking for her children. Her short-statured sidekick may help, but being an unusually tall and physically trained Action Mom, she's often able to come out on top by herself when she's being attacked.
Dr. Banner of The Incredible Hulk tends to alternate between periods of this, and periods where he has more control over the Hulk and settles down. (E.g., his time with the Pantheon in the 90s, and his tenure with SHIELD in the teens.) The TV series, by contrast, was pretty much all "Walking".
Ergo Proxy Vincent Law travelled from the Mosk dome in a After the End to Romdeau world dome with many other emergents while seeing the world blindly but his return to Mosk on a Steam Punk wind ship called the 400 Rabbits with Pino and Re-L Mayer he saw the world was regenerating from the great disaster long ago where he and others have countless other Mind Screws along the way. On his second journey to Romdeau he and Pino have their dreams invaded.
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 ElfQuest: 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.
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.
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.
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 New 52. After feeling he was out of touch with the American people, he decides to remedy the situation by handing in his US citizenship and literally walking all over America looking for people to helpnote At human speed no less. If he had to save somebody, he'd fly over, help them, then fly back to where he left off and resume walking at human speed.. Amazingly, no-one seemed to notice that Clark Kent was doing the exact same thing at the exact same time in the exact same places, but if anybody did, then Clark could simply claim that he was following Superman, as many other reporters were surely doing.
"Bum-Bill-Bee", "a pilgrim on the road to nowhere" from Krazy Kat.
So she lived on the road, by her wits, from hoof to mouth, from town to town? It meant that she was her own mistress, that no ignorant clod could tell her what to do, that she did what she wanted to when she wanted to do it, and for her own purposes.
What "Smurfed Behind: The Departure" would have led Empath and Polaris Psyche into doing while the other Smurfs were traveling through time (as they did in The Smurfs Season 9 episodes) in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sir Galahad, in Tennyson's eponymous poem, wanders the Earth 'whate'er betide, Till I find the Holy Grail".
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).
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.
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)
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 departing for this kind of life, with one warning the other that it won't be easy.
The Mortal Instruments: Simon's scared he's going to end up doing this, with the Mark of Cain and everything. Good for him the angel Raziel removes it.
Orrec and Gry decide to do this in Gifts since they no longer fit into Upland society. They spend the rest of the Annals Of The Western Shore book traveling, for about twenty years, until they settle down at Urdile's university.
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.
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 "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", the Doctor accidentally drags Rory's father, Brian Williams, on one of his adventures when he collects Amy and Rory. Early on, Rory tells the Doctor that his dad hates to travel. Thanks to his adventure with the Doctor, Brian ends up with a desire to see the world. The end of the episode has Amy and Rory collecting postcards that Brian sends from his travels.
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.
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).
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."
Most other hunters do this too, though some have a base of operations.
Supernatural deconstructs this trope rather than playing it straight, though: Sam and Dean are perpetually brokeconmen who live out of their suitcases in rat-trap motels when they aren't outright squatting; they have the law on their tails, they have no friends outside the hunting community (and very few in it), and when they get on one another's nerves (which happens a lot), there's no escape. This is frequently played for laughs, but it's definitely not portrayed as romantic.
Dean: You know, then there’s the crappy diner food and the—and the skeevy motel rooms and that truck stop waitress with the bizarre rash. I mean, who wants this life, Sam? Huh? Seriously! I mean, do you actually like being stuck in a car with me eight hours a day every single day? I don’t think so! I mean, I drive too fast and I listen to the same five albums over and over and over again and I sing along, I’m annoying, I know that. And you…you’re gassy! You eat half a burrito and you get toxic!
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Merlin ends with Merlin appearing to be doing this as an immortal old man in the present day.
A rare British example with Travelling Man, about an inspector wrongly accused of being on the take - on release from prison he set out to find a) his son and b) the man who set him up.
Kaiketsu Zubat uses a lot of tropes from Westerns, this one being one of them.
BIONICLE's Toa Lesovikk, the former leader of the first-ever Toa team, wandered aimlessly through the Matoran Universe, driven by the guilt he felt for letting the rest of his team get slaughtered many millennia ago.
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.
A very popular subject of Celtic folksongs, the best-known being the traditional Tramps and Hawkers.
"Walking Man" by James Taylor. The titular character wanders across the land by himself and never stops to speak with anyone. The reason for his restless and solitary existence is not explained.
"King of the Road" by Roger Miller, and famously covered by The Proclaimers, among others.
Terry Callier's "Lazarus Man" connects the wandering Jew legend with the biblical Lazarus.
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.
There are also legends of Jesus himself helping carpenters or masons who were building churches or cathedrals. Of course, the story usually goes that they didn't know it was him until he had already left.
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 are banished from Dwarf society and doomed to seek out battles so they can meet an honourable death. 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. Dragon Slayers were apparently around for the War of Vengeance, which was centuries ago when there were a lot more Dragons and a lot less Chaos, so perhaps the most powerful ones were tougher than their contemporary Daemons.
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.
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.
Rifts has dozens of characters who walk the Earth, but the most famous is Erin Tarn. An adventurer and historian, she has travelled across a large chunk of the Earth, and thanks to the eponymous Rifts, has been to at least one alien dimension. Almost every Rifts book has a section where she talks about either her own personal experiences there, or the experiences of a traveller who's been there who she interviewed.
Non-aligned, non-landed mercenaries are the spaceborne version of this in BattleTech. If you don't have a homeworld or a favored House to work for, you just tend to set up shop wherever you can on one of the major hiring worlds and spend most of your time crisscrossing known space in between assignments. This was in fact Wolf's Dragoons' modus operandi before they were granted the world of Outreach.
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.
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. 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 AR Ms games. They're called "Drifters" for a reason. 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, such that in the first four games, only two people have actively chosen to become Drifters (Cecilia in the first game, and Virginia in the third).
Subverted in Orstead's Ending of the Final Chapter in Live A Live He does wander the earth but with nobody around.
Ike from Fire Emblem Tellius 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.
This is one of the mist common endings in the Fire Emblem franchise as a whole. Every title has at least one character who, after the adventure is over, decides to travel around on his/her own.
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.
This 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. It's so much a part of who he is that he's given the essence of wind, Journey, as a Light Warrior. 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.
Another Final Fantasy example, though to a greater degree: Gilgamesh. To date, he has appeared in V, both remakes of the first, IV: The After Years, VI, VIII, IX, XI, XII and its sequel, Type-0, Dissidia 012, and XIII-2.
This is pretty much the modus operandi 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.
Pokémon X and Y gives a darker take on this with AZ, the former king of the Kalos region. As a result of using the Ultimate Weapon and sacrificing the lives of numerous Pokémon to revive his deceased Floette, AZ was granted immortality and began Walking the Earth in penance for his sins. He's been doing this for 3000 years.
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.
The Dalish Elves in Dragon Age. After losing both of their historical homelands to overly ambitious humans, the Dalish chose to scatter to the four winds and exist as tribes of wandering nomads, rather than submit to human authority.
Deconstructed in Lost Odyssey. The protagonist, Kaim, is an immortal wanderer who works as a mercenary to support himself throughout his endless travels. However, in the One Thousand Years of Dreams short stories it is revealed that this is far from a glorious or romantic existence for him. As an immortal, he has to watch those he meets, befriends, or falls in love with age and die while he remains the same. He desires a place to settle down and call home, yet this is the one thing he can never have, so he just wanders endlessly alone and has becomes bitter and apathetic to almost everything around him. It's little wonder that he comes off as such a Jerk Ass in the beginning. Fortunately, he gets better.
This is the eventual fate of any player who insists on being masterless in Mount & Blade, wandering from country to country selling their services, expanding their own personal army, and effectively acting as self-involved mercenaries. It's possible to reach a fairly high level as a warrior without a liege or a home territory and spend much of your time wandering from city to city and village to village, sorting out problems and doing missions as they appear.
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). But it 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.
Glorianna is always on the move, partly because of her mercenary work, partly because of her quest, and partly because of her desire to avoid emotional complications.
In Magician Edermask and his companions wander the continent in search of the secret to his immortality. It doesn't help that he's is hunted by Immortality Seekers and his Evil Twin Janus preventing him from settling down.
Poppy O'Possum establishes that Poppy and her daughter have had to move from town to town, always intending to settle down and live a peaceful life, only to be driven out by circumstances, usually related to the Fantastic Racism toward opossums the world has. They aren't shelter-less, at least; Poppy's Super Strength allows her to carry her entire house as if it were a knapsack. That said, the comic takes place in the town of Eggton, and is about Poppy's attempts to not have to continue living out this trope.
Question Duck and the guy do this. This is the reason why the work takes place in a lot of traveling settings.
Common in Dimension Heroes, from Wyn traversing the Earth to the Dimensional Guardians traversing Creturia.
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.
The Journal of the Walk and The Journal of Aframos Longjourney from The Wanderers Library (in fact, Longjourney is a title specifically given to someone who walks the earth).
Even Cartoon Network has done this kind of series, twice: Samurai Jack (where the main character seeks to go back to his era to stop the Big Bad from succeeding at his evil plans), and then Ben 10 (because of Comic Book Time, the entire series happens over such a single summer vacation—a short enough period of time that the characters won't even miss school. Even the Christmas episode actually takes place during the summer).
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, and a character cheerfully announces, "here we are gang, Antarctica!". As revealed in Mystery Inc, 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 is a parody; he thinks he's doing this, but while he's got the "travelling the Earth with no job or home" part down, what he does is the furthest thing from helping.
The Hanna-Barbera series Devlin is a subversion since the main characters are part of a travelling circus (well, technically the title character is; his brother Todd assists him bike maintenance, etc, while both are the legal guardians of their sister Sandy).
Any show (Hanna-Barbera or otherwise) that involves a travelling musical group (e.g., Josie and the Pussycats, Jabberjaw) can be considered a subversion, since they're likely on some kind of indefinite "tour."
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 to get 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, their destination keeps changing, and they are often on the run.
The Air Nomads lived their lives Walking the Earth, but they justify this trope in that they were 1. equipped with means to travel vast distances effortlessly (airbending and Sky Bison) and 2. very spiritual people who kept very few physical possessions, and could live in harmony with nature.
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, such as Kyoshi Island and Roku's island, and Aang probably would too if not for certain events.
Zuko spends three years walking sailing the earth, 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.
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.
Uncle Grandpa and Belly Bag drive the Earth helping children in need, though as with Doctor Who above the fact that he's a major Reality Warper probably helps with the logistical issues.
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, she's the Lady of Adventure minus the tea.
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.
The Bacon number is actually a spinoff from the Erdős number.
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. This could be a subversion, though, as McCandless's swift death at the hand of mistress nature is a testament as to why Walking the Earth is usually a bad idea.
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. 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.
The Guild of Freemasons got its name from the fact that medieval stone masons were free to wander around, plying their trade in different towns, in a time when the average person would never travel more than a few miles from home.
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.
On May 1st, 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 3rd 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.
This guy walked around America for several years as a faith pilgrimage, depending on God (through the means of whoever he ran into) to provide food and shelter without his asking for anything more than water or permission to sleep on church porches. It worked.