Review: TRAVELER Explores the Life of the Drifter in Hidden America

January 15, 2019

by Mitch Ziems

It’s early morning, and Nicholas Syracuse steps out of his New York house, ready to depart on a journey down the enigmatic roads of hidden America. His partner’s crying. She won’t be seeing him for a while.

Syracuse himself has a half-smile on his face. Ever since the day he discovered the unremarkable road he took to school stretched all the way from Maine to Key West, Florida, he’s felt an uncontrollable urge to travel. Traveler explores this urge in subtle, but compelling ways, and in doing so offers unique insight into what inspires those who choose a life of drifting.

Syracuse has been travelling America for over 20 years, the last four as a photographer. While his photography may provide the context for his roadtrips, very little time is spent exploring Syracuse’s process. It feels like a missed opportunity, considering his reasons for trekking the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, or exploring ruined outposts in New Mexico are more than professional.

Mark aka Shoestring in a CSX yard in Cumberland, Maryland. Photo: Nicholas Syracuse.

Where Traveler makes up for this is during interview sequences with various drifters. Mostly going unnamed, they include a “houseless” freight train stowaway, and an 18 year old boy who wandered from New York to Denver to live with his uncle, only to return to the road not long after.

Each has an unconventional connection with the road. Many have friends and family who live traditional lives and implore them to return to normalcy. One claims to feel closest to “the deity” when walking the bitumen. Some love the life, some hate it, others still see it as a temporary lifestyle choice.

Syracuse develops easy camaraderie with each of them, because he is them. In every story can be found a fragment of the mindset that is eternally urging him to commit to a life on the road. It doesn’t matter how strong his relationship with his father, or partner, or anyone else is. The road is always calling – and one day, the call might prove irresistible.

Watch Traveler now on Amazon Prime in both the US and UK.

To view Nicholas Syracuse’s photography, click here.

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