A lack of awareness, sarcastic smirks, a shortage of desire to delve beyond the unknown, and people (who simply don’t understand) uttering ridiculous comments like “Why do you always want to leave?” or “just stay where you are”. Where do I begin to address these misconceptions about the intense travel lifestyle otherwise known as wanderlust, as well as those thriving in the wanderlust way of life?
People with wanderlust are not just daydreamers. They are not naïve or lacking in awareness. In fact, they are far from it and have a richer perspective of the world around them. Wanderlust implies a love of travel and a burning desire to explore as many destinations as possible and immerse oneself into other ways of life. Composed of an enviable passion for being culturally aware, as well as a restless energy, a person who has wanderlust does not simply want to wander across the grid, but needs to.
Quite frankly, as a person with wanderlust, I don’t view my travels as “just a vacation” or a “fun time getting away”. In fact, it irks me to no end when people think of traveling in this way. Traveling is an art form, where one has the ultimate chance to see new places, become acquainted with new people and have incomparable adventures. If you come home from your travels with stories to tell (as in meaningful stories, not just how many shots you took on your spring break in South Padre) and a sincere want to continue your travels and grow as a person, then you know that you are living your life right.
There is a world out there that goes far beyond your home state or the people in it. I cannot tell you enough how many times people have looked at me with legitimate confusion marring their faces, actually perplexed as to why I would want to ever leave Wisconsin. Wanting to move around post-graduation or explore the coasts was baffling to them. Excuse me? Why wouldn’t I? It’s not a crime for feeling like farms, one major university town and- don’t get crazy- Milwaukee aren’t enough for me. It’s not a crime to want to see or, god forbid, live in other places around the globe. To be told that my wanderlust is not appropriate or valid is selfish. No, I don’t just want to get out. No, wanderlust does not imply wanting to leave behind friends and family. No, I am not avoiding the real world. I am interacting with the world in the only way I know how: to thrive in it, rather than simply survive in one place my whole life. That is not enough, and it damn well should not be enough for anyone.
So, let me get this straight. The only stories you will have to share for your whole life will be the ones where you were in one place, one setting, amidst the same people and rituals? Wanderlust gives perspective and depth. It is not a frivolous hobby. It does not suggest running away or not caring about people enough to stay in one place.
Stroll for hours on cobblestone streets in Rome. Walk aimlessly on a Northern California beach without a care in the world other than the sporadic sounds of barking sea lions. Go back to a country where your ancestors are from and get to know your heritage. Spend time learning another language and conversing with your host family for hours over tea. Make cross-country road trips with your friends a priority, where you don’t just pass through states on your way to a destination, you treat every state on the way as a destination in itself. Go night snorkeling in the black waters with manta rays in Hawaii with nothing but a flashlight, a daring spirit and the agreement made within you to be fearless. I’m talking about not being afraid to take chances, and live life freely. In the end, it’s not really wanderlust. It’s wandermust.