wan-der-lust (n): a strong desire to travel.
In the summer of 2011, my parents and I took a vacation to London and Paris. We spent three and a half days in each city, and although we saw and did a lot in that week, it wasn’t enough to satisfy my curiosity. Two summers later, I studied abroad in London through my college’s English department. Those 30 days were some of the best, most memorable days of my life. That sounds cliché and romantic, but it’s true.
Those 30 days taught me the meaning of the word “wanderlust” and fueled my desire to see more of the world. One city had earned its permanent place in my heart; it was time for more.
I started joking that I “suffered from chronic wanderlust.” I’m not entirely sure where or how I came up with that, but that became my mantra, for lack of a better term. I talked about my time in London whenever the opportunity presented itself, and wrote about it even more. Most of my work in my last poetry class in college revolved around travel and wanderlust in some way, too.
Last summer, my best friend and I planned a two-week trip across Eastern Europe in celebration of our college graduation. Six cities in two weeks sounded intense, but doable. I knew downtime would be difficult to come by, but as long as I stayed well rested, I could handle it. My “chronic wanderlust” would be quenched, at least for a little while.
Turned out it was a lot more than I anticipated. Even as exhausting as being in London was at times, this trip was nothing like I’d imagined. Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow and Warsaw eventually blended into one, and soon I forgot which city I was in or what language I should be speaking. German? Czech? Was “na zdrowie” Polish or Hungarian? (For the record, it’s Polish for “cheers”).
I scribbled notes in my black travel journal whenever I could: names, places, words, events, foods, drinks and other tidbits that I heard but wanted to read more on later. I’ve gone back to a couple of them by now, but only briefly.
I learned a lot about myself in those two weeks and six cities (seven if you count our two-hour lunch stop in Bratislava). I learned that I’m a very independent traveler, and that large-group excursions with packed itineraries aren’t my cup of tea. Tours, shows, and special meals every day and bar-hopping almost every night drained my energy quickly, even when I got six hours of sleep at night.
But most of all, I learned that my wanderlust wasn’t really as “chronic” as I thought it was.
When you’re in your twenties, people will tell you to travel and see the world while you’re young, because that’s when you can enjoy it the most. At times, it seemed like every twenty-something article I saw online advocated extensive travel over finding a job, going to grad school, or pursuing another typical twenty-something path of life. Maybe traveling is your path, and if it is, I envy you a little. I’ve had friends who travel extensively every year, sometimes twice a year. I see their pictures on Facebook and simultaneously think, “Wow, that’s pretty awesome,” and, “How in the world do they do it?”
While I believe that everyone should be able to travel and see as much of the world as they desire, I also believe that there are limits as to how much someone can see at one time, in one trip. There’s a certain personality type that can handle longer, more extensive journeys, and unfortunately not everyone has that personality or trait.
London nearly convinced me that I had it. Eastern Europe proved that I do not.
I’m not saying I don’t want to travel anymore; there are so many cities and countries I’d love to see. My wanderlust wasn’t “chronic”; instead, it was just a phase. I’d subscribed to the twenty-something’s “travel while you can” idea, and learned that it’s much more difficult and tiring than it sounds. My wanderlust phase was relatively short, but others’ may be lifelong.
Maybe wanderlust is always present in someone’s life, but it comes at different times and to different degrees for each person. What’s not to say that exploring the world with my future husband and family won’t be just as fulfilling as seeing it by myself, in my twenties?
Maybe mine will come back in a few years. Maybe the travel bug will bite again. But for now, my wanderlust has run dry.
Remember the old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? I wonder if the same concept applies to travel. I’d love to give Prague and Vienna a second chance.
How do you feel about travel and wanderlust?