What They Don't Tell You About Wanderlust

Updated: Mar 11, 2019

Travel is a luxury for most people. A way to escape and explore, but the word travel actually comes from the French word, travail, which means agony or torture. I think I would be hard-pressed to convince anyone that traveling is torture, in fact it is the exact opposite. But when your travels involve leaving the people you love, for an extended period of time, your heart may begin to disagree with you.



It zipped open. That was one of my main requirements. It wasn’t one of those top-loading backpacks where you had to take out all of your items and dig for what you wanted. No, if I was going to be living out of this thing for half a year, it had to zip open. It was small; smaller than most. Large enough to fit a pair of jeans, a couple skirts, a dress or two, a few swimsuits and a few shirts, along with the necessities such as layers for warmth and various different types of medicines, just in case. It was black and simple, and for sixth months, it was my home.


In the weeks leading up to my departure, the sight of my backpack created problems for us.

It lay in the corner of my room, surrounded by the items I was preparing to take with me. I could tell when it caught his eye; he would glance over at it and all of the sudden his face would become solemn, the light would flicker away from his eyes, and he would grow distant. As if it was the backpack’s fault that I was leaving.


The truth of it is I am one of the lucky ones. Out of 308 million Americans, only 30% have passports. And from that 30%, 50% of those passports only make it as far as Mexico and Canada. I was going all out. 180 days, twelve countries, and one backpack. I was headed all the way across the world, but in his mind he could only see it as being worlds away from him.


People act like wanderlust is something fantastic; a wildly glamorous thing. It’s the thing people on tumblr strive for, a word Instagram posts are littered with, and something everyone imagines they possess. Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel and I think everyone does experience wanderlust in some way. Everyone has a thirst for adventure and a desire to explore the world, but the people who are truly at wanderlust’s mercy are the people who don’t just dream about going out and seeing the world, but the people who actually go and do it.



My wanderlust was forced upon me when I was just ten years old. My parents were taking my two older siblings and I on a four month trip around the world. An incredible and ambitious feat, and I was absolutely opposed. I was adamant in my intent not to go. I had no interest in leaving my comfortable life, no interest in living out of a backpack, no desire to wander about strange places and sleep in strange beds.


My parents made me go. I would be lying if I said that at ten years old I truly appreciated all the amazing things I experienced but it shifted something within me; it changed me, forever. It showed me, at an extremely young age, that the world isn’t unattainable, it’s right there, outside your doorstep, waiting to be explored and once I had a piece of that pie, I wanted the rest.


From the time of my high school graduation I have spent no more than a year and a half in one place. I have been on the move, exploring, wandering, experiencing the world, but I have come to realize that this comes with a price.


I think most people will agree with me when I say that finding a person who you think you can truly fall for takes time. It’s not often that you encounter someone you can connect with on multiple different levels, different dimensions. And even when you do find someone to crush on, it doesn’t always work out.


It only takes a few weeks to realize that certain parts of them don’t quite mesh and it’s back to square one. Who knows, maybe I’m just picky; you have to kiss a lot of frogs right? But the problem with always leaving is that when someone, who you could see yourself falling hard for, stumbles into your life, there is a predetermined expiration date; the clock is ticking before the race has even begun.


For as long as I’ve been wandering I have gone around thinking: Well, if I meet someone now we’ll have seven months together. If I meet them now we’ll have four months together. If I meet someone now it will only be two months. Two months? That’s nothing. Fuck it.

It’s not easy to allow yourself to become attached to someone who you know you will have to leave, a lesson I learned the hard way with my first love. We met sixth months before I was set to take off on a world trip of my own. We didn’t let that stop us though, we dove in deep, immersed ourselves completely within each other, so when it was time to say goodbye, we couldn’t do it, not in a healthy way at least.



For a long time I blamed traveling for our crumble and although there were other factors at play, traveling was the easy target. I know now that it wasn’t the separation from each other that caused the pain, but instead the way we handled the separation: arguing to make it easier to be apart, attempting to talk constantly when we really should’ve been attempting to focus on where we were in the moment, refusing to accept the fact that things just weren’t working anymore.


I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson, that I understand the ways goodbyes work at this point, but the other day, as I lay in bed with a guy I just began seeing, four short months before my departure for New Zealand, and listened to him say, “What are we doing? You’re leaving.” I realized I had gotten myself into a similar situation, yet again.


I wanted to tell him that he was wrong, that I knew how to do it this time; that I knew how to say goodbye. I wanted to tell him that we had the potential to be something great, and on some level I think he thought so too. I wanted to tell him that we may as well jump, for the pure reason that it feels good to fall, but I didn’t. Instead I watched him walk out the door.

What they don’t tell you about wanderlust is that you are usually wandering away from people you care about. If you’re always leaving, you’re always going to be leaving someone behind, and how do you ask someone to fall when you know the exact time you’ll hit the ground? It’s tricky because time is always moving along and whether you stay where you are, or whether you span the length of the globe, you’re moving along with it.


I can’t help my desire to travel; I can’t control my wanderlust. If I have one life to live I want to see all that I can. I want to live in big cities and explore small towns. I want to climb up mountains and swim in the depths of the sea. I want to travel, but I still want to love.


I guess the only thing us wandering souls can do is live in the moment, live for the now and not think about the when. To take time as it comes and enjoy each moment that comes with it. To not let the fear of saying goodbye hold us back from the lives we are living. We can remember that people will always be leaving, moving away, traveling abroad, drifting apart, and if we let time hold us back from making connections with people, we might miss out on something more important than a rough goodbye. And maybe we’ll find a person who is willing to stay in that present moment with us, who can enjoy being with us even if it is for a limited amount of time and maybe we will have to accept our fate as hopeless wanderers and trust that the world has something bigger in store for us.


If you are going to wander you can’t be afraid of goodbyes, they are simply a part of life. And if you are going to leave it’s important to remember that goodbyes are only temporary, and if they aren’t it’s probably for the best. Saying goodbye is part of life, but it is how you say those goodbyes that matters. The only thing you can really do is live the life you want to live and hope that one day you'll find someone who will want to wander by your side.


Time continues to move along, just as the world continues to spin, so for now I will be happy, because if I am going to spend my time lusting after anything, it may as well be the whole wide world.



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