Wanderlust sounds romantic to most people, until you reach a certain age.
If one more person tells me I need to “settle down” and find a man/job/home, I am going to punch them directly in the mouth.
American society has a very narrowly defined path as what life should be like.
Go to college, find a partner, buy a house, work your way up the corporate ladder, procreate and die.
Take a one-week vacation, once a year and then spend the rest of your hard earned money on stuff that you don’t really need but you think you need because everyone else has it.
It’s ok to travel in your 20s. It’s almost encouraged at this stage in life, yes go be free, find yourself! People might say, “Oh that girl, such a free spirit!” but absolutely expect you to come home and fall in line with the rest of them marching towards oblivion.
I had a horrific fight with my mother when I was 24 years old.
I had just returned from several months teaching English abroad in Thailand, 5 working, and about 3 traveling to areas in Southeast Asia. It was awesome, and I wanted to keep doing it, so I applied to several schools in Central America.
While my mother had supported my Thailand trip, she absolutely panicked at the idea of me living abroad again.
Her argument? I needed to think about buying a house and getting a mortgage. At 24. I know she loves me and at the time wanted me to marry a prince and live happily ever after but I flipped out. I had no intention of living my life that way.
By the way, I went to Honduras and my mother totally supports me now and is awesome. But at the time she was pressuring me to get on the narrowly defined path because that’s all she knew.
The unknown is terrifying and never gets any easier.
And now that I’ve entered my 30s, I have people telling me that I’ll “grow out of it”. I’ve slowed down, certainly. But wanderlust does not simply evaporate one day like an ice cube on the sidewalk in the dead of summer.
It’s always there tugging at your heart.
When you don’t fit inside a specific box, people will always want to find a way to get you to conform. I must be depressed and lonely and that’s why I travel to escape my problems.
Nope, life is goooooooood thank you. I travel because it inspires and challenges me, because I believe we get one trip on this giant beautiful planet of ours and I want to make the trip outstanding.
When I was 27 and living in Germany I had a friend of mine come to visit. I decided to quit my job because it wasn’t making me happy, and I was PANICKING. I was basically having a quarter life crisis where I didn’t know what to do or where to go and all I could keep thinking was:
WHAT THE F*CK AM I DOING, I’VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE.
My beautiful friend allowed me to attack her ears with all my stress, before looking at me calmly and saying, “In all the time I’ve known you, you’ve never done anything out of fear. Don’t start now.”
Do I have moments when I doubt myself?
Do I think I should buy a house and get married?
Do I feel overwhelmed by anxiety every time I quit a job or travel for a long time?
Would I do it differently?
No f*cking way.
The best description of wanderlust I have ever read comes from Travels with Charley. I am not going to paraphrase John Steinbeck, because he’s an amazingly gifted writer, so I’m simply going to share one my favorite paragraphs of any book ever.
“In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear this disease incurable.” ― John Steinbeck,… Click To Tweet
“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked.
Four hoarse blasts of a ships’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear this disease incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself… A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
I have no wish to be cured. I am (in my) 30s and Fabulous (exclamation point). In my 20s, I did a lot of traveling and learning, and now I want to spend my 30s traveling and enjoying.
Sometimes I learn something new or discover some part of me that was hidden away.
But it’s not a requirement when you’re traveling, only a byproduct of being a human and trying to be self-aware. Travel does force you to look at the world differently, but only if your heart and mind are open.
Everyday should be a lesson, no matter where you are.
It doesn’t need to happen when you are traveling, but it can. But you should also not feel guilty if it doesn’t.
It’s totally ok to JUST HAVE A ROCKING GOOD TIME. There’s a lot of pressure, particularly on single female travelers, to have this amazing epiphany and “find yourself” when you take long trips. That if you are a woman traveling that you must be going through a traumatic experience.
Screw that. Go find an amazing waterfall, a secret restaurant or a local kid to play soccer with on the street. If you find yourself in the process, great. But don’t let that stop you from doing whatever you want. Collect experiences and stories, and let them become a part of you.
Wanderlust does not come with a price tag, an age limit or rules of engagement.
People can’t seem to understand that a woman might want to travel for no good reason. That they might feel perfectly comfortable traveling alone, without a man. ::gasp!:: That your wanderlust can mean you decide to go on an adventure for no other reason than you felt like it.
You don’t need to make a choice between your dreams. Travel, buy a house, buy a van, have a partner, have a dog. You can have one or all of those things. Don’t we all want a partner who supports our dreams anyway?
The social norms say you can’t continue to travel and be a productive member of society. ::LAME:: I think you are more productive, helpful and insightful when you have exposed yourself to something different. Challenge your brain.
Let’s change “normal” into something more exciting..
..like it’s normal for women to travel for weeks at a time. Whenever they want. At whatever age they want. If they are lucky enough to be able to do so. Maybe when you come back you’ll be ready to “settle down” and ignore your wanderlust. Probably not (Once a bum…)
You can travel because you want to learn more. So learn all you can, not just about yourself but also about everything around you. You can accomplish a goal or just try a new food. It does not need to be strange to be living your life to the fullest, to see the world if that’s what you want. It’s EMPOWERING.
Maybe you don’t need to find yourself, maybe you just need to get to know yourself. Maybe wanderlust will always be a part of you.
Do you feel the need to settle down?
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