“not all those who wander are lost.” – j.r.r. tolkien
once again i have learned that there is a name for a syndrome that i bear. this one was actually hiding in the german language, and was delivered straight to my inbox via the dictionary.com word of the day. (a reminder that, yes, i am a total word geek.) this term describes my affliction precisely:
wanderlust – n – a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about; an irresistible impulse to travel.
1902, from German Wanderlust, literally “desire for wandering”
[German : wandern, to wander + Lust, desire (from Old High German; see las- in Indo-European roots).]
WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University
i first came down with the “travel bug” when i studied abroad in the netherlands in my junior year of college. i got it bad. interacting closely with people of so many cultures and visiting virtually every country in western europe inflamed a viral outbreak of must-see-the-world that developed rapidly.
my condition progressed as i continued to participate in the international community at my university back home, and was exposed to more and more unfamiliar customs, traditions, and lifestyles. the symptoms were unmistakable: my usual daydreams were replaced by visions of faraway lands, my life goals were modified, my job search took a new direction, and my activities and interests had a shifted focus.
i became more deeply affected after i took a job organizing mission trips and found myself traveling several times a month, immersed in the culture of mostly latin america, africa, and china. an additional visit to scandinavia and an extended stay in south america proved that my infection is chronic – i have wanderlust.
the urge to wander, through the colorful cultures across our united states and abroad, is always present in me. the fact that the world is now shrinking so swiftly through the growth of the internet, and also the movement of people, is both a blessing and a curse for me. in a sense, having the world at my doorstep (189 nationalities are represented in oklahoma) and at my fingertips (instant news, stunning photos, and descriptive articles online) temporarily satisfies my demanding hunger, but ultimately just whets my appetite for more, for real immersion.
i believe my affinity for traveling is driven by my impulse to try new things. having a curious nature and an obsession with experiencing things first-hand means anything unknown is something i would be intrigued to explore. it may not become a favorite or even hold my attention for much longer, but i feel compelled to know for myself.
robert louis stevenson said it well when he pointed out that “there are no foreign lands, it is the traveler only who is foreign.” oh, how i love to be foreign. if you like to travel, share your favorite destination below.