Are you plagued by the wanderlust problem?
Do you spend half of your waking hours daydreaming about your next exotic destination or the secluded beach you could be chillin’ on?
Are you the type of person who constantly struggles to fill that void—the void that will only be filled when you travel the world and see EVERYTHING?
I thought this was something that every person suffered through, but I’ve learned that isn’t the case.
Friends and acquaintances have remarked that they didn’t understand why some people would want to go off and travel so often—they were perfectly content with staying inside their bubble, protected from the outside world.
Now that confused me a bit…
I figured all humans had this fiery passion to see new things and crave new experiences. I just thought it was part of human nature.
Who doesn’t want to see the Corcovado in Rio, eat authentic gelato in Italy, or conquer the Great Wall of China?
Maybe it’s the idea of airplanes or the fear of the unknown—I’m not sure why, but I knew I wasn’t that person. That wasn’t me.
The problem is, this addiction—like any addiction—can be unhealthy.
It wasn’t always like this. I didn’t come out of the womb with a backpack on and a trusty travel camera. I wasn’t begging my parents for a ticket to England or pestering them about a passport.
It began around the age of 13, but it wasn’t so concrete. There wasn’t an epiphany or an “AHA!” moment. Nothing profound actually happened. It was just in my head, “I need to go travel someday.”
And so it began…
My desire to go abroad grew stronger and stronger and by the time I was in high school I knew that I wanted to go to Europe. I heard incredible stories and anecdotes from students coming back from the annual “Euro Trip.” Drinking beers with your best friends, getting lost in a maze of small alleyways and living out of hostels.
It just sounded like pure fun.
The first country that came to mind was France. I don’t know why or how but for some reason I knew I had to see Paris and eat an authentic croissant alongside a shot of espresso.
It would be nearly a decade later before I got to experience this incredible delight and after it was over I wasn’t quite done. My thirst wasn’t quenched, I only became thirstier…
As soon as I got back from 21 days in Europe, I was already thinking of where I could go next.
Surfing in Costa Rica? Tango in Argentina? Oktoberfest in Munich? Oh the possibilities!
After a drunken night talking with some friends about their study abroad experience, I made the decision then and there that I would go to Spain and live with a host family. Seven months later, I did exactly that.
It changed my life. Seeing new countries, eating new foods and experiencing exciting cultures made me feel like a kid in a candy store. I simply couldn’t get enough and wanted to see more.
Fast forward five months and I was back in school and suffering from severe reverse culture shock. It seemed that everytime I got settled in back home I would become super cynical and frustrated about my life. Studying seemed boring and trivial and I didn’t care about my degree. I was becoming more and more distraught over what my future would hold.
The grass always seemed to be greener on the other side.
But by the time my final Spring semester came to a close I had already brewed up my next plan. A friend and I would set off early the following year in celebration of our newly minted bachelor degrees.
I had done Europe—twice now—and there was only one thing on my mind…
A couple weeks later I bought a oneway ticket to Medellín Colombia.
Graduation couldn’t come fast enough and before I knew it I was back on a plane. We traveled South America for two months, exploring amazing cities in Colombia, surfing in Uruguay, and visiting old friends in Brazil and Argentina (can’t forget to mention partying it up during Carnaval).
But, like all good things, the trip came to an end and I was back in the U.S. However, after landing a new job in New York City, I wasn’t too disappointed.
Who wouldn’t be excited to move to New York? I was thrilled at having this opportunity and I felt that all of my travel needs would be fulfilled with such a stimulating city—the activities were endless.
I moved into a tiny East Village apartment (cliché, I know… even had two international roommates! Who would’ve thought?) and settled into my big boy job at a global finance company.
New York was incredible and taught me so many things about hard work, independence, and how to survive in a cut throat environment. I loved every minute of that city but sadly, I couldn’t say the same about my job.
I was depressed and I felt trapped. To compound these negative feelings, I couldn’t bare the thought of having only two weeks out of every year to travel.
It just wasn’t enough.
I began to think, maybe it wasn’t so much of the work that I disliked or my situation but rather this NEED that wasn’t being fulfilled. I began to realize that I would probably never be completely happy in one place… At least at this time in my life.
So I moved to China—ya know, to find myself and become a globetrotting hippie, complete with carefully crafted Instagram photos showing everyone back home how much FUN I’m having being independent and LIVING LIFE ON THE EDGE!!!
I took a leap for opportunity, to learn Chinese, teach myself how to make money on my own, and see some incredible places that I’d only dreamed of before.
Now I’m four months in, and I hate to say it, but the bug is kickin’ in again. And this time I’m really thinking WHAT THE FUCK!?
I mean I came all this way, I’ve traveled to Vietnam and the Philippines, I get to see something new literally EVERYDAY and it’s still just not enough. I think this is a universal feeling amongst the travelers out there.
The wanderlust problem.
I hate that cheesy word but I see why it was invented. There is a strong lust, a constant desire to keep on going, to keep exploring, to keep on keepin’ on.
So maybe it wasn’t that the daily routines back home were that bad, the studying wasn’t so trivial, the internships weren’t really boring. Maybe anything I’ve ever complained about WASN’T REALLY THAT BAD.
Maybe it was just me?
And all of the others out there who suffer from the wanderlust problem.
That problem that makes normal life seem dull.
The disease that makes you daydream of airplane lounges and window seats.
That infection that creeps into your mind at the 9:30am business meeting…
Oh oops, I didn’t realize I was so zoned out there I just spilled coffee on my shirt. SHIT!
These are the symptoms of the wanderlust problem. I just didn’t realize I had it, until now…
…But at some point I have to ask, when will it stop?
I’d like to think that maybe in my 30s I’ll get tired of it and the traveling won’t seem so appealing. The novelty of new cities and cultures will wear off or I’ll be so exhausted of living out of cheap mixed dorm hostel rooms and eating street meat day in and day out. I’m bound to get tired of this stuff eventually…
So while I’m young and able I’ve got to keep moving and continue to do whatever it takes to sustain myself on the road (AKA make money on the Interwebs).
Up to this point the wanderlust problem has really been a blessing in disguise. It powers me through my days, it motivates me to work harder, to be more creative. It makes me happy when I feel down. It gives me hope when I feel helpless. It is the invisible force that pushes me forward to tackle each new challenge with a fire in my eyes.
It only took a more than a decade for me to realize this but this wanderlust problem is a part of who I am and I’ve learned that I need to embrace it like a son. And that I will do.
But what about you?
Surely, I can’t be the only one.
Do you suffer from the wanderlust problem?
I know you’re out there.
Let’s hear your stories.