As a kid, were you ever asked what country you would love to visit one day? My answer was always: “All of them!” For as long as I can remember, wanderlust (hereby defined as “the strong desire to travel”) has been my lifelong companion.
As a kid who moved a lot growing up, wanderlust soothed the usual pangs of losing friends or a sense of security, because unlike the memories of places left behind, wanderlust is never wan. Its siren call beckons to the colorful, volatile world of the future (allowing you to easily ignore the pain of now).
However, there are many dangerous side effects to wanderlust, such as discontentment and fear of commitment. If not properly maintained, wanderlust is unquenchable and will most certainly rob you of the joy of now. Unless you know how to properly handle the side effects of wanderlust, you’ll probably turn into one of the many discontented who will never know happiness outside of a plane ticket.
I’m 99.3% sure that the main message of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been vastly misinterpreted. I cannot tell you how many tweets I saw from people who saw the movie and gushed about how they now want to travel to exotic places. Not going to lie, after I saw it, I totally added Iceland to my list of places to visit. But I don’t think traveling to all those places was the point at all though. (SPOILER ALERT) The increasingly courageous Walter Mitty learns that his main mission behind all his travel was a seemingly ordinary picture of him working at his ordinary job in his ordinary home city. The “Quintessence of Life” was found (literally) when Walter Mitty became content with himself – even in less than glamorous normalcy.
I’ve found that the only way to cure the negative side effects of wanderlust is (wait for it…) by being present.
• Don’t let laziness or prejudice dictate your sense of wonder. Some of my biggest regrets are not exploring the towns that I lived in to their fullest capacity. When I lived in Dallas, I explored only a few areas of the massive downtown. When I lived in Chattanooga, I barely tried any of the cool outdoorsy activities. Even when I was in Cambridge in the United Kingdom, I didn’t do nearly enough as I would’ve liked. Be a tourist in your own backyard and you’ll be surprised all the fun you’ll have. Make the most of where you are now or even when you live in super awesome places, you probably won’t make the most of it there either.
• Be thankful. If you’re discontent, write down a list every night of the little things throughout your day that really blessed you. It could be as simple as wearing an outfit you felt awesome in or having a wonderful lunch, but focus on filling up a page with things you’re glad happened.
• Just Do It. Don’t just pin it, post it or tweet about it. Go travel. I’m tired of seeing people live online rather than in the real world. If you want something, work hard and attain it. It’s that easy. If you want to travel, save your money and go. It might take a while, but it’s better to work for a goal than just talk about it.
One final thought for fun: There is a HUGE difference between adventure and wanderlust. Wanderlust is only satisfied with the exotic later, while adventure is happy anywhere and anytime. You can have wanderlust but be unadventurous (in fact, I was! Remember how I never explored the cities I lived in? Prime example.) Adventure is the search for excitement, understanding, and self-awareness; wanderlust is the search for the next plane ride. See the difference there? First you must develop a sense of adventure—let it be your compass to fulfill your strong desire to travel and you’ll be amazed where you end up.
After recently moving for the 14th time in 22 years, Kelsy is definitely ready for adventure rather than wanderlust. Read more from her on Twitter @kelsyblack or her blog.
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