Wanderlust is defined officially as a strong longing for or impulse toward wandering. But this simple definition doesn’t fully capture the emotion of wanderlust, a sensation with which I am acquainted. I wish there were a more captivating word than longing. Merriam Webster’s thesaurus says that longing is synonymous with an appetite, a yearning, a thirstiness. These are physical words which describe what truly can be a physical sensation.
Wanderlust, as a notion, has its pros and cons. It might lead you to hike Mt. Everest or visit the ancient pyramids or raft down the Colorado rapids. But it also can lead you to leave. To pick up and go. To abdicate responsibilities. To exit without completing what you have started.
I don’t experience wanderlust with the frequency I did as a single adult but it still hits me periodically. It’s most frequently incited by music. A song I remember from my single days when I could pack up and move to a different city or travel to a faraway place all by myself without checking in with anyone or feeling guilty. If there was money in the bank, off I could fly to Alaska or Cape Cod or the Colorado mountains – and I did. I traveled carefully, but alone. I was raised moving. Before settling in Houston, I had lived in Southern California, Northern California, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, and Tennessee. I never went to a school more than 2 years in a row until high school. I think my father had wanderlust. But he and I both saw that the grandiosity of his ideas rarely translated to the practicality of day-to-day living here on earth.
I was listening to one of my favorite musicians in concert on t.v. last night while Bray was out of town and the kids were in bed. And I could feel the wanderlust stirring. A vivid recollection of the days of old, with less responsibility and busyness, and it incited some longing, some yearning, some thirstiness. Have you experienced this? A wanderlust to pack a bag and linger over a glass of wine overlooking Grand Canal in Venice or sip a cup of coffee while watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu?
Here’s the trick. Don’t try to bury it. Acknowledge it. It’s particularly human to long for an escape when things are hard work at home and work. It’s human to idealize a time gone by even though when you were in the midst of that period you may have actually been longing for a relationship or kids or stability. Then do something about it. Plan a short getaway. Revisit an old haunt with a friend over an evening out. I think what leads to folks eventually leaving their kids or their spouse or their job or their life is that they spent years trying to bury legitimate feelings instead of finding an outlet for them. And as for that trip to Machu Picchu, it may not be in the cards this year, but start saving for your 40th birthday party trip or your 10 year wedding anniversary.
There’s this great old hymn we used to sing in church called Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, and one of the verses says:
This must have been written by a wanderlust. He knew that the best cure for a wandering heart is a seal from God and a measure of grace.