Wanderlust: a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.
I love everything about the word. From the fact that it sounds like a soundtrack off of a Taylor Swift album, to the fact that is affiliated with the thrill of travel. But one thing I don’t love is how it has become as overused and abused like Gretchen Weiners trying to make fetch happen. Unlike “fetch”, this word is already happening, and is a word with some meaning behind it. How about we look at that definition a little closer.
Those three words stand out to me because in my opinion that’s what distinguishes between someone who genuinely suffers from wanderlust and someone who reflects a social-flaw that our generation appears to be suffering from as of late…
Which flaw am I referring to this time you ask? (I know, I’ve really been on society’s case in 2016…)
Have you ever scrolled through your friends’ Snapchat stories of their vacation and had the impression that they were spending more time recording their trip, rather than taking in their surroundings? I kid you not, spring break was essentially just a live stream of Cancun. It’s totally understandable to be having an amazing time, and want the whole world to know it…
But nowadays, did you really go on vacation if you didn’t Instagram it? If a college kid goes on vacation and doesn’t Snap about it, did it really happen at all?
Don’t get me wrong – I refer to myself as being a “typical Canadian girl suffering from wanderlust” so yes, hello hypocrisy. But there’s a difference between genuinely loving travel, and all the facets it encompasses, and just loving to go on vacation. So much so that scientists have began to research into whether or not people can actually be born with a genetic-wanderlust-tendency. I can honestly say I suffer from wanderlust, to the point that my mother phoned me last week begging me to stay in Toronto for more than a month. If I am not in school, or working, I am on a plane, train, bus, you name it. Every one of my last dollars (that isn’t spent on shoes of course) is spent on travel. There’s just something about the world being such a massive, marvelous place, and I’m too afraid that I won’t get to experience everything it has to offer.
So why do I place myself on this travel pedestal, and act as though the word wanderlust is my own private property? Ask yourselves this – what’s the difference between someone who travels and someone who goes on vacation? Tough question.
To me, a traveller is someone who possesses that genuine wanderlust. They love every aspect of traveling, from the shitty airplane food, to the miscommunications with foreign taxi drivers, to the sleeping in train stations. The good, the bad, and the ugly – they crave it all. That’s what traveling is; fully taking on the culture of a destination and submerging in it like it’s a bubble bath after a stressful AF day. Travelling is stressful, spontaneous, and fulfilling.
Vacationing? That’s the glamping of the travel world. All inclusives, WiFi, the whole nine yards. Survey around and ask people why they go on vacation – the most common response will be “to relax”. And that’s exactly what vacationing is, relaxing. Usually there’s little ambiguity to the itinerary but by no means do you not know where you are sleeping that night, or what country you will even be in tomorrow.
Let me clarify, I have nothing against vacationers; I, too, am a vacationer. I believe that this differentiation is a bit of a paradox as most travelers can also be vacationers, but most vacationers are not also travelers. Everyone needs to sit their ass down on a beach (sangria and Vogue in hand) every now and again, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But the population of people who go out on a whim, and stretch themselves outside of their comfort zones when abroad is much less than those that hop off the plane, with their usual customs and norms in hand.
Travel is one of those things that always appears to be glamorous on the surface. But, like most things in life, all that glitters is not gold. Unless you are living the epitome of luxury with bottomless pockets that are funding first class travel, staying in starred hotels, and eating out on the regular, traveling has it’s low moments.
I have slept in the attic of a kebab shop in Antwerp, and spent the night in a bus shelter in Iceland. Ask me if I was loving life during any of those struggling times? Not particularly. But they opened my eyes to the culture I was being surrounded by, forced me to interact with locals, and most importantly, encouraged me to step outside the little bubble of Alex-land. Plus they made for some damn good stories afterwards.
So I challenge you this: next time you decide to travel abroad, make sure you pack your staples. Get that SPF 30 ready, your favorite sunglasses, socks, you know the drill… But there is one thing you should try to forget to pack – your comfort zone.