Wanderlust: A Craving to See the World

Every traveler at heart is familiar with the term wanderlust. Did you know that it originates from the German words wander (to hike) and lust (desire)? So it literally translates to “enjoyment of hiking”… It was adopted as an English term in 1902, with its contemporary German equivalent for the modern definition being fernweh, meaning “an ache for distant places” (as per Wikipedia). I think that aptly describes the condition as we know it.

J.R.R. Tolkien is credited with the words,

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”

As a whole, I think what Tolkien is trying to express is that not all is as it seems at first glance, and it is best to refrain from judgement as first impressions can often be deceiving. In other words, keep an open mind. This advice can apply to so many facets of living, but I will focus on travel since that is my interest here. Keeping an open mind is a basic requirement for anyone trying out something new, whether that be a new country, a new continent, or even something as simple as a new restaurant in town. Without an open mind, preconceived notions are at risk of interfering and may taint the overall experience. It’s the power of suggestion, and once we have an idea in our mind of what something should or shouldn’t be, we look for reasons to uphold that belief. It’s called the confirmation bias, and it operates on a subconscious but powerful level. A traveler must be aware that when visiting a destination that is completely new, it is of utmost importance to disregard any previous opinions, thoughts, or expectations (this is the big one) and let everything unfold naturally and absorb it all as it comes. For then no time is wasted on considering what “could have been”, but rather enjoying it for exactly what it is.

Now, this same requirement for keeping an open mind applies also to the traveler himself. How many of you have had to defend your next crazy holiday destination to concerned friends or family, who might be worried that you could be “missing out” with all this hopping around the globe? Or had to justify your need to see and experience new places several (if you’re lucky) times a year? And let’s not even speak about the cost, or how on earth you will ever have stability when you’re never in one place for very long… This is again where I emphasis an open mind. The life of a traveler is a lifestyle choice, just as buying a house and staying put is a lifestyle choice. In French there is a term often used when one is on the outside of a situation and its position is not completely understood, “à chacun son truc.” It means “to each their own thing”. And what a beautiful world we live in when we all have the freedom to choose.

So I have to agree with my friend Tolkien, because in fact not all who wander are lost. For some of us, it’s how we truly feel alive.

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