DSWT, Nairobi, Kenya

The Truth About Wanderlust

Examining the downside of wanderlust

A girlfriend of mine sent over an article via Twitter, The Incurable Disease: Eight Symptoms of Suffering from Extreme Wanderlust. Unlike many articles that discuss the notion of wanderlust with unrelenting whimsy, this article took a different angle, focusing on the negative side effects of what they dub ‘extreme wanderlust’. Yes, the article exaggerates the effects felt by ‘victims’ of wanderlust (e.g. “wanderers feel like a part of their soul is dying if they’re not able to cross oceans or reach new lands”), but in some sense the article rings with truths.

The article addresses eight ‘symptoms’ including constant yearning, hazy vision and lucid daydreams. The constant yearning piece of this is something that I’ve noticed quite a bit this year, so much so that I had a full conversation about it with Scott. There is something to be said about the unwavering desire to travel and the notion of constant planning. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but sometimes the thought of what’s yet to come blurs the moment; you think so much about the future that you forget to take in your current experience. There’s something detrimental about not being able to fully enjoy those little moments that form great memories.

Be where you are; otherwise you will miss your life.
– Buddha

By most standards, this year has been an epic travel year for us: Kenya was a bucket list experience, and adding to that our upcoming travel to Israel, Palestine and Jordan makes it even more incredible. We’ve sprinkled in experiences with other Caribbean islands – namely, Dominica – plus getaways to watch friends and family tie the knot in DC, Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Keeping in mind that we work more than full-time with our day jobs and side projects, that’s a lot of travel by my standards (though I keep brainstorming other places to explore in 2015).

Realization: Current annoyances were once little pleasures

Passports

While planning our trip to Kenya, I was provided with a brief moment of realization: to an extent, I felt like I was going through the motions. Tickets purchased? Check. Documents? Check. Carry-on and toiletries bag? Check. I’d done this many times before and was going to do this many times in the future, but I remembered a time that packing wasn’t a night-before-takeoff endeavor. There was a time when packing was ritualistic. When, after purchasing tickets and planning an adventure, it was the beginning of the experience where reality set in. I was preparing to embark on a trip, and packing, heading to the airport and dealing with TSA was a part of this special process.

As a child who didn’t travel much (unless you count camping and Disneyland) I reveled in those experiences that have now become standard annoyances associated with travel. I enjoyed each of those moments because they were infrequent; they signaled to me that I was about to explore a new destination, see new landscapes and experience new cultures. I was about to embark on a brief journey into another world and it was thrilling. Thinking back on it, I can remember those sensations – the excitement, the thrill, not being able to fully sleep the night before out of pure excitement for what was to come.

I know many people who travel infrequently — you know them, too (we all do). Perhaps they have their annual vacation or family trip that everyone looks forward to, but travel isn’t a big part of their lives because a) it’s a stretch time-wise or financially, or b) it’s simply not a priority. When that annual trip is on the calendar, it’s a big deal and the countdown clock begins months before their journey. The excitement and talks leading up to the given trip make the experience super rich and exciting, and in some ways helps dull the less-than-fun parts of travel. When you’re excited about what’s to come and the experiences you’re about to enjoy, being delayed by 30 minutes doesn’t seem terrible. Having to deal with an extra long security line doesn’t seem like a soul-sucking drain. Rather, it’s a few extra minutes to daydream. At some point, I realized, the sparkle of traveling to new places was — dare I say it? — beginning to dwindle a bit.

Here’s what that moment of realization during my Kenya packing experience spurred in me, though: this thing that I love doing (traveling), and this thing that we choose to spend our money on should always be exciting. Those feelings and thoughts that once crossed my mind before a trip  — that unadulterated bliss — that shouldn’t go away. For many of us who travel somewhat regularly, booking a trip or embarking on a new journey becomes a ‘normal’ thing, but it shouldn’t ever feel that way. Whether we’re visiting a neighboring city — or island, in our case — or heading off on a bucket list trip, we should revel in the moments because we want to be there, and in truth, you never know how many more of those there will be. So, I’m making a promise to myself and to my future travel buddies: I’ll set out on each trip with the excitement that it deserves and marinate in the moment.

Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts below ➟ Would love to hear from others who travel regularly, too! Anyone else find themselves forgetting to soak in the experience of travel?

xo,

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect, formerly The Traveling Scholar. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. She is a former resident of London and San Francisco and now calls the island of Anguilla home. In addition to The Wanderlust Effect, Shannon is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort and is on the Board of Directors of the Omololu International School in Anguilla.