Do you have wanderlust? I have and consider it rather like a friendly disease or benign addiction – or are they oxymoronic?
Maud Parrish 1878-1976 (in Nine Pounds of Luggage) said “Wanderlust can be the most glorious thing in the world. Imagination is a grand stimulating thing, like a cocktail, but to find reality is the full course with champagne”.
As she travelled around the world sixteen times (with very little luggage and a banjo) I imagine she knows all about both wanderlust and reality.
When I read the above quote I wondered, what do those words REALLY mean? Imagination, wanderlust, reality – they trip off the tongue so lightly and yet maybe when I say I have wanderlust you may not know what I mean, or, when you agree that yes you too have it, maybe the attributes I give it – on your behalf – are way off beam.
Time for some market, or rather word, research: The Oxford Paperback Dictionary & Thesaurus (Oxford.1997) dictionary tells me that wanderlustis an ‘eagerness to travel or wander. Restlessness.’ Yep. Got that.
My eagerness takes the form of an obsession with travel programmes on television or radio, travel pages in magazines and press, in fact I even buy magazines with names such as Wanderlust, Sojourney, and NZ Wilderness. Why? So I can find new and exciting places to visit – places to add to my list – eager to get to places not so well known. Restless when I feel trapped.
Goal planning, and goal achieving are often different. So often the people who tell me, ‘You’re so lucky,’ also have dreams of travelling. But are they eager enough to do the necessary saving and budgeting at home to reap the benefits of being ‘lucky’ enough to travel? Usually not.
However I digress, back to the book of words: imagination. This evidently means having a ‘mental faculty of forming images of objects not present to senses.’ Guess that’s me thinking of lazing on an Indian river, or viewing polar bears. Being able to see the dollar or two saved this week as a coffee on the West Bank in Paris. Yes, I have imagination too: imagination that my back will always be able to carry a pack on it and I will stay in good health.
I also checked wander and lust as separate words and I certainly qualify there. To wander is to ‘go from place to place aimlessly, diverge from the path.’ Well I have done that all my life, and travelling has not changed it at all. I love to get off the beaten track, in fact to be lost is ideal, that’s when the wonderful, the unexpected, the amazing, the different happens. As long as I am found one more time than I am lost, I know all is well.
Lust. Another word close to my heart. My trusty Oxford tells me it’s ‘passionate desire’. Well, been there, done that, still got it, intend to keep it – what else can I say. Passionate for travel, new places, new foods, people, and experiences.
And finally, last on my list of words to check reality. This seems to be the boring one, the one that people often accuse travellers of trying to escape from. Not so. This is what can separate the traveller (with time) from the tourist (on a schedule) as the dictionary says it is ‘what’s real or exists or underlies the appearances’.
How often I have made some assumptions about people, places, and things, about actions, beliefs, and religions by believing the appearances – what I think my eyes are telling me rather that waiting a little longer and seeing what is real. We humans love to have order in our lives so make up stories to make sense of things. However, that does not make them real. Knowing the ‘truth’ is like having a secret shared and I value the people who I meet along the way who share their truths, and their realities, with me.
Nevertheless, ask three people to describe an accident they witnessed and each will be different. We experience things from within our own reality or context.
So do you have the wanderlust? Is your description of it the same as mine? There will be commonalities, and I suspect, for people with the overwhelming desire to wander aimlessly, most will not be seeking a cure.
I agree with you Maud, wanderlust is glorious, stimulating, and it sure does provide the meal of life with champagne-like bubbles.
As a pioneer of his time, it’s only fitting that cutting-edge technology is used to tell his story, said Christchurch Arts Centre CEO, André Lovatt. “We’ve carefully kept the beautiful heritage features but have injected the space with new energy by using state-of-the-art storytelling techniques that will appeal to people of all ages.
The original Lecture Theatre is exactly as it was – graffiti and all – which adults will love as this was how the ‘den’ was until the quake shook Christchurch (2010) and many buildings have had to be strengthened. The Arts Centre has had major work done too. It was great to sit in the old lecture theatre just as I, and my kids, have done for years. Well, it’s the same . . . until the digital screen at the front starts playing a movie commissioned by the Arts Centre. A great example of the saying ‘same same but different.’
Much of what Rutherford discovered all this years ago, in what was really an old cloakroom, led to the technology of today and now visitors can learn about the old with the new, in fun and exciting ways.
For more than a century, the Arts Centre site was home to Canterbury College and from 1890 one of its students was Rutherford. He was a regular Kiwi who became known as the father of nuclear physics and in 1908 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. See more about the Den here
E-copies of my three books are half price this month YAY for you lucky buyers. A reminder of what they are:
Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad (the story of me running away from home at 50, travelling the world for a year, alone, and with no plans – it was so good I did it three more times – and, of course, I’m still travelling)
Surviving Suicide: a mother’s story (all about my son’s death and my later career as a suicide bereavement counsellor)
A love letter to Malaysian Borneo: or can this travel writer be green (Malaysia is my favourite Asian country and this small book looks at my adventures in Sabah and Sarawak and discusses eco issues around worldwide travel)
Travelling, or reading about travelling, help us realise people are not like those presented in the headlines of our papers or in the sound-bites of radio or television.
So, in a world of turmoil and fear-based voting, once again I see the dangers of travel.
No, not the rare physical danger of airline or vehicle crashes; not the very occasional danger of being robbed or becoming sick, but the every-day common danger of your heart getting to know people and places. People we would not usually met.
Each week, hearing of train accidents, deaths in the Middle East or riots in India, poverty, earthquakes, droughts and floods I am very conscious of that emotional danger.
Geography was always of more interest than history at school. One could have a stab at answering questions if I knew a couple of other facts. Distance from the equator could give clues to temperatures and climate. Mountains, plains, rivers all added up to some understanding of a place that dates and historical facts didn’t – well for me anyway.
Now travel has given me a different perspective to places. Geography remains important, history helps with understanding people and the two, combined with travel experience, gives me a sense of, not exactly ownership or belonging, but something rather like kinship, I’m attached. I leave a bit of me in every place and take some of the place away with me
To me this feeling of human-oneness is particularly acute at times of high emotions; small countries meet a goal; overcome an obstacle; a national team wins; and in particular, really acute in times of national pain.
My first real experience of this came after I’d been to Ireland and then shortly afterwards ‘the troubles’ began again. I was devastated that the wonderful little city of Londonderry (or Derry, depending on the map consulted) was yet again the centre of violence. Streets I’d walked down were now dangerous. That people I had maybe spoken to or walked past were now dead or injured had me crying in front of the TV or newspaper.
Turkey and Greece had earthquakes, people in Israel and Palestine killing each other, years ago London had rubbish bins removed from the street for fear of terrorism, New York and the New Yorkers I love were devastated and traumatised, monsoon floods happen in Asia, and in Egypt, fabulous country and generous people, is grief stricken with deaths from buildings collapsing, and Indian pilgrims die during a festival.
What ever the cause, I think of the diverse people whom I have come to know, love, judge and compare and empathise with their pain. Yet what can we do to ease that pain? Nothing. The one thing that would help – having loved ones live again – is way beyond anything we can do.
However maybe travel-writing that gives the texture, flavour and smells of a place helps bridge that gap between us and them. After all scenery and monuments are the same on everyone’s photos. It’s our experiences that provide the difference.
Young or old, male, female, Christian, Pagan, Muslin, or freethinker as a Japanese friend describes herself, we’re all part of the human family and when a family member is in pain we travellers feel it.
Maybe all leaders need to have budget-traveled the world long before putting their hands up to serve their country . . . it almost seems many really only serve themselves.
I don’t want bombs dropped on places I’ve been, people who have sheltered or fed me, and when that happens I suffer the emotional pain of being a traveller.
(I wrote this some years ago, now tweaked and republished)