March 7, 2013 by E.
Wan•der•lust, noun: A strong desire to travel. ORIGIN early 20th century, from German Wanderlust.
When I was a senior in high school, I noticed that I began to present with certain symptoms. Restlessness. Boredom. Apathy for school work. Daydreaming of exotic locales. Desire to escape the mundane. Wishing for the end of the school year. Loss of interest in high school drama. Anticipating graduation.
At first, I attributed all of these things to an urge to move on to bigger and better things, like attending college, particularly a college in an entirely new state, with new classes, new friends, and new weather patterns (I grew up in Florida, which has 2 seasons – hot and hurricane). “Senioritis”, as it is popularly known, happens to most of us when we’re about to move on to a new phase in our life and begin to disassociate with our present events. That condition certainly affects most seniors, whether they’re in high school or college, and back then, my friends and I were no exception.
But then I finished my freshman year at UNC, and realized that I was once again having that familiar urge, that longing, that internal drive to go somewhere else, to do something else. I’d become too settled in my routine, too comfortable with daily activities, too accustomed with the restaurants on Franklin Street, too bored with the frat parties, too complacent with the scenery of Chapel Hill.
It’s not that I was ready to move on from UNC, or from Chapel Hill. I loved every minute of my college experience and will always think of Chapel Hill as one of my true homes.
What I wanted was a challenge. What I wanted was a disruption in my life, an event to shake up my daily pattern. What I wanted was to move to Italy.
I spent the second semester of my sophomore year in Florence, Italy. I lived with 4 other girls, whom I had never met before we arrived at the 3 bedroom apartment that was to be our home for the next 5 months. The girl who was my roommate in Florence quickly became my best friend, and she will be one of my bridesmaids when A. and I get married next winter. All of us in Florence bonded over shared difficulties, Italian language mishaps, bouts of homesickness, culinary delights, and lots
and lots of wine. Florence, and Italy, was where I learned to roll with the punches, seek out unexpected delights in surprising places, be more independent, speak confidently and with a smile, appreciate food prepared with love, and enjoy wine drunk from a plastic cup while sitting anywhere with a view (which, in Florence, is everywhere).
To put it mildly, Florence stole my heart.
And so coming back to the good ol’ USA was a bittersweet experience. I spent the first few weeks soaking up everything I had missed about my home country. Having a cell phone. Driving to the grocery store. Eating peanut butter. Spending time with my family. Playing with my dog. Running outside, in shorts, and not receiving concerned stares from elderly nuns. Enjoying the miracle of air conditioning.
But then, the “newness” of America wore off, and I was back to missing the Italian way of life. The slower pace. The amazing food. The cheap wine. The expressive hand gestures. The omnipresent art. The gorgeous scenery that was everywhere you turned.
I thought, at first, that I was missing Italy, that I was missing international travel, that I was missing things that could only be found overseas.
Then I gradually realized that my self-diagnosis of wanderlust, as I had come to think of it, wasn’t, perhaps, entirely accurate. Of course I still wanted to travel. New locales always make for novel experiences and interesting adventures.
But perhaps that familiar urge, that longing, that internal drive to go somewhere else, to do something else, just maybe, that could all be satisfied without using a passport, simply by exploring my own neighborhoods, simply by wandering through my own state.
I would have come to this revelation a lot sooner and a lot less painfully if my younger self had simply read Ally’s post on Exploring What’s Outside your Backdoor from her blog Edibles&Travels. It’s a genius idea, one that’s so obvious but so disregarded by most of us, and I can’t emphasize it enough. Whether you find a new museum, a new restaurant, a new town, a new park, or even a new bar, they all have such potential for adventure.
A few weekends ago, A. and I ventured to the new-to-us city of Baltimore, and had such an amazing time. As exciting and as large as DC is, it’s still great to go see something new and break out of our usual weekend mold. This weekend, I have a new Vietnamese restaurant for us to try and (weather permitting – we’re finally supposed to get some sunshine and warmer temps!) a Sunday afternoon picnic planned.
If any of you have suggestions or stories of adventures, home-grown or overseas, I’d love to hear about them!