I climbed up the ladder to the loft above my bedroom in search of a place to store a journal I had recently filled. I opened the cabinet doors, slid a couple of boxes out from their resting place and peered inside, unsure of their contents. Suddenly a clear plastic storage bin caught my eye. I put down the cardboard box I was rummaging through and switched my attention to this container. Removing the lid I quickly realized that this one was a treasure trove! It was filled to the brim with old photographs, journals and letters from my high school and college days.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, this was quite a find! Inching closer to the light from the plate glass window, I situated myself high above the world below and dove in. It was so entertaining to flip through the photos and read the words I had scrawled 18 years ago on the yellowing pages. It felt a bit surreal awakening so many dormant memories from my more “adventurous” days.
Of course I found a lot of journal entries comprised of the usual hopes and dreams of an 18 year old girl: Where would I end up? What kind of job would I have? When would I fall in love? How would we meet? What would he be like? Would I ever get married? Would I ever have children?
But even more interesting than those things, was a recurring theme in my writings. I was obsessed with escaping my small Ohio town in search of adventures and experiences in the wider world. My mom used to tell me that I had “wanderlust,” and I believe she was absolutely right. The dictionary defines wanderlust as:a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about. And I certainly had that! There were so many fascinating places I wanted to see and interesting people I wanted to meet… and I couldn’t seem to begin this wandering soon enough!
Fortunately, from the time I turned 18 I was able to do just that. I had the unique privilege of working on a beautiful Colorado Dude Ranch during the summers while in college. And I lived and worked in New Mexico for 12 years after graduation… allowing me to experience a completely different culture from the one in which I grew up.
During those 16 years I was fortunate enough to climb 14,000 ft. mountains—literally standing on TOP of the world! I spent time rafting white water rapids and exploring miles and miles of untouched Colorado wilderness both on foot and on horseback. I learned to fly fish in the Tetons and Yellowstone … catching, cooking & eating my fair share of indigenous trout. I learned to scuba dive… soaking in some of the Caribbean’s most active and colorful reefs. I plunged into the freezing-cold waters of Lake Tahoe and experienced the lengthy but rewarding struggle of pulling King salmon out of the open Pacific (throwing up the entire time).
I searched for banana slugs while feasting on the sweetest wild berries in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest and took a 6-passenger sea plane into British Columbia where I participated in the carving of a community totem pole with native people. In New Mexico, Arizona and Texas I blistered my feet backpacking into (and out of) some deep canyons, visited various haunts of the legends of the “Old West,” herded cattle on horseback, learned to shear a sheep, brand a steer, breed a horse, and cook a rattlesnake. And my ultimate claim to fame: I once took first place in a grape-stomping contest at a local vineyard.
Please don’t misunderstand my intention for sharing these things. I didn’t list them to boast. I am proud of doing them. I am thankful that I got to experience those adventures. But mentioning all of these things helps me emphasize how totally mystifying I find the place that I am in right NOW. Today I come home to a peaceful old house with creaky-but-charming wooden floors. If there’s a foot of snow of the ground, I can simply pull on some boots and walk next door in my pj’s to enjoy a hot meal with my family. In the summer I can watch lightning bugs from the porch swing, enjoy a burger off the grill and sing obnoxiously during the 7th inning stretch. In the fall I witness the world around me turn a thousand different colors while tailgating before a big football game.
I’m not scaling mountains, carving totem poles or herding cattle. But strangely—unlike the person I was 18 years ago—I am not restless anymore. I still have that same wanderlust and I know I’ll still travel and seek out adventure, but these days I seem to find infinite amounts of joy in watching fluffy, white flakes fall from the night sky and in laughing with childhood friends over a cold beer.
Life is such an unpredictable journey. I tried so very hard to get out of Ohio—and away from home—only to discover years later that “home” is exactly where I now CHOOSE to be. Sometimes you have to surrender to your wanderlust and strike out on your own in order to travel back around and discover the fact that you’ve come completely full circle.
9 thoughts on “Wanderlust”
18 year old you & present me would have been great friends. Great sense of wanderlust and burning desire to seek adventure. Need to leave my hometown and discover something new.
I’m waiting to see how things will pan out after I graduate, but if I had to guess, I imagine myself ending up with a life similar to yours.
I’m loving your posts, and I can’t wait to read more :]
Thank you so much for sharing that. I’m sure we would have been. You get out there and find adventure! It is waiting. And thank you for reading and commenting too 🙂
I can absolutely relate to this. I love to travel, but am more frequently finding that despite all the wonderful things I discover overseas and the adventures I have, there really is no place like home.
Wanderlust is always in your bones. With age, you learn to temper it by appreciating where you are in the moment. I loved reading this! Thank you. I too, have been/lived in CO, NM, Pacific NW, and our Nat’l Parks, but the one thing that makes them so special…is that I don’t live there. When I was a teen I would’ve loved to live in Taos. My friends that lived there wanted out…wanted to see NY, LA, highways and shiny buildings. Funny how the grass is always greener….thanks again, you remind me to appreciate my own backyard.
No I haven’t done any mountaineerig like you or super high mountain hiking, though both British Columbia and Alberta do have such mountains….but have appreciated just seeing and experiencing ablot of different regions of Canada since I’ve lived in Ontario, then Vancouver and now Calgary. I have travelled elsewhere, much of it related to cycling.
Since Canada is a huge country in an intimidating way, I have come appreciate its regional differences. And in a way it’s probably made me more proudly Canadian. (I am born in Canada and lived here all my life.)
Do I wish to scale mountains like you? No, I have a slight fear of heights, but the physical rigour of cycle-touring with my own panniered baggage and other non-travelling life experiences, have contributed immensley to life’s journey. I don’t think I need the excitement of Mt. Everest: I already have certain life expeiences that others may have never expereinced at all. Bothh good and bad.
Tailwinds in journeys ahead!
“Life is such an unpredictable journey. I tried so very hard to get out of Ohio—and away from home—only to discover years later that “home” is exactly where I now CHOOSE to be. Sometimes you have to surrender to your wanderlust and strike out on your own in order to travel back around and discover the fact that you’ve come completely full circle.”
Oh, yes. I can completely relate to this sentiment.
After reading your post-vacation funk post, I decided to read your other Travel posts. And I loved them!! I can so relate to what you’ve written. Just wanted to let you know I’m following your blog for more of your musings 🙂
Thank you so much for your kind words! I am so glad you stopped by and that you keep coming back! I hope I don’t disappoint. Not everything I write is related to travel, but it is a definite recurring theme! I
What amazing adventures you have had! I haven’t travelled too much but that’s ok. As I have gotten older I realize I am not a very good traveler. I did move away from my hometown which I am very happy about and would like to move again, you know to that place where the grass is greener, but only if my children (adults) would move with me. Seeing new things would be nice but I will not fly and I hate riding in the car. I’m the one saying, are we there yet?