Tuesday, July 8, 2014

*Wanderlust*, An Addiction

London, England
Wanderlust, a strong desire for or impulse to wander or to travel and explore the world. Let me tell you, I could probably be President of the Wanderlust club, if there was one. (Can I make one?!) And it's not something I picked up in adulthood, I've felt this way since I can remember, since at least elementary school. I've always been that kid who had lists of places she wanted to travel, pins stuck into maps and grandiose aspirations of things she wanted to do. I've dreamed about certain places (ehm, France and England) since I was very young. I know I'm not the only dreamer, because John Lennon told me so, but I always felt like my desire was a little stronger than normal. My wanderlust leaves me restless and anxious and physically aching to travel.  
Paris, France
And I LOVE to travel. But it's never enough; the hunger is never satiated. There are always more places to see, more things to do, and never enough time or money to do them all. Even as (or especially as) I write this, I want to travel. No, it's not even that I want to, I NEED to. And it's almost indescribable. I'm constantly dreaming of a plane fight away, checking into a hotel and setting off on a new adventure with my camera in hand. I dream of finding a small eatery where the locals pick up their favorite chocolate or cheese or bread. Or stumbling upon a football game in a pub and staying the afternoon with new found friends. Or sweating the morning away hiking on an unknown trail on the backside of a mountain. These aren't new aspirations either, I've made (and blogged) about my bucket list before. But why do I feel like this? I know that that makes me sound like a Psych major, but I am, and I can't help it. What is it about traveling that makes me simultaneously giddy and restless with anticipation? And why do I feel suffocated and slightly out-of-my-mind when I go too long without at least taking a day trip away?
Listen, I know I'm a Sagittarius and by nature we have "restless energy" and a "need to travel for personal, business, or b/c of that overwhelming need to escape". I know that as a person, I need to get away to clear my head. There's something almost magical about physically moving out of your environment and into a new one, even momentarily. But is there something more than that? 
Rome, Italy
Is it the act of packing your life into a suit case for a couple weeks and leaving everything else behind? Is it the open road or the excitement of being on a completely new continent in a matter of hours? Is it the culture shock? The new food to eat? People to meet? Places to see? Is it the shopping for new vacation clothes or new music to put on your iPod? The clearing of your SD card in preparation for new pictures or the prospect of having those new pictures framed on your walls? Is it that glowing tan you come home with or all the goodies you buy for your friends/family, just because you want them to experience it too? Is it the hope for something more? For the kind of life changing experience that brought about "Eat, Pray, Love" or "Under the Tuscan Sun"? Is it the rush of searching for a new mug in every new city you visit? 
St. Petersburg, Russia
But I'm pretty sure it's ALL OF THAT. Scientists have become pretty interested in the idea of "wanderlust" themselves. Studies have found that travelers have a chemical reaction in their brains, showing that changes in scenery stimulated brain rhythms. Another very interesting find was that travelling also releases the hormone adrenaline into your system, which acts as a stimulant and which many people find extremely rewarding. This makes complete sense for people like me who are natural "adrenaline junkies" and always seems to rather enjoy that "flight or fight" response. 
Barcelona, Spain
Martin Milton, a British Psychologist, believes that it also has to deal with effects that getting out of our comfort zone seem to have on us. He says that “there is evidence that the degree of difficulty, getting out of our comfort zone, makes the experience richer and more emotionally rewarding.” Is that why we crave travelling? For me, it's a legitimate physical, as well as mental and emotional response; I have to get away from everyday life and experience something new.
There is just something so liberating about it, about being somewhere different and exciting. Milton seems to agree. "Too much routine can be stressful, so can too much variety...but one aspect of travel that attracts us is the way it frees us from other people’s expectations. At work, we strive to be what is expected of us; travel releases us from that. The jungle doesn't know us, and we don’t know it." Building on this idea, Bruce Chatwin says that there is evidence that “monotonous surroundings and tedious regular activities wove patterns which produced fatigue, nervous disorders, apathy, self-disgust and violent reactions” in people involved in studies. So maybe this our survival instinct kicking in? Perhaps our brain and body recognize the benefits travelling gives us and urges us to fulfill it?
Venice, Italy
The truth is, for whatever reason, we seem to find joy in it. And by joy, I mean pure undulated euphoria. We seem to find happiness and rejuvenation and peace in places we've never been. We seem to discover a little more of ourselves in the open road or museums or old castles in Europe. For me, it's these prospects that keep me going, that get me through each work day or through the hellish semester. It's the reason why the calendar hung at my work desk are pictures of places in Europe- because I need that hope, I need something to look forward to, I need that escape, almost daily. It's a lust only comparable to that of Ryan Gosling, and which nothing else can fill. And as it seems to benefit our health, why not give in to it every now and then? ;)
Bran Castle, Romania
I think TS Elliot said it best; “we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
New Zealand



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