Simply defined it is 'a strong desire to travel,' but for those of us who are affected by its symptoms it’s much, much more than that. It’s a need or a calling to explore and experience new things: to sample exotic cuisines, learn a language by being fully immersed in it, or fall in love with a Canadian backpacker while staying in a hostel in London (that’s a story for another time). I understand this infection of wanderlust inherently.
As social media grows and the world becomes smaller, we are able to immediately transport ourselves to exotic locales around the globe. The number of Millennials and Generation Z with a Pinterest board titled 'Travel,' filled with their dream destination(s), is incalculable. However, the motivation to actually get up and go is missing; mostly out of fear.
I’ve found a simple way to treat my wanderlust: I travel... a lot. Maybe not quite as much as the businessperson commuting weekly between LA and NYC, but enough to have a bartender in the Denver airport know my name and drink order when I walk up to the bar. I’ve had the privilege of working on projects that have brought me to the most impoverished areas of the western hemisphere, gotten me lost in the Istanbul Grand Bazaar, and allowed me the opportunity to explore the ancient streets of Rome and Athens.
I often read comments left by friends and random acquaintances on Facebook that tell me how they’re living vicariously through my social media travel feeds. That the trips I’m taking are on their bucket list, or they 'hate me' for going to Santorini... again! While I’m not discounting or ungrateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, I do try and respond with, “just go” and I try to motivate them to take off.
There can be many contributing factors preventing people from fulfilling their wanderlust. The biggest hurdle oftentimes is finances. Traveling isn’t free, but it can be done inexpensively. For example, there are programs all over the world exchanging work for room and board. You don’t need to have a lot of money to have amazing experiences. Make sacrifices to travel. It’ll be so worth it.
If your post-high school plans include college and a 4-year degree, this shouldn’t deter you either - you still can travel. Study abroad for a semester. Spend a summer backpacking through Europe. Take a year off after graduation before joining the 'real world.' You can start even by traveling locally. No one said that wanderlust has to be fulfilled overseas. Spend time exploring your surrounding areas. Go camping with friends, road trip across the US, explore the National Parks. Meet new people. Get out of your bubble. Just go.
Kyoko Escamilla wrote one of my favorite quotes related to travel:
“Your 20’s are your ‘selfish’ years. It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible. Be selfish with your time, and all the aspects of you. Tinker with shit, travel, explore, love a lot, love a little, and never touch the ground.”
Don’t let excuses and fear cause you to miss out on using the most freedom you’ll have during your adult life. The years post-high school and pre-grown up job are yours to do with what you wish. Make sacrifices. Travel. See the world. Embrace the unknown. Book that ticket to Barcelona. Apply your 4 years of high school Spanish class during a 1am slightly inebriated conversation in a hostel. Don’t wait until retirement when 'travel' is synonymous with 'Alaskan cruise.'
There will always be life, responsibilities, fears and excuses. Just go.