Don’t Criticize My Wanderlust

After Easter dinner, my older brother drove me back to college. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile, and we had barely exited the town limits before I was telling him about my future study abroad plans. “So I’m hoping to study in London again next spring, and Australia the spring after,” I told him excitedly.

He just looked over at me with an expression that was somewhere between concern and confusion. “So you really want to go abroad that many more times?”

I replied enthusiastically that I definitely do.

“Well tell me this. Is it that you’re running away from something, or running toward something?”

The question caught me off-guard, though I guess it’s valid. Either I am running away from America and the boring town that I grew up in, or I’m running toward new adventures and excitement. I told him that I’m running toward something and he accepted the response, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the question.

Every time we travel, we’re going toward something but we’re leaving something else behind. When the airplane picks up off the ground, you’re headed to a new place and leaving the old one, whether it’s for a few days, months, or even forever.

I know so many middle-aged people who live in small towns and go to jobs they don’t like, and they spend their whole year looking forward to vacations where they get to escape for a week or two. It’s the accepted norm to live somewhere you don’t love, have a job you’re not crazy about, and get your reprieve a week at a time every summer. And these people who choose to stay in the same place judge those who don’t. There’s a stigma around twentysomethings who travel often – they’re supposedly ‘flighty,’ moving around because they aren’t happy anywhere. They’ll never get a boyfriend or girlfriend because they won’t stay in one place for long enough to build any real bonds, and by the time they settle down everyone will be taken. They’ll ultimately spend their lives alone with no career, because naturally the best time to start a career is in your twenties. People who travel too much will ultimately end up paying the price, while those who play it safe will never experience the high but will never have to endure the low. There are flaws in this thinking, but it’s a stigma bred from jealousy. If you have the resources and the opportunity, why not experience as much as you can while you’re young?

Sure, for some who travel often, they may be running away from something, but most people I’ve met who travel a lot do it because they love moving. They don’t settle down because there’s so much out there to see. There’s more excitement in wandering than in staying still. For most the only thing they’re running from is a boring life spent playing it safe.

Nowadays pretty much every young girl’s Instagram account has the word ‘Wanderlust’ in the bio. We’re a generation of dreamers who look beyond our Baby Boomer parents. We take to the skies whenever we can and enjoy every moment sitting under the sun, sipping Italian wine or ogling at Spanish men. There’s a lot out there to explore. It’s bred by social media and the availability of tantalizing photos of everywhere you could possibly want to go, which only makes the urge to travel stronger. There are also thousands of Pinterest boards, tumblr blogs, and Instagram accounts dedicated to bucket list travel destinations. A fifteen-year-old can’t always buy a plane ticket to Australia, but she can spend long summer hours looking at photos of kangaroos and dreaming of the Outback. There’s no need to criticize her for dreaming, nor is there a reason to criticize her once she turns 18 and decides she’s had enough of small-town America, and decides to become a freelance travel writer, or an au pair, or an English teacher in Asia.

We’re dreamers and wanderers who save every penny we make at sweaty summer jobs so that we can spend next spring break sweating on the beach in Greece. If you don’t like it, fine. But we’re going to keep running no matter what you say.

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