Not All Who Wander Are Lost, But I Feel Lost Without Wandering.

Lately, I’ve been having a crisis of consciousness. I’ve been forced to confront something in myself that I didn’t realize was tearing at me so strongly: I haven’t been on a trip, a REAL trip, in nearly three years. For the record, a “real trip” by my definition is 1) traveling somewhere foreign to me, 2) where I don’t know a soul, 3) for at least a week.

I was once filled with wanderlust; an insatiable need to not only see the world, but to be a part of it. I didn’t just want to pass through a country, taste their food, see their major tourist attractions and move on. I wanted to know what it was like to live there — to get to know the hole-in-the-wall places I couldn’t find in Fodor’s, to meet people that pushed me out of my comfort zone, and to say “yes” to things that terrified me.

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The Great Pyramids, Egypt. 2009.

In my 29 years, I’ve visited 20 foreign countries and 30 of the United States, and throughout my travels, the pervading sentiment has been “more, more, MORE!” But for the past few years, I’m simply not feeling the pull to faraway lands.

Sure, I’ve gone on mini-trips — long weekends to the mountains, extended visits to out-of-state friends. I’ve moved to a new state and explored my new surroundings. But for some reason, I can’t bring myself to really travel.

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Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey. 2009.

Not only that, but my whole attitude towards the nomadic lifestyle has changed… soured, even. I’m afraid my eyes will roll right out of my head when I see an article urging me to quit my corporate job to travel or live on an island; promising me that enlightenment is just a plane ride and a generic, well-curated travel blog away. “Live your best life!” they say, “anyone can do it!”

Easy for you to say,” I think condescendingly.

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye, Scotland. 2010.

Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye, Scotland. 2010.

I find myself resenting my friends who constantly travel, even though I used to be one of them and at one point, that life meant everything to me. And then I resent myself for resenting people I care about for living a life that makes them happy. What’s my problem? In the deepest recesses of my heart, I know that my way is not the capital “r” Right way; that every person is different and that what makes each of us tick is something deeply personal.

I know that I am, quite frankly, being a hater.

The problem is in me. And I know where it comes from: my mother died, unexpectedly and horrifically, and my internal sense of security (however imagined it may have been) has been disturbed.

The need for stability has taken over my life — routines, appointments, lists and steadfast control over my schedule are keeping me “safe,” or at least are offering the illusion of safety. I am fighting day and night to bring back my sense of security in this world.

And it seems my wanderlust wandered off to find a soul that rambles, like mine used to.

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Ait Benhaddou, Morocco. 2010.

I hate that I now feel a visceral aversion to something that used to be such a big part of me. And worse, I am constantly bombarded by messaging telling me to do everything I can — travel, take risks, uproot myself while I’m still young, before life gets in the way, or worse, slips completely out of my hands. I’m in the prime of my life, but I can’t enjoy it fully. I still find myself here, stuck, treading water.

The truth is, when your entire world is uprooted by a phone call, displacing yourself to distant lands can seem impossibly scary. Foreignness suddenly reads to me as deeply lonely. These days, I crave familiarity; comfort. I crave something my passport could never lead me to.

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Somewhere in the desert, traveling across the USA in a VW bus. 2011.

I think back on last Spring, a year or so after my mother died. My father suggested going to Germany. His is a grieving process that has propelled him to live like he’ll never get another chance (newsflash: none of us will), whereas mine has been a drawn out exercise in desperately trying to regain my footing. I told him “yes, I’d love to!” while deep inside, I panicked. Even now, a year later, I still don’t feel ready to relinquish the calculated control I’ve exerted over my life since her passing.

I must admit, I am feeling rather impatient and fatigued from expending so much energy to heal. I am eager to feel like myself again, even though I know time is the only solution, and that ultimately, I am forever changed. The “myself” who ran wild through Europe falling in love at every hostel I stepped foot in is gone. But something tells me my intrinsic need to see the world is not gone forever. This upheaval of my sense of self is temporary; the disinterest, the complacency and the unrelenting fear.

They say not all who wander are lost, and I really believe that to my core. Wherever my wanderlust is off to, I hope it’s somewhere nice, running wild with the free spirits that used to be my kin… right where it belongs.

Grand Canyon, USA. 2011.

Grand Canyon, USA. 2011.

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4 thoughts on “Not All Who Wander Are Lost, But I Feel Lost Without Wandering.

  1. That’s absolutely how I feel as well. I’m always feeling lost and lonely (though not even being lonely) when I’m sitting at home, knowing that I won’t have the chance to experience a new place anytime soon.

  2. Routine routine routine…its the illusion of control when you feel like you need to control everything. I did the same…it will pass and you will grow. Take a deep breath, accept the pain and in some ways embrace it as its better to feel something. It will evolve and grow…and you will gain your passion for travel again.

  3. Indeed…just last night after finishing Cheryl Strayed’s book “Wild”, about her hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I cried. I am not entirely sure what brought on my tears, but I have been feeling bored lately, and missing my wild traveling self…like yourself, I had an unexpected life change which shook me out of my comfort zone and caused me to seek out some roots. And now, being a single mom, that old me is harder to find anyway, harder to pick up and go with a 3 yr old tagging along. But I have to believe that the desire for roots was in some way a survival tactic, and that we will both find our wanderlust again just when we need it! Thanks for writing this!

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