Travel as an object of desire

rome 2012 005

My brother and I both have strong cases of wanderlust. Some might say that it’s the result of growing up in a family that rarely traveled, since kids often do the opposite of their upbringing. But others might say that wanderlust is simply a random gene that happened to pop up. (And there probably is a genetic basis for wanderlust, for without such a driving force, early hominids never would have walked out of Africa to discover the rest of the world.)

When I was in my early 20s I went to a party hosted by two grad students from the English department at Indiana University. Half the conversations around me were “what I did last summer while hitchhiking around Europe” and “what my junior year abroad in France was like.” The jealous bitterness of a young and inexperienced person sprang up within me. I felt that if I couldn’t travel to far places as casually and easily as these people around me had done, my life would be impoverished. I had no money at the time and had no idea how I could possibly accomplish this goal of travel abroad.

Flash forward thirty-some years. I’ve now been to the Yucatan, Quebec City, and Paris. I’ve seen three of the Hawaiian islands, driven through the Mississippi Delta, crossed the Mackinac Bridge, visited New Orleans, and seen Malibu Beach. I’ve enjoyed a thousand-mile driving tour of England and have hiked Cornwall’s Coast Path. I’ve been to beautiful Switzerland and ascended the mighty Jungfraujoch via cog railway. I’ve sailed on Lake Huron. I’ve been to Rome three times, and have visited Florence, Sorrento, Siena and the Amalfi Coast.

I am not wealthy by any means. I save my spare change and tithe a percentage of each paycheck in order to take trips. I travel inexpensively, staying at small hotels and B&Bs during the off season when prices drop. I have never been on a cruise line or a tour bus or a guided tour. A seven-night trip abroad done this way can run from $1800 to $2100 depending on how Spartan your accommodations are and how expensively (and frequently) you like to eat. And this cost covers everything: flight, lodging, food and the price of admissions.

Travel is exhausting as well as exhilarating. Travel leaves you trembling with fatigue, belly rumbling from strange foods. Some claim that “Wherever you go, there you are,” but I disagree. Travel pulls you outside of yourself, and allows you to discover strengths or qualities you did not know were hidden inside. Travel builds your resourcefulness and courage. Travel is an addictive drug that leaves you wanting more.



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