Wanderlust, what is it?
According to official definitions it’s a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.
How simple of an answer is that? A strong innate desire to rove or travel!
But why do that, why rove or travel somewhere when remaining safe and secure in a well organized and smoothly paved community ensures a long, happy, healthy life? Well I guess it doesn’t give that security, does it, thats why! It doesn’t provide any more security than being on the road, on the water, or on a remote pathway somewhere around the world.
There are also those amongst us that simply have no desire to rove…or travel, they’re happy to stay at home and repeat the daily routine that defines their world. Now I truly don’t understand that mind set, it’s as foreign to me as my life style is to them, I’ve met quite a few of them and they look at me as if I’ve two heads. I’m quite comfortable with that.
I believe that when we live a varied life, removed from the accepted ‘norm’, our senses are operating at a higher level than those living their version of a Ground Hog Day. They need to be well honed senses because although I firmly believe it’s a healthier way of living it certainly is not without inherent risks, it’s just we are more aware of them and therefore deal with adversity more effectively.
Each day on journey is a chance for a whole new adventure to open up before us, providing a whole new set of challenges. Challenges that hone our skills, opens our eyes and gives new appreciation for the wonder that exists all around us.
When ‘new and unique’ is repeated often enough it becomes ‘normal’ and with normal comes complacency, and with complacency comes mindlessness, and it is difficult to run on autopilot when everything is changing on daily basis. Watch any daily commuter traffic, how much situational awareness exists with those drivers; they know all the lights, intersections and choke points along the route to work and expect it be basically the same each day. There really is not a lot of new things to think about, to stimulate the mind…autopilot kicks in and alertness is reduced, it’s human nature.
How much excitement do you think you would witness in most corporate office suites? How often do you think someone wakes up and says, “Man, I can’t wait to get into that two hour commute…and then sit behind a desk and type the figures into some data software, all day…and then commute home again?”
Somebody out there really does like doing that, I’m sure of it, it’s just not me.
As a teenager I would dream about the mountain men who would live their lives wandering the hills, the stockmen riding through the vast Australian Outback working on immense cattle stations or canoeists paddling for months on end, sometimes for their work or sometimes to be simply out there paddling and living in that environment.
I remember a Daniel Boone hat my parents gave me, you know the one, it’s a raccoon pelt with the tail hanging down the back, it transported me into the wilderness, hunting, fishing…living.
Clancy of the Overflow by A.B. (Banjo) Paterson would, in my mind, have me riding my horse and working cattle so far from anywhere so as to believe ‘anywhere’ did not exist;
‘And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him,
In the murmur of the breezes, and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid, of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory, of the everlasting stars.’
Paddlers like Bill Mason, who would write, paint and film for months on end, canoeing in the Canadian wilderness, would fill my boyhood imagination with eternal solitude and complete bliss. Stories like ‘Song of the Paddle’ and ‘Path of the Paddle’, ‘Canoescapes’ and ‘Waterwalker’, for me these were like the sirens call.
All this has caused my parents great anguish over the years as I have never really been able to subdue that deep rooted wanderlust. Perhaps that should be part of the official definition; ‘That urge dwelling deep inside a person which causes parents no end of worry and great anguish’.
The upside is also due to the fact that, at least for me, I have a hard time maintaining contact outside of my immediate life circle, meaning I don’t have a need to maintain contact with far flung friends and family, and that in itself reduces the stress of my parents because they simply don’t know what I’m doing half the time!
As a result of this wanderlust I have followed some of my dreams into riding and working on vast cattle stations and actually living the magical verses of Banjo Paterson. I’ve enjoyed horseback journeys with pack mules, once over the Andes Mountains, from Argentina and into Chile. I’ve built and lived along beaches for months out of a sea kayak, built an outrigger canoe, lived on the beach and explored parts of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.
At various times in my life it seems I have spent more time ‘under canvas’ than in a house, be it a swag in the outback, a tent on a river or sea shore somewhere or in a van “down by the river” or a climbing sight, and at no time have I ever regretted nor wished for a lifestyle any different.
Some have suggested that it’s a magical, free and easy lifestyle and to be fair it does have it’s moments of true majesty, but on a whole it takes a great deal of effort to live this way. Just as those magical moments exist, so do the moments of greater discomfort but that is the price to be paid and it’s certainly not everyones cup of tea.
I think some of us are born with wanderlust flowing through our souls and any attempt to subdue that lusting results in frustration and dissatisfaction…maybe even cause a midlife crisis for not accepting what the true self needs…it’s worth thinking about.
One of the more beautiful aspects of wandering is it is different for each and every one of us, a day or a week may satisfy the urge for some and carry that satisfaction over until another short opportunity arises. It may very well be enough to sit by a small stream, listen to the water slowly rolling pebbles along it’s bed, watch the world go by and simply dream of floating along with the currents.
Or the urge may need a scratching that takes us along on a journey that spans months, or years, continually searching for something that is intangible, unidentifiable, perhaps even magical.
At whatever level that wanderlust exists within the soul, I believe it’s important to listen to it’s call, to move a little through an unknown day and feel the excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen next…of thinking how am I going to get through this?
What ever wanderlust is, what ever the end goal becomes, embrace it, live it, let it take you to a new exciting place. To deny its existence is to deny our curiosity, deny our curiosity and we risk losing that which we truly need to satisfy our soul.
Shaun G West