The Six Stages of Wanderlust
Article originally published on Twoseventymag.com, March 2017
Have you ever felt a seed of doubt about your everyday life? A seed that grows into a burning desire to ditch the mundane and familiar, drop whatever you are doing and go where you’ve never been before?
This feeling? It’s wanderlust: the want to explore language and culture, find hidden places in famous cities and discover something new to you beyond the ordinary.
What leads up to a person’s breaking point? How do they get pushed over the edge of curiosity and into a feverous jump to adventure? These are the stages of wanderlust:
1. You’re Content
Life is lovely. Life is routine. Life is safe. You wake up with your alarm, and you go to sleep setting one. You go to work or school in the morning, you relax or go to a bar in the evening. You see friends on the weekends, family during the week. There’s no reason to change; everything just works, smoothly, kindly and as expected.
2. A Seed is Planted
One day you hear a story from a co-worker or a kid in class. They just returned from having travelled far away to some place you’ve never seen nor heard of. They got caught in the rain and a kind stranger offered them their home for comfort, he ran out of money and hitchhiked to the airport just in time for his flight, he crossed a jungle just to say he did — you listen with ears perked. A strange place? No plan? But so much could go wrong. But he seems so happy.
3. You Look at Yourself
Suddenly you notice the real mundanity of it all, but you’ve come to accept it. Your bed is familiar, there’s food in the fridge, your home is the perfect temperature, you take a warm shower every night — everything is comfortable. Very comfortable. So comfortable, nothing unexpected really happens. Nothing changes. No surprises around the corner, no new people.
But now, with those stories of fantastic places, or photos in a magazine or whatever it may be dancing in your head, you’re no longer content with comfortable.
4. A Passion Starts to Burn
You’ve realized that life is mundane, and now it’s burning you. With every repetitive action your mind smolders more and more, craving feats equal to the stories you’ve heard. You maybe fight against daily routines, make an elaborate dinner instead of Ramen, talk to a stranger on the bus or in class. You’re determined to make mundane abnormal and taste the vividity of those stories in your daily life.
5. Breaking Point
You crack. The world of beige is too cruel a torture for your newly colorized mind full of lush adventures and cool worlds beyond a 9-to-5 job or 3-day-a-week class. You’ve been absentmindedly saving money for just this moment, and you take the plunge.
You buy that ticket, that backpack and sleeping bag or that motorcycle and satchels. You get what you need and you go anywhere, everywhere — except for here.
6. Back to Reality
You’re home from your trip, winding down, surrounded by your same old chair, same old bed and same old smell. And you end up asking yourself, “What now?” All you can think of is moments that are memories: chasing trains, sleeping under the stars, a flood of cool cafes and clubs, personalities and names and languages and cultures.
This is the final stage. You may be back from your trip, but you will never feel such a desire for that tension inside you, so compulsive a lust to run away down a road without caring where it goes, then when you return, like a rubber band, back to the mundanity you left behind.