It’s a word that I had never fully understood until I started reading Laura Byrne Paquet’s book, “Wanderlust: A Social History of Travel.” On the jacket cover is a tantalizing, concise and rich definition of wanderlust. She writes, “That longing, that ache, that anticipation–that’s wanderlust.”
With that definition I see how travel, wandering, and wanderlust have affected me in ways that other forms of lust have affected me (often in harmful and inappropriate ways). That teenage feeling of longing and melancholy, fueled by hormones and weather, that strange combination of bliss and depression over a desired relationship. The ache, the pain, the surge: I had never thought of that as applicable to my own sense of wandering. Yet, in many ways, it is true.
For people who uproot and move, making a commitment to a country and culture for a few years, this moves us beyond wanderlust. However, that lustful feeling is exposed in the pre-move days: constantly thinking about the new country.
In other ways, the sense of wanderlust that Paquet writes about often comes before the planning stages. It’s that yearning that makes you want to purge your belongings, pack, and get on that flight. It’s the physical desire to want to get away.
Paquet raises a fascinating point: people in first-world countries tend to follow a similar pattern: work to pay the mortgage, work to feed the increase in consumption and collection of goods that make your life better, and then travel occasionally to disrupt that pattern you’ve painstakenly set out to make. Ultimately, the question remains to be answered: why travel at all?
The answer might be found in the suffix, namely, lust. Anticipation of newness accompanies all forms of lust: lust for money, prestige, power, popularity, freedom, and of course sexual lust.
I’m pretty sure this book will answer many of my own stirring questions, and read alongside of Pico Iyer’s “Global Soul,” will make for a potent one-two philosophical TKO.