There is a term out there that I am not fond of.
That term is “wanderlust”.
Wanderlust (noun): A strong, innate desire to rove or travel about. (dictionary.com)
Now, the idea behind wanderlust is great. What the word means is great. The reason I’m not fond of this term is because of how much it is used.
It’s splashed all over Pinterest and Facebook posts, covering beautiful pictures of old castles, rows of wheat, deep, blue oceans, fields of grass. Anything that makes you feel excited about nature or history and makes you want to walk out your door this minute and go find a place.
I don’t have any real problems with wanderlust, just the overuse of it. And how people seem to think they have it when they really don’t.
I see many people — especially young ones — talk about traveling and all the parts of the world they want to see, sigh, and say, “Oh, I wish I could travel. I have a sort of, wanderlust, y’know?” It makes me want to roll my eyes in disgust. Do these people even actually travel? At all? Like, ever?
Because, by my understanding of the word wanderlust, it’s not just something you wish you could do. It’s something you have to do. You get irritable, discouraged or lost when you’ve been in one place too long. You start to feel restless, itching for the next adventure. The idea of showing up in a town you’ve never seen before and exploring excites you. The concept of going to an airport, picking a random flight, and just going to Africa or Spain or Argentina for a week thrills you.
People who truly have wanderlust need to travel. They can’t get by without it. It doesn’t mean a deep discontentment with where they are, necessarily. Honestly, I don’t know what causes it. But those with true wanderlust will wander because if they don’t, the lust will overtake them and they’ll be unable to think of anything else.
I would like to think of myself in this category.
And if wanderlust wasn’t so overused, I would use it to describe me.
There is one thing here though: I do enjoy planning.
So for me, planning to become wanderlustful (can that be a word?) is necessary. This is partially due to my current life stage, which is that I don’t have a lot of money but lots of freedom, being single and not currently tied to a stationary job. If I don’t plan to travel, I won’t.
And that is all the worse for people who have to live or be around me because I will get irritable and discouraged, dreaming of all I could be doing in other places. I need to actually travel and not dream about it.
I can’t be the only one who lives like this.
So I decided to write up a step-by-step guide on how to actually travel, rather than just dream about it.
- Figure out the big goals.
This is a good place to start. How are you ever going to know where to go or what to do if you don’t know what kind of travel is important to you? It’s good to figure out some overarching, way-beyond-current-means goals, something that could be called lifetime goals of places you want to actually travel to. That way, whenever you travel, you can have a vague sense of whether or not you’re accomplishing what you want to do with your life. Write down three to five big goals that you could hope to obtain in your lifetime. Let your imagination run wild. Don’t think about the cost or anything trivial like that. Just go big.For example, here are two of mine for inspiration: visit all 50 states, visit every single continent on Earth at least once.
- Pick locations.
Let’s take the idea of visiting every state. Where would you like to go to each state? Do you want to see everything historical? Maybe you want to visit all the filming locations of your favorite movies (that might just be me). Perhaps your favorites authors’ old homes or places of inspiration. You can be as vague (Honolulu, Hawaii) or as specific (the very bench where Forrest Gump sat in Savannah, Georgia*) as you like. For me, I’ve always wanted to take the National Treasure tour at Mount Vernon ever since I discovered its existence.
*Fun fact, that bench was a prop for the film and you can’t go and sit on it (though you can visit the place where they filmed it). It is now located at The Savannah History Museum.
- Choose one goal a year.
Pick something attainable for you in your stage of life and location. Since it’s already nearly December, think about where you’ll be this following year. What part of the country will you be in? How much vacation time will you have? Can you reach one of your big goals (or start on one)? How far can you go? If your job and life situation (read here: money) allow it, maybe shoot for two or three goals.
My goals right now are: Visit Nashville next month and take an East Coast road trip in the spring of 2020. Possibly an out-of-country trip in the Fall, but we’ll see how my wallet feels then.
- Plan the trip.
This can also be as vague or as detailed as you like. The main thing you need to know is when and how much will it cost. I would be liberal in your estimates: If you think it will take five days, take off seven. If you know for a fact it will cost $300, save $400. You’d rather be pleasantly surprised than to be rushed or stressed because you don’t have enough time or money. How much of an itinerary you want to have is up to you. Currently, I know exactly how much money I want to save for my Nashville trip and the East Coast road trip. I have an exact amount of time for Nashville and a decent idea for the East Coast. What I’m doing is loosely laid out, with a couple of definites, but that’s how I like it.
This is incredibly important and if you don’t take it into account, it will be the reason you never travel. You have to have money to go to places. That’s just a fact. You also want to have enough money. You probably won’t be living as frugally on vacation as you would be at home. You spend more when you’re relaxing. That’s totally fine but it does need to be accounted for. That is why I say estimate liberally the cost. Now plan how much you need to save each month leading up to the trip. Granted, you can’t just drop everything and travel to that place of your dreams next week and waiting isn’t always fun. But it is a good thing to do and you’ll be glad that you did it and saved up enough money.
There is so much out there. Why are you still here? Go travel!