Living in a small city in the French countryside has taught me that in some places, life is lived at a much slower, much more enjoyable pace. I have contact every day with the neighbours who live next door and down the street. Whenever I meet someone new, it’s as if I’m already known. The fields reflect soft light as people cross through their rustic paths, the sound of farm animals a variable soundtrack in the distance. The dust coats your shoes in a most welcoming way; you wouldn’t even think to wash it off. The days are long, hot, and earthy. We eat what’s fresh from the land and drink wine at lunch, wine at dinner. People stand and chat, walking chimneys whose cigarette smoke billows above their heads. The sky arches above stone-cut homes with histories far older than any of us could remember, winding streets cutting sharply through the hills. To think that I am here – that this way of life will be forever etched upon my own life – makes me very grateful to call myself an irignoise, at least for a summer.
Wanderlust. Origin: German. It literally means a strong desire to travel. The kind of desire that makes you prone to check airline ticket prices bi-weekly. In my daydreams, I’m constantly on the go, in flight, exploring and moving forward across our chaotically brilliant blue sphere. The beauty of imagination is that we can envision ourselves doing other things, even when physically doing something else. Imagine the countless times your mind drifted off to other worlds in class, in your cubicle, or while listening to someone on a horrendous date describe their own self-obsession. In my case at least, my mind has a sense of insatiable wanderlust.
The idea of travel is exciting for so many reasons. We become creatures of habit when we’re familiar with our surroundings. What we pass on our quotidian commute to work blurs into a familiar, groggy haze. We’re very prone to set ourselves on autopilot and drift half consciously through our day. We wake up, we clean up, we dress, we leave for work or school, we come home, we eat, we sleep. Repeat for 365 days, save weekends or sick days. And those days have their own routines, too.
Idle living is a direct product of the lives we’ve created outside of the state of nature. Most of you reading this belong to the first world. You have a roof over your head, clothes and shoes on your body, access to clean drinking water and some source of food, and the luxury of technology. The fact that we are able to claim “boredom” echoes how far removed those in the first world are from the instability of life in the wild, where resources might be scarce and security a constant question.
This is why we should create the question marks for ourselves in life. The thrill of going to an unknown city with no map and no tour guide might sound frightening to some – mainly because it disrupts the entire routine we’re accustomed to from day to day. Travel is the catalyst for so many other things. When we break away from what we know and enter into a world that we don’t know, perspective adjusts accordingly.
Wanderlust, though sometimes negative in its influence on what your savings account might look like, is a sentiment that is a productive longing equal to learning. A former professor once told me that the best way to keep the mind active – once students had cycled out of the education system – was to randomly pick a spot on a globe, research it, learn the language of the area, and if possible, plan a trip there. I couldn’t agree more with him.
There’s something thrilling in setting future travel goals for yourself, too. On the lackluster days where I’m confined to my cinder block office, I become my own mason and build adventures that I hope to experience one day. The best in the meantime is to reenvision each day as an adventure. Notice the oddities of your daily routine. Dare to change your habits. Drive a different route to work. Stop for lunch at a new café. Whether at home or abroad, your life is built for exploration.