(Posted on November 26, 2013)
Wanderlust. Ever heard of that expression before? I never had until I was about 24 years old, exactly 6 months ago. Now if you look it up on the internet the definition is:
DEFINITION OF WANDERLUST (N)
Bing Dictionarywan·der·lust[ wóndər lùst ]desire for traveling: a strong desire to travel
I think I found my word.
I guess before moving any further I can tell you a little about myself. My name is Lauren. I grew up here in Upstate New York my whole life; same house. I’ve been blessed with amazing parents, and awesome siblings. They inspire me everyday to become a better person. I have one older brother, a younger brother and a younger sister. So that’s right, you’ve guessed it. I’m a middle child. Believe it or not I really do believe a middle child syndrome exists…but I digress.
Growing up I was interested in quite a bit of things, from soccer, softball, singing, dancing, skiing, snowboarding, theater, and swimming. Swimming was the one thing that really stuck with me, it got me to college. I took the big leap at 18 and moved 800 miles away from home to attend East Carolina University where I swam, learned to drink, date and “studied”. Now don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot of my academics studied, but I think I learned something much more about myself. I don’t really think at the time I could define it, but it evolved into this need and yearn to travel, see new places and help people.
If I sit down and really think about when all this began, when I really felt different from everyone else, I remember my experiences in elementary school. When all the other children were grouped together in the cafeteria, groupings of little girls wearing the same shirts and sitting with their friends all wanting the “same” thing, I found myself with a few friends, all commonly bonded by the idea of being an outsider. We looked normal and we spoke the same language, but I can remember being drawn to anything different or new, anything that wasn’t like the other. The new boy who moved here from India, or the girl from China who barely knew English; those were the people I were drawn to. Its funny how at home I felt when I was with these people. Hell, the only way I could communicate with a person sometimes was through hand signals. And you know what, I loved it. And still do to this day.
Before I graduated high school I was seeing a boy from Turkey. By the grace of god, my parents allowed me to spend 2 weeks over in Turkey to visit him. [This was after 9/11] This was my very first time outside the country on my own. Hands down I can say that that trip redefined my idea about my life. It really opened my eyes to what else was out there in the world, how much of it I wasn’t seeing.
Looking back now, as much as swimming blessed me with many opportunities and values, I found that it also hindered my abilities to do what I wanted, granted I may not have fully known what I wanted at that time…I couldn’t travel outside the US as much as I wanted because of swimming. I couldn’t change my major to something cultural because of swimming. [Scholarships are timed apparently]
I did however get another opportunity to travel in a summer program in Italy. I spent three months in Italy, arriving in Rome, traveling to Cinque Terre and finishing in Venice. That was another clear eye opener for me. I felt at home away from home…
Its been 3 years since I have traveled outside of the US. I graduated college and moved back to my hometown, went through the post graduation “break” time, had several corporate jobs which all ended badly, spent time as a sales person, lifeguard, swim coach, promotional model, teachers Aid, and finally ended up as a server at a local bar. I’m only 25 and I’ve had more jobs that my mom has had her whole life. [How sad it that?] My older brother has always been on the path to his career, my younger brother had floundered a little just as I have, but he’s on his way, he found his niche. My younger sister, she’s a super star just like she always has been. Where am I in all this? I’m a dreamer, always have been. I’m a server, but I won’t always be. I find my mind wandering to edges of the map, wondering where I can go or what I can do, refusing to let go of my hearts wants, but paying attention to logic of my heads thoughts [or lack there of].
Im stuck between a dream I have, a lifestyle I want and the social and financial obligations I carry. Maybe I don’t know exactly what I want yet, but all I know is this feeling of Wanderlust, wont go away.