I am on a quest to visit 50 states, Seven Wonders of the World, seven continents, and so on and so forth. In case you were wondering, I’m at 28 states*, 3 Wonders, and just a measly 2 continents. There’s a lot of ground left to cover and not nearly enough time. As such, I refuse to visit the same place twice on account of limited time and funds. Whenever there’s a break in my schedule or a little money in the bank, the first thing I’m doing is looking at flights. Kayak and Orbitz are my best friends and worst enemies all at the same time. My credit card gives me airline miles and I own an Osprey pack that is willing and able to be assembled for the next great adventure at any given moment.
That’s the way some of us millennials are; we have what we like to call wanderlust.
We have an insatiable thirst that only traveling can seem to quench. Technology has made it so that in the blink of an eye I can see what’s happening across the pond, connect to friends in another hemisphere, and catch up on the news halfway around the world. I can be anywhere but here. I can click a button and book an entire trip, minimal questions asked and minimal effort expended.
How did we get this way? Where did this wanderlust come from? I think we looked at our parents and saw them put their heads down, work hard, make money. I think we saw how miserable they could be. I think we laughed at how ignorant they seem, how narrow-minded they look, how limited their perspective is. I think we said, “No way, not me, I will be cultured, I will know everything, see everything, touch everything, drink it all in.” So as travel became easier and more accessible, we took off with the planes that went in every possible direction. Staying still and planting roots became a waste of time when there was so much yet to see.
I have been on the edge of the Grand Canyon. I have slept in the airport with strangers who bought me breakfast in the morning, not knowing I didn’t have a penny to my name. I have swung on vines in Costa Rica and climbed volcanoes in Nicaragua. I have descended under Rome and looked history in the face. I have stood on the peaks of the Swiss Alps in a snowstorm and chopped down coconuts on the Dominican shores. I am grateful and blessed to count these experiences as mine.
But I’m terrified my wanderlust will come at a cost.
I’m not talking about my bank account; I’m talking about my social capital. How many relationships have we checked out of as we checked into our hostels and flights? What good is it to drink beer in Germany if we’re drinking alone? How long will our restlessness win over our relationships?
People seem to admire an adventurous spirit. They say it makes us brave. I want to admit that when I jet off to the other side of the world or the country, it’s because I’m a coward. I would much rather run away than lean in. It’s easier to swap stories at a hostel and make friends for a week than it is to create lasting friendships that will go the distance, that will travel the years rather than the miles.
If I can see the world but must do it alone, it’s simply not worth it.
All of those memories and countries are so valuable, so near and dear to my heart, because of the people they were shared with. Europe wouldn’t be Europe without my college roommate who taught me that it’s okay to not brush your hair. The Dominican wouldn’t be so alive and full of color if it wasn’t for my fellow interns who helped me stitch my broken heart back together. Nicaragua wouldn’t have captured me heart, body, and soul were it not for my host family who became just that–family. The Grand Canyon wouldn’t have been so grand if my mom and brother hadn’t been there beside me.
What will your wanderlust cost you?
Is it worth it to see the world but do it by yourself? Will the people you meet for the night be there when your world goes dark? Will your pictures keep you warm or tell you they love you? Will your Instagram followers like you when you don’t post the coolest new picture? Will the stamps on your passport come at the cost of the people in your life?
Yes, I want to see the world. I want to have an open mind and open hands, but I want them to be open so I can grab someone else’s hand next to me. Wanderlust is in vain if our fists are clenched full of memories but no one to share them with. Our passports become paper rather than pieces of us if we didn’t stamp them with the people we love. Maybe it’s less about being there and more about being here. Maybe it’s more about planting our feet somewhere long enough to get someone to run with us.
Maybe it’s less about postcards and more about people.
This post originally appeared on Bedlam Magazine.
*Now 32 thanks to a western road trip with friends this summer.