There’s this thing called Restless Leg Syndrome. My mom, her sisters, and my grandmother all have it, as far as a self-diagnosis can let you have it. I’ve got it too. If you don’t know what it is, then you’re very lucky. But let me explain it to you.
It usually happens at night, or when you’re tired. For me, it starts in my thighs—a weird tingling sensation. Well, less a tingling than a sort of wiggling feeling, like a bunch of mice are running around in there. I have to stand up, walk around, do some stretches, punch myself in the thigh—anything to make the restless feeling stop. Usually, there’s nothing to do but go to bed, stretch out, and hope I’m tired enough to fall asleep before the mice chew their way out of my calves.
As you can imagine, it’s a very uncomfortable feeling.
But what happens when you get Restless Leg syndrome in your soul? What do you do when your very being needs to get up and move, to stretch out before you go insane?
Welcome to wanderlust, my friends.
I’ve been stricken with wanderlust, and bad. It started when I was getting ready to graduate high school and knew I had to get away from my quick-sand small town. So I went to Hawaii for college. After that, I found myself in Argentina for a year and a half. Then Utah to finish college (which I admit isn’t the most wanderlust-y place I could have gone, but it was still a place that I’d never lived in long-term before). After the (let’s just call it what it was) blandness of 2 years in Utah (which, granted, was interrupted by a study abroad in the UK, a tour in Ireland, and a couple random trips to California and Vegas), my legs were restless. I needed to be on the move again.
So I ended up in China. For a year. And now, traveling in Asia for the last 6 months. I’m stretching my soul, giving myself a few hops to ease the restlessness.
But why does it happen? Why does it happen to some people and not others? I know several people, friends and family, who have barely left their hometown, who may have never left their country, or heaven forbid, their state. It astounds me. Why don’t some people have the desire to just go?
Well, let’s take a look at the word. Wanderlust. Wander. To wander. It’s a word that implies aimlessness, perhaps confusion, or being lost. People wander around when they aren’t really sure where they’re going or what they’re looking for.
But just in case you thought this timeless cliché of a quote was going to escape this post: Not all who wander are lost.
Sometimes, people just wander. Sometimes, we don’t need to have a goal or an endpoint in mind. Sometimes we just want to walk around and see what we find, despite not really looking for anything.
I’m a wanderer. I can spend hours wandering a supermarket or a shopping mall or a busy street, not looking for anything, not trying to get anywhere, but just seeing. The way people walk, how things are organized, where things come from—these are the things I like to see. I’m a browser, and not just for products.
But what about the people who don’t wander? What about those that don’t feel the need to walk the aisles or people watch or just take a walk? Often, they’re goal oriented—get a degree, get a job, score that promotion, buy a new hairbrush. Whatever it is, they go for it, point A to point B, no room for browsing. Or they don’t. Sometimes it’s the people with no goal that don’t wander. They’re comfortable where they are, with what they have. They don’t deviate from the tried-and-true, the solid foundation of proven success (or failure). Maybe never leaving home means security. Maybe staying in your hometown means comfort and a sense of belonging.
And maybe wandering means just a bit more complications.
But what about the second part? Lust. What a loaded word. Fire, passion, sex—these are the words of lust. Danger. Risk. This is what lust has to offer.
So why not?
Why not indulge in the lust of wandering? Why not delve into the risks, the challenges, the potential dangers of wanderlust?
I can think of no reason not to. If you have the passion for it, you can make it happen, regardless of the risks. Sure, there is no security in wandering, true wandering. There is no fail-safe plan, no insurance. But that does not mean that it is impossible, implausible, improbable.
The passion for wandering is a passion that is strong and difficult to quench. To lust after the wandering experience is to lust after a phantom that is always just out of your grasp. The more you chase her, the more you want her, and the further she is away from you.
Until the chase has satisfied you. Because it’s not the ghost you want, but the hunt.
And what do you do then, when your world-wandering has been sated, when your restless legs have been stretched and kneaded into tranquility?
You wait. You wait because wanderlust is an addiction. The cravings will come again, stronger than before, and won’t be satisfied until you get up and go. They will be there whether you are ready for them or not, so be prepared.
I’ve been traveling for a long time. I feel like I’ve been on the move for years. I settle down for a year or two at a time, but it’s never permanent. And I like it that way.
Now, as Ricky and I are a third of the way through our Vietnam motorbike tour, so far over 6 months of traveling, we feel that our wanderlust is being sated for the time being. Following our trip here, we will be looking for work in China, and a little stability. Our lady wanderlust has left us dirty, bearded (Ricky, at least), hairy legged (the both of us), and generally unkempt. We’re slightly ill, unhygienic, and sore. But mostly we’re happy.
Wanderlust is a fickle mistress.
So in March, we’ll let her go for a while.
But she’ll come back. She always does.