What is wanderlust? Until this point, I’ve accepted the definition provided by Pinterest: “the strong desire or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.” But after a semester of intense travelling, I think the real meaning of the word is something different. It’s more than that. After exploring cities in 8 countries, I think wanderlust could better be described as: “the desire to meander through streets, understand the culture, and simply exist in a new place.”
Why the change of definition, and what’s the real difference? You see, as much as I loved seeing things like the Eiffel Tower and St. Peter’s Basillica, the best part about travelling for me was simply being able to walk through the streets and watch all of the locals doing what they do every day. Maybe it was watching the owner of the local creperie put batter on the griddle and make a fresh crepe, or seeing someone three stories up hanging laundry from their balcony, but I think travelling makes you realize that sometimes it’s the simple things in life that mean the most.
To me, wanderlust is a thirst for knowledge. I wanted, more than anything, to understand how other people live and see life. I feel like on this trip I was able to do just that. I was able to wake up some mornings, step out onto a balcony, and look at street full of locals and tourists alike. As the great cat Thomas O’Malley put it:
“I’ve got that wanderlust
Gotta walk the scene,
Gotta kick up highway dust,
Feel the grass that’s green.”
It’s really quite simple. I’ve learned that a city is a city, no matter where you go. Museums, although they are wonderful treasure troves of history and knowledge, all start to look the same after a while. It isn’t the sights that truly define a city, but the people. It’s having lunch in those little corner cafes and attempting to speak a few words in another language that really makes traveling worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful to have seen the Louvre and the canals of Venice, but all of that is meaningless if you don’t have someone to share it with. Every building is simply a building until it is given personal significance. An art museum is simply a museum until you take the time to allow the art to take on some meaning for your life.
Today after I finished my last exam, I walked into the city centre of Manchester with no purpose in mind. I simply wanted to wander. I drifted through the now familiar streets, stopping to sit on the steps of St. Albert Square and to smell the flowers outside the Manchester Cathedral. I wandered into shops, grabbed a coffee to go, and just let my feet go where my heart led them. I don’t think I quite realized the hold this city has on my heart until this week. There’s a vibrancy here, especially on a beautiful day like today. There’s something wonderful about Mancunians.
It’s like one of those carnival swing rides, only bigger. And more awesome. And it spins you at 20 mph, while giving you a fantastic view of the city.
After that we did a bit more wandering, finally stopping in a local pub for some good old fish and chips and celebratory drinks for the end of the semester. It’s still hard to wrap my head around it. Maybe if I say it often enough, it’ll sink in. It’s the end. My semester is at its end . . . But I’m still not ready to leave yet.
I have a feeling this weekend will be filled with lots more wandering.
“Not all who wander are lost.” -J.R.R. Tolkein.