What is the deal with wanderlust?
When I was briefly on the Tinder, it seemed like every guy was looking for a picture-perfect girl who would be up for spontaneous adventures to anywhere as if they had no other earthly obligations.
In the wise words of Ariana Grande, “Thank you, next.”
But there is something important here: Wanderlust.
I, too, have daydreamed about making over a camper van, minimizing my belongings down to a shoe box, and traveling across the country with my toddler, dog, and three cats, all the while convincing people that I am a free spirit and that I have made it.
Can you imagine three cats in a camper van? My cat Michael likes to chew on paper – paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, whatever he can get his cute little white sock paws on. With my luck, he’d get ahold of the TP in the camper van and THEN WHAT WOULD I DO? Don’t we already have enough flashbacks from the 2020 toilet paper shortage? *shudder*
If everyone didn’t have a case of wanderlust before COVID-19 hit, they certainly do now. I less want to wander than I want to participate in safe-paced vehicular travel on a 21-hour drive north to visit my parents. In my opinion, Wisconsin is best seen in the summer. Sure autumn has beautiful leaves but the threat of snow lurks just out of sight, leaving everyone waiting for the inevitable.
So I decided to do a little searching on the Internet – why is wanderlust so trendy? Is it the FOMO? The YOLO? Is that what the kids are still saying?
I came across the thesis “Has Instagram Created Wanderlust: How Experiential Sharing Is Influencing Happiness” by Crawford D. Warrick. (By the way, Crawford Warrick, if you ever see this, I love your name!) He references a study in which the results found “the prime factor in choosing a location is the visual appeal of that destination. Users are attracted to locations that appear attainable and exotic; scenic landscapes and well photographed places ranked highest in user preference.”1
Social media is all about looking at stuff, and what better place to look at stuff than Instagram? Warrick mentions that 88% of IG users are outside of the United States.1 We are inundated with photos of the most beautiful places across the GLOBE – how could we not be afraid to miss out?
And there’s another factor in play: “As remote work becomes more and more common, travel has also become a part of daily life for millennials who choose to take their work on the road. This can mean that travel is not just seen as a vacation, but as a lifestyle, as well.”2
A lifestyle. An income! Theoretically in-between potty training my toddler and fighting Michael for the TP I would be able to drive and make money at the same time.
It should go without saying that my stress threshold is not that high. I opt for more local travel. Besides investing in your local economy, a night or two at a local hotel can still feel like a mini getaway.
Texas is my current home and it boasts 80+ state parks3 and 14 national sites.4 We live in the San Antonio area and are happy that many state parks are a very reasonable drive away. San Antonio also has an extensive parks & rec system – we have been here for two years and still haven’t made it everywhere. Plus the trail system is 80+ miles and still developing.5
I say all this to say, wanderlust is what you make of it. It is a feeling and it is a lifestyle. It can be far or close, big or small, new or familiar. Personally, I like to wander in the pre-trodden wilderness usually because I’m either by myself or with my son.
I am telling you – at the time if I had seen one more “let’s go on an adventure” in a Tinder dude’s bio, I was going to swear off men altogether. Now, I don’t judge quite so harshly, and I got rid of the Tinder. So I get it. Not all of us think an epic trip is going to the two-story HEB (on my bucket list) or the combined TJ Maxx & HomeGoods store (I could live in there). I am satisfied with my simplicity.
So instead of coveting my social media neighbor’s beautiful photos of mountains reflecting off a perfect-blue lake while their boho-themed van can be glimpsed in the foreground, I am happy with what I have: a child with Texas-sized energy and boundless local trails to whet our wanderlust appetite.
- 1 Warrick, C. (2019). Has Instagram Created Wanderlust: How Experiential Sharing Is Influencing Happiness. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio.
- 2 Millennials are the reason why travel is a booming industry. (2018, November 20). Retrieved from https://campuspress.yale.edu/tribune/millennials-are-the-reason-why-travel-is-a-booming-industry/
- 3 https://www.tourtexas.com/attractions/texas-state-parks
- 4 https://www.nps.gov/state/tx/index.htm
- 5 https://www.sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec/Parks-Facilities/Trails/Greenway-Trails