– a strong desire to travel or wander the world: a man (or woman) consumed by wanderlust.
This post is a bit of a departure and inspired by a conversation I had while renewing my website’s domain name. The customer service rep complimented the domain and said, “I see you’ve traveled a bit.” To which I replied, “a bit…”
He went on to share how he hoped to visit Egypt and that, unbeknownst to his wife, he was squirreling away money to do so. I asked him why and he told me it had been a dream of his since he was a little boy. His response struck a chord and I confessed to sharing the same childhood dream.
As an entrée to the wonders of Egypt, I recommended the 70s cinematic adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, which he’d never heard of, and shared that a re-make was in the works. I also told him how in 1933 the great mystery writer had been inspired to write her tale of death in Egypt while sailing up the Nile on the S.S. Sudan. Remarkably, the steamship with all of its old-world ambiance continues to ply the waters of the Nile today.
He told me he’d check the movie out and I told him to keep saving money towards his dream.
Our conversation got me thinking about my wanderlust and where it comes from. I realized in that moment that it had begun with my fascination with Egypt. A fascination sparked by articles I had read in Nat Geo Kids—a magazine subscription my grandmother gifted my sister and I one Christmas—and books like, The World’s Last Mysteries, which I repeatedly checked out of our local library. It was further fueled by the Agatha Christie movies, the aforementioned Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express, the Sinbad franchise and Ray Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans.
As a bookworm teenager, I enjoyed reading spy novels with all of their far off locales and loved the James Bond movies for the very same reason. In college, I grew passionate about art, architecture, and World Literature. When I discovered foreign films I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I don’t actually believe in heaven, though, so I guess more a state of bliss or to really overstate it—Nirvana.
Through one of those films, I realized you could literally go anywhere in the world, and that the world was really as close as the nearest foreign film house or video rental store. Video stores are old school, I know, but once upon time they were as fun to browse as bookstores. You never knew what you might discover.
Over the years my collection of survey books like The World’s Last Mysteries, grew to include Egypt Lost and Found, Egypt Uncovered, The World’s Great Treasures and Voyages of Discovery: Three Centuries of Natural History Exploration—among others. These oversized books filled with archaeological and natural wonders join my collection of travel narratives and books on art and current affairs, like Balkan Ghosts and Mediterranean Winter by the award-winning writer Robert D. Kaplan, whose work I love.
I realize my interest in ancient cultures surely stems from my desire to experience how each culture expressed itself. I derive great pleasure in exploring the silent ruins of those civilizations, tracing their hieroglyphs with my fingertips, gazing into the eyes of those they have immortalized in paint, in tesserae, in plaster, in stone.
It is easy to romanticize times past, but as we all know given mankind’s shortcomings and hubris, each of those civilizations were fraught with difficulty and danger and, in the end, all fell from glory and grace. Devoid of politics and their populace, ruins speak to the human desire to create, to express itself, to shape its surroundings and this is what speaks to my soul and, ultimately, informs my wanderlust.
Little did that wide-eyed bookworm know that one day she would climb into Khufu’s burial chamber; write a research paper on Akrotiri – thought to be the site of the Lost City of Atlantis—and deliver it standing above the caldera; dance in the dust at Knossos; step into the dimly-lit, incense-choked Church of the Holy Sepulchre; sail past the site of Homer’s Scylla and Charybdis; sketch in St Mark’s Square; watch a sickle moon rise over the minarets of Cairo; ascend El Castillo at Chichen Itza; descend into an Etruscan tomba; swim in the turquoise waters below Tulum; survey Florence from the top of Brunelleschi’s dome; challenge herself to climb Coba’s crumbling Nohuch Mul—the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan; or be dumbstruck by the density of stars in the night sky over the Sahara.
All of this musing reminds me to never stop dreaming (I’m still dreaming about Morocco, Turkey, Tibet, the Caucasus and the British Isles, more of Spain, Mexico, Italy and France) and to underscore for others that travel is attainable. You just have to set your mind to it and, once you have ventured out, to challenge yourself to maintain the open mindedness travel can generate. Because, when you do, your perspective on life and the world will be forever transformed.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.”
– Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1869
Do you know where your wanderlust comes from?
Let us know!