What It’s Like When You Have Wanderlust, But Are Too Afraid To Leave

by Lauren Martin

I want to see the world. I want to walk down cobblestoned streets, read signs I can’t understand and meet friends I can't communicate with.

I want electric nights under new city lights, romantic rendezvous and the undeniable feeling that the world is mine. Yes, I want all this. But can I tell you something? I’m too scared to leave.

I’m now in a position where I have the time, freedom and money to go anywhere I desire, yet I haven’t booked one plane ticket, rented one car or left the city I’ve been holed up in for two years.

Of course I’ve done some traveling. I’ve stayed at nice resorts and hotels, but the kind of traveling I’m talking about is that deep-end traveling -- heavy backpacks, cheap hostels, nights alone -- the kind I used to yearn for without any restraint.

So what happened? What changed? It’s not that I don’t still have wanderlust. If anything, it’s worse than ever. I’m still inflicted with that insatiable itch, yet even though I have all the means to scratch it, I can’t be bothered.

I think the old saying is true: “Ignorance is bliss.” But I’m no longer so ignorant to the perils of the traveler. I no longer wonder about the mystique of places, but the dangers and the realities of them.

I think any traveler who has done a lot before they were ready has some bad moments to recall along with the good. They remember the jet lag, the plane delays and the consuming loneliness.

It’s not that these moments outweigh the good; they just make going that much harder.

As a younger, more exuberant (and naïve) wanderer, you didn’t know the harsh realities of the traveler, because how could you? Traveling is about experience, and the more experience you have, the harder it is to forget.

You’ve made a good life for yourself, so you no longer seek to find it elsewhere

It’s hard to trade the comfort of home for the discomfort of somewhere new. When you’ve made a great life for yourself, it can be hard to leave it.

When you were younger, you developed that travel itch because it felt good to get away. It felt good to start fresh, meet new people and shed your ordinary life for somewhere new and unknown.

It’s not like that anymore. You have people you love, an apartment and city you adore and friends you don’t feel the need to replace. You don’t desire a fresh start, a second chance or a change of scenery because for once in your life, you're comfortable where you are right now.

You’re aware of everything going on, and that makes you more hesitant about going in

Ignorance is bliss, and once you’ve seen the other side, it’s hard to go into it blissfully.

I never truly understood the dangers of a young girl flying off to a third-world country before. I never took my parent’s point of view seriously. And I definitely never thought I was anything short of invincible.

But that innocent layer is gone, and a cynical and suspicious view of the world has taken its place.

When you've been mugged, robbed, lost and threatened and lived to tell about it, you can’t help but wonder if, the next time, you won’t be so lucky.

You feel like it’s a lot of hassle for something that’s supposed to be relaxing

Those tough trips backpacking through Europe, staying in hostels and sleeping on trains aren’t exactly my idea of relaxing. Maybe I’ve become spoiled, maybe I’ve changed, or maybe our parents were right -- maybe there are some things you just don’t have the energy for anymore.

It’s not that I don’t want to travel again; I just don’t want the struggle again. I know it makes you a stronger, more well-rounded person, but maybe right now, I'm not ready for a life changing, personality-shaping, experience.

This time, I don’t want the hassle, the shared bedrooms and the cheap meals.

You see it as a chore rather than an experience

Traveling is an individual experience that’s to be enjoyed, not forced. You will get back out there someday, but in the meantime, you must stop taking the most liberating experience of your life and turning it into an average task.

Traveling isn’t a duty, a requirement or a punishment. It's a freedom, a luxury and a privilege.

Maybe it’s because I’ve preached it to my readers, flaunted it in front of my friends and told myself the minute I had the time and the money to go, I’d be on the next plane, but I feel this overwhelming force to do something I'm not ready to do right now.

All my chips may be in place, but that doesn't mean I'm mentally prepared for the taxing toll traveling will inevitably take on me.

So, for right now, it's okay to keep your feet at home, firmly planted.