I was a junior in college when the first wave of wanderlust washed over me: My parents had booked our flight to Ireland, and the idea of hopping on a plane and, in hours, being transported to this new world surrounded by greenery, was thrilling. The vacation came and went, as these trips often do, but while I’m sure the people of Dublin weren’t really impacted by my stay, I returned home feeling like an entirely different person. From then on, that’s been my definition of what wanderlust feels like: this insatiable need to separate yourself from the status quo and come back feeling refreshed, but also renewed.
Growing up, my mom would always remind me, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Poetic, isn’t it? Those words stayed with me when middle school bullies made my life hell, and they continued to stick with me through high school when I constantly felt pressured to ~find myself~ over and over again at the start of each semester. And even now, in my late 20s, I agree with the notion that every day — hell, every hour — you have the choice to make new decisions: to strike up a conversation with your barista instead of paying for that tall macchiato with your head down, or to wear a new shade of lipstick if you're bored with your current color. In order to truly reinvent yourself or gain some new perspective, though, I personally believe the best way to do that is by traveling — spoiler alert: The theory has yet to prove me wrong.
I realize wanderlust sounds like a trendy term made up by Instagram influencers, but it's very real, and it can make you feel all the things.
Per the Merriam Webster online dictionary definition, wanderlust is a noun that means “a strong longing for or impulse towards wandering.” Now, "wandering" could mean aimlessly exploring a new place, or it could mean planning a trip down to the most minute details. The gist is that people who are lustful for wandering sense that dire need to pack their bags, and when they do, they go. Go where, you may ask? Go anywhere: Drive to the next town over and sit in a new coffee shop to people-watch for hours. Or hop on a train, pick a random number from one to 10, and get off at that stop. Or backpack through Europe with your best friend, or explore someplace new entirely solo. The goal is to get out and feel something — anything — you’ve never felt before.
And that's the thing about experiencing wanderlust: You feel the effects before, during, and long after you travel. In fact, according to Françoise Decatrel, the founder, creative director, and artisanal formulator of Japanese bath and body care brand AMAYORI, the act of traveling isn't quite the same as going on vacation, because when you take a few days off to fly out to Miami and sunbathe, your sole intention is to relax. To travel, he says, is to grow.
"Travel, real travel, is the desire to evolve, expand your mind and soul by experiencing the unknown," Decatrel tells Elite Daily, adding that things such as the traditions, religions, foods, and art of different cultures will ultimately require you to slow down — your pace, your breathing — and observe in order to "physically and mentally rewire yourself." In other words, traveling can help you unwind, sure, but unless your plan is to shut down and laze around on a beach or in a hotel, it's also an adjustment period where you can immerse yourself in someone else's way of living, and really take the time to exist in that for a while.
The reason you want or need to travel is 100 percent personal and subjective, much like the effects that traveling can have on you.
In the summer of 2015, I attended a destination wedding in Disney World. Even though I'm not much of a summer person, I braved the August heat and celebrated my husband's cousin's nuptials for a four-day weekend. On the plane ride home, my husband and I got into a deep conversation, the kind that makes you feel like you're about to change for the better. We discussed, at length, the dreams we had, everyday behaviors we wanted to adopt the second we landed back in Jersey, and I remember thinking at the time that these are the types of conversations you can only have on a journey back home, because they were the result of being and seeing somewhere new.
Any time I drive home from a road trip, sit on a train, or fly across the ocean, I try to strike up one of these inspiring chats with whoever's accompanying me. For me, traveling outside my bubble, even if it's just to the next town over, ignites this kind of fire in me that's so incredibly motivational, that I'll often go home immediately after the fact and pick up a new hobby, or at least do more research on something I learned while I was away.
Coming home from a trip might feel like a downer to some, but to me, it feels like a fresh start. According to Tom Gilmore, a travel industry veteran and CEO of FloridaRentals.com, how you feel about traveling — before or after the fact — has a lot to do with a) your personality and b) the reason you want to travel in the first place. "A lot has to do with personality and mindset," Gilmore tells Elite Daily. "We can change physically, emotionally, or spiritually, for the better or for the worse, but we do change, and that I think is why travel can be so addicting."
As for the physical benefits of traveling, David Brudö, CEO and co-founder at personal development and mental well-being app Remente, tells Elite Daily that stress relief is a huge one. Travel, he says, is an opportunity to disconnect from the digital world, and there's really no denying social media stresses you out to some degree. By overloading your mind with likes, uploads, and tweets, you mentally cause yourself to feel overworked and foggy, and physically, Brudö tells Elite Daily, your body will "produce more cortisol (a stress hormone), as well as adrenaline." Giving into wanderlust, though, could really help clear out some of that brain fog.
To me, wanderlust is something magical, something inspirational, but for you, wanderlust might be healing. If you have the insatiable need to get up and get out of town to explore new horizons, take the initiative and run with it. The experience can open your eyes and mind to new perspectives, and who couldn't use a little of that once in a while?