Wanderlust

I read books, every once in a while, when I find something I want to read. Actually, I really love reading. And recently I bought a book for my kindle called Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents, by Elisabeth Eaves. Highly recommend, at least, to anyone who is even slightly addicted to traveling. In the book, Elisabeth travels extensively, to put it mildly, going on lots of different types of trips—some like trips I’ve taken, some like trips friends of mine have taken, some trips that I would never take.

I’m not trying to write a book review here, but trying to understand why I liked this book so much, and why I read it right now. I think it would have been different had I read it four years ago. And different if I hadn’t started it right before J left for India.

I used to say on my couchsurfing profile that my current activity was “wanderlusting.” During my first year in France, I went to Belgium, Spain, English, Scotland, and Germany. My second year, I went to Ireland, Poland, and Morocco. My third year, I spent three days in Turkey and a weekend in Barcelona. Since then, I’ve been wandering mostly around France. In short, the traveling has seriously diminished. That’s okay, in part, I mean, it used to be sort of manic, and I never much planned for it financially. And then, my desire to travel has also always been mixed with my wish to live in France. I remember flying back from Morocco in the summer of 2008, and seeing Paris below me as the plane started to descend made me smile and take a deep breath of satisfaction. I always enjoyed the sense of adventure that living in France gave me, and yet longed for the stability of a permanent titre de séjour and a permanent job.

In Wanderlust, Eaves says at one point:

Travel is life-changing. That’s the promise made by a thousand websites and magazines, by philosophers and writers down the ages. Mark Twain said it was fatal to prejudice, and Thomas Jefferson said it made you wise. Anais Nin observed that “we travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” It’s all true. Self-transformation is what I sought and what I found.

I think moving to France and, maybe more importantly, living in French, did create a new personality for me, maybe a new soul, the way Anais Nin put it. When I went home to Texas for my masters in 2008 I was afraid of losing something in the move back, and I think that “something” was this new “state” I had discovered by forcing myself to move to France (and I did force myself). I did things I didn’t expect I’d ever do, like wandering around Poland alone and driving in Morocco, staying in strangers’ homes and letting them stay in mine.

What’s the point of this post? I miss discovering new states. I’m jealous of J for getting to go so far away and for having the means to do it. I want to go somewhere very far, like China, or Australia. Instead, I talked my American friend Dan into going to Spain for a week next February (not much convincing necessary, really), and am hoping I can find a travel partner to go back to Ireland with me next summer. Any takers?

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