On my best friend’s birthday I went digging through my old photographs to find a good one to post to social media. And I found a good one. The picture is of her at age 16, arms splayed out Vanna White style over a mid–’90s Ford Aerostar minivan, showing off her wheels.
Even though she is making a silly face and laughing at her “coolness” in not only driving a minivan but sharing it with her two sisters, you can still see the excitement for life and promise of things to come in her eyes.
I’ve been thinking about that age a lot because I have a 15-year-old nephew. There is so much excitement and promise.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, like any teenager. But I knew I wanted to go places, not metaphorically as in becoming famous, climbing a huge corporate ladder, or inventing something to dust your house for you (I hate dusting). But in a literal way. I wanted to travel – I definitely have wanderlust DNA.
I didn’t really know my passion was for travel at the time. But I knew I wanted to see what else was out there in this great big world. I grew up in a small town and when I thought about driving I-40 west all the way to Los Angeles it felt as if I would be out of a claustrophobic box and finally get to stretch my arms and legs out. That wanderlust DNA was not going to let me be contained.
It was nothing against my town. I loved Hot Springs, Ark., and I loved growing up here. The feelings I had were of containment. Like a dog who loves his crate. It’s a place of comfort, but he doesn’t want to spend his whole life in the crate. It’s my wanderlust DNA.
Containment always bothered me. That was my biggest dislike about school. You are cooped up in a building for seven to eight hours. My high school was built with an extreme lack of windows. We often say it looks like a jail or prison.
However, I’m not sure I can blame the architect too much. My junior high was an older building, and was built to accommodate a lack of air conditioning. It had huge windows that overlooked West Mountain in Hot Springs National Park. I stared lustfully at that mountain more than I should have. Inside learning fractions was not what I wanted – I wanted to be on that mountain.
I hated being cooped up, and I hated being contained. I just wanted to go. Working at a movie theater during high school, I romanticized the idea of driving out to L.A., not because I wanted to become the next big star but for the road trip.
Part of the wanderlust is definitely genetic. My father was a truck driver in the years before I was born. My grandfather working in the oilfields from Texas and Louisiana to Montana before settling down with my grandmother. Wanderlust is definitely in my DNA.
Now that I am grown up and appear to be a responsible adult, I have the ability to stretch out across the country. And I am addicted. I find myself craving a road trip like junky who needs a fix.
And I love driving across the country, especially going west. I love watching the landscape changing to something I am not used to. Exploring new places does something to a person. It definitely helps humble you and show you that there is more to life than yourself.
Even when picking a local trail with my friends, I always opt for the trail with the most new experiences – such as a new trail, one I haven’t hiked in a long time, or one I haven’t hiked during that particular season.
Exploring and seeing new places is just what makes me tick. I’m pretty sure my ancestors were a nomadic people. Do you ever feel confined by life?