By: Kendi Wolever
I am in love with the word “wanderlust.” Despite all of the cliché Pinterest posts and trendy tattoos that represent it, the honest truth is that I love all that this word stands for. The word is defined as the presence of an innate desire to travel; I try to live out this word every day. Because of that, I am constantly captivated by thoughts of going away in pursuit of something new.
Last year, a couple of friends and I went on an epic road trip up the west coast. We began in Oklahoma City and made it to the Grand Canyon in one day. Throughout the trip, we engaged deeply with the world around us. We dipped our toes in the ocean on the beaches of San Luis Obispo and ate seafood in Monterey. We hiked the hills of San Francisco and set up camp in the Redwood Forest. We got a nighttime taste of weird Portland and spent five days in rainy Seattle. We fished in the rivers of Idaho, had lunch under the sky of Missoula, got sprayed by Old Faithful, and gracefully posed in front of the Grand Tetons. We felt generosity from people who were once strangers but now friends and experienced breathtaking views that were once nonexistent to us but were now tangible realities.
Something made evident to me on this trip is that travel sets the heart free. In my short lifetime, my heart has experienced pain. Sometimes it is difficult to carry the burdens of an open, vulnerable heart when you’re twenty-three. Sometimes your heart gets broken. Sometimes it aches for the loss of a friend. Sometimes it beats for new ones. Sometimes the heart questions what it was once sure of. The heart can even hurt for those who are hurting their own, and the heart, at times, cannot help but hurt itself. But what I have found about my own heart is that fulfilled wanderlust is incredibly healing.
As we drove north up the California coast on Highway 101, the Pacific Ocean crashed powerfully onto beaches to my left and tall evergreen trees blurred into a blanket of green to my right. The road continued to wind. The fog seemed to cut the trees in half from mid-trunk all the way up to the sky. The water, trees, and road complemented each other perfectly. I cannot even recall seeing the other cars during the drive. It felt like the road was our own. The song “Set a Fire” by Will Reagan played in the background and the lyrics rang out, “there’s no place I would rather be,” over and over again. Something felt so sacred about this moment and although millions of people had taken this road before, for this interim in time, it felt untouched. It was as if the Creator had wrapped this encounter up in a box and told me to open it when my heart needed solace. So I opened it. And for a moment, I forgot about pain. In that moment, I knew what it meant to live out “wanderlust.”
Travel is not something I do because I like the beach. It is not something I do because I’m bored and I like the rain. It is something I do when my heart needs air; when I have lost perspective and my problems seem so huge. There is nothing more humbling to me than unwrapping something magnificent I have never before seen. I cannot put a price on how it felt to see mountains after driving so long through the plains of Oklahoma or to feel the wet breeze in my hair while standing on a sandy shore. I learned and healed so much from my time in unfamiliar places and it would never have happened without a little bit of wandering.