Two gulping breaths of arid Greek air was all it took to instil my sense of wanderlust. I was 19 years old, I had never left Canada or even my home province, and there I was, in a brand new world. I don’t know what I was expecting but breathing in air that felt and tasted different wasn’t on the list. That trip lasted just over a month and took me on a whirlwind tour through Greece and Italy.
It would be two years before I left home again after that. This time I embarked on an adventure to Australia and New Zealand, and this time the stakes were a bit higher. I was alone, truly alone, when I landed in Sydney. It took a lot to walk out of the airport. A lot of inner pep talks, a lot of reminding myself that I chose this, and that there was nobody to push me forward, I had to take the steps by myself and for myself.
Backpacking is hard. Backpacking alone can be harder. The first few days I was overwhelmed by my lack of privacy, by how many hours there are in a day, by the sheer amount of new people, places and experiences lay before me. After a month the lifestyle became second nature. Open bag, half-empty bag, fill bag, move on, repeat. Eat, sightsee, walk, swim, laugh, find some time to sleep, move on, repeat.
Two and a half years later I came home. Breathing in the Canadian air was nothing like that first gasp of air in the Athens airport. I didn’t feel at home, I wasn’t overjoyed or overwhelmed. If anything I was underwhelmed and disheartened by the lack of joy that swept through me. That apathy changed the moment I saw my sister and was enveloped in her hug. It came back two weeks later after I had surprised all my friends, seen all my family, and came to the crushing realization that no matter how much I had changed on my journey there were things about home that would never change.
A trip to the United Kingdom to visit my long-distance boyfriend came only a few months after this. That tour was more about cementing our relationship and meeting his family than it was about traveling. Not that we stayed at home much. I got my fill of castles, tea, ruins, and sheep, and I loved every moment of it but since I had already been to England, and I was seeing Scotland from the point of view of a Scotsman, it didn’t fulfill my wanderlust the way other trips did.
My next big adventure was a month long road-trip through the western United States. Just my boyfriend, myself, our Jeep, and the freeway. We migrated down the Oregon Coast, toured through the Redwoods, caught some sun in San Francisco and LA, and experienced the annoying reality that is Las Vegas.
From LV we flew to Orlando, Florida so that I could fulfill a lifelong dream of any wannabe princess/wizard: a full week in Disneyworld and Universal Studios. This was a very different kind of traveling than I had done before. I normally prefer natural waterfalls and ocean dips to line ups for waterslides. I go out of my way to see things off the beaten track rather than standing in hour long cues for themed roller coasters. I had a great time but I was also really happy to fly back to LV, jump in our Jeep, and hit the road again.
The second part of our road trip was the most visually stunning. The Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, the salt flats, the peaks of the Grand Tetons, the geysers of Yellowstone, they all struck a cord within me. I could hear the melodies, the natural music that echoes through the hills and the valleys.
It has been a year and a half since that road trip. I dream of far away places, during hard days I close my eyes and picture rocks that took thousands of years to form or trees that are hundreds of feet tall and centuries old. Wanderlust gets me through monotonous drives through the city, through mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed, and days when I would do anything to be somewhere else.
I wonder where I shall wander next?