I will not deny for a second that my disease is a disease of privilege.
No, I'm not talking about Type II Diabetes. I'm talking about Wanderlust.
a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.
Dictionary.com has no idea.
The desire to travel has in every regard dictated my life. It shaped my career desires, the qualities I admired (or didn't admire) in spouses, and the values I uphold in my day to day life. My birth-given love of culture, religion, and people has left me with this genetically passed disease--one that apparently was passed through my dad's side.
My dad was once quoted in a newspaper with the following description: "A navy man--a man who commanded ships and the seas, a man who dined with princesses and presidents, and flirted with danger."
He moved from Greece to America in the 1920s only to live the "American dream" as he entered the navy and worked his way up to captain.
His daughter's would probably read something like: "A twenty year old who left for 10 months to pray at the Western Wall, hike through Petra, and fall in love with herself outside of the Louvre all at the expense of ever driving a reliable car or shopping anywhere other than Target."
She lived the millennial dream by trying to turn her hobby of writing into a career as she continued to live in the lowest tax bracket in America.
My disease leaves me restless after the same routine for 3 days. It starts when I wake up, feeling slightly dissatisfied with the "9 to 5". It creeps in when I take my lunch hour only to read through my newest copy of National Geographic Traveler. It provides as the slightest distraction around 3 p.m. when I note the unread "Groupon Getaways" email in my inbox. I leave work to go to the gym--often to be greeted by the personal trainer who once laughed at me for our first interaction: So when you say you want to be fit, did you want to lose a certain amount of weight or do you want to be able to see your abdominals?
Not really. I just want to be in shape to hike the Inca Trail at some point.
I'll get home only to devour books by Liz Gilbert and Arianna Huffington. Even while we're cooking dinner, my recipes always seem to bring back that wave of nostalgia as my souvenir from each country is a hand-scribbled recipe from a local or a cookbook.
I've slept with a hand-written bucket list and old journals under my bed since I was fifteen. I knew my fiancé was the one when he talked about the trips we would take together and was confident enough in himself to not be intimidated with the idea of me traveling by myself.
(There was also a great moment of validation after we were already engaged and he was looking at buying a diamond for me before confessing: "I think I should just put that money towards a trip for us.")
I find myself in situations where I want to share about my culinary course in Italy or celebrating the World Cup in the streets of Sao Paulo.
But my disease is one that so few understand--one that has proven itself to be quite rare.
It's one that if I'm not careful will leave me with labels like "spoiled" or "arrogant" for speaking of my adventures abroad. It leaves me with the risk of someone labeling me as a "rich, white girl" without getting the chance to know me.
This is a disease of privilege. This is a disease that I actually thank God for having. I make sacrifices in my own way and am so thankful that I have the option of making these sacrifices.
(And FYI, my research and job experience is in the field of orphan prevention and care across Eastern Africa. I'm quite aware that I'm in a privileged position.)
My disease left me with the desire to travel to the seven wonders of the world and seven continents before my 30th birthday (roughly seven years left with three and two to go respectively). It left me with the decision to write and publish my first book 21 & Counting as I encourage other twenty-somethings to make the most of their inherent desires and incurable longings.
This disease is life-long and there's no cure. It can only be treated.
And for the ability to treat it, I can never express my gratitude.