The Messiness of Wandering

“Heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way.” ~David Whyte

The heart of a girl with wanderlust is a messy place.

Never content with stillness, in constant battle with unmitigated yearning, I am always wrestling with restlessness, looking for the balance between finding satisfaction in necessary routine while dreaming of the wildness of possibility.

My heart bursts with joy as I run—sprint—from the numbing mundanity of reality: dishes, laundry, dentist appointments, bills, oil changes, paperwork. I am terrible at all of that, and it fills me with dread. In complete denial of the generalities that keep trying to wear me down, I instead stand on cliffs and breathe in ocean spray and wander bustling city streets, alone. I am much better at the grander aspects of life than the trivial ones. The wheels on my suitcase are worn down and my backpacks are stained and duct taped, while my house isn’t finished and my car payment is late. I prefer to wander and try to catch glimpses of other people’s perspectives through a camera lens; I sleep in tents and on airport benches. I dance with strangers and wade through deep grass. I find life by falling in love over and over with each new place, each new person.

And in the same moments, my heart is wrecked, because every time I fall in love—whether it be with a new comrade willing to share stories and laughter over a bottle of bourbon or a seaside town that wraps its arms around me—I offer myself up to the ultimate vulnerabilities of loss. When we commit our hearts to passion, we commit our hearts to heartbreak—love can never come without the possibility of pain. And for a girl who travels, every place comes with bittersweet farewells, and I often return home, broken in pieces.

Goodbyes are inevitable, and anyone who knows me well, knows I am terrible at these, too. I weep inconsolably, my insides cracking like broken glass. Physical pain consumes me, and I often collapse when nobody can see and let my sobs wrack my body because I cannot possibly stand with so much hurting. I want to greedily and hungrily possess people and places—I want them to always be what we are in that moment. I want to desperately clutch that happiness that artfully escapes the mundane, forgetting that age-old Frostism, “nothing gold can stay.”

Recently, after ten days on a ship together in Greenland, a new friend and I said goodbye in an Ottawa hotel lobby. Our farewell was so difficult, the distress so palpable, that an onlooking stranger began to cry as well. I walked out of the hotel and along the Rideau Canal, unable to breathe through my broken heart, my face wet with tears. Sadness gripped me. As I found a quiet dock to sit on and crumble, I questioned why I did this. Why meet these people? Why go to these places? Why care so much? It only results in pain that wrings me dry.  Sometimes I long for the simple, peaceful contentedness that I see in others.

Is traveling worth the ensuing heartache?

Indeed, it is. Travel is worth having a messy heart. We are what we live and we are who we love. Each time we walk across the tundra, scale a palm tree, or eat a croissant on Rue des Abbesses, we are pieced together. Each time we adventure with a friend and race cars in the desert, watch a 3 am Arctic sunrise, or ride a bicycle through a small Dutch town—our perspective on life and our understanding of the world is expanded. To regret our experiences because of the pain they deliver would be to regret who we are—and I never want to lament my own spirit. I am me because of them, and I hope some of them are a little more them because of me.

Any person with wanderlust knows that it is a true affliction—insatiable lust and unrest, immeasurable wonder and joy, and the sadness of a heart that knows and loves too much. Yet, throw us a suitcase—give us a map: we’re in for more.

3 thoughts on “The Messiness of Wandering

  1. A beautiful posting. Thank you. I think, however, the peaceful contentedness you see in others is often a mask over the quiet desperation Thoreau spoke of. To feel and not shut down with the pain of life’s woundings, an open heart, is a gift which allows one to embrace it all. That’s why you love, laugh, and weep with gusto! 👍🙏🏼


  2. How do we step on the scales today? With the weight of love that should surely stay as that of loss be on its way


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