This word has become a pop culture reference, a tattoo and so many things that take the significance of the word for granted. The word “wanderlust” is associated with “the desire to travel.” It is that burning in your heart at 2am and you are dreaming about places you have only heard the names of. It is that sensation of butterflies when you are looking into your significant other’s eyes and know that this person is your future. Wanderlust is what ultimately motivated most of the international students that are roaming the halls to come to UNC Charlotte.

One of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien, once wrote “not all who wander are lost.” In context, the quote is mind-blowing and valuable. This quote is also something that stuck with me the last week or so. It stuck with me because as much as I revere this incredible author, I have to disagree. Used out of context, as it is mostly used, this quote can be incorrect.

I think part of wanderlust is the fact that we are all lost. Wanderlust is what we seek, it is what we want to find in our travels. It is not that you are being suffocated by your hometown, it is because your hometown is too familiar. It is not that you have not found the right one, it is because you found the wrong one.

To travel is to love. The actual event of the driving, riding or flying from place to place is time-consuming and exhausting but the reward is that this is how you are starting your quest.

Lately, I have been planning my return trip to South Africa. This involves a 17-hour bus ride and a 27-hour flight. Still, thinking of what is waiting for me at the end and what I will take with me is what keeps me smiling. Waiting for me are the people I love and I take with me the new loves of my life.

Photo by Corlene Beukes

We are a very lucky generation. Many of our parents did not think that traveling all over the globe could be a reality when they were our age, but we can. It is not uncommon for young adults to travel and see so many new places. It has almost become an expected experience.

Imagine the place that you have always fantasized about. Think of the coffee shops in France, the food in Italy and the culture in London. You could go there. Take up a part-time job and save up. Go on an exchange. Make a plan and start doing something for yourself that you will never regret. For you will meet people who will change your life.

Traveling will bring you to meeting new people. People who will bring to your attention contexts, cultures and experiences that will equip you with handling life. We can learn all the things teachers and books can teach us, we could write exams and essays until we are the very best in our field., humanity can keep itself busy with whatever, but we are still just alive. Life is going to happen. I know that what I learned while here and what I am still going to be taught, is going to be priceless in my life.

“Not all who wander are lost.”

We are lost, all of us. That is why traveling is so satisfying and that is why it is absolutely alright to feel like that at 20-something you have not figured out everything, or anything for that matter.

Being lost and confused is what this period of our lives are all about. We are going to experience life at its hardest and weirdest, but what will make it worthwhile is that we are always going to find people who are just as lost as we are. Those are the people who, no matter where you travel, they will always be the treasures that you picked up along the way. For it will always be about the people we are with and not the places we are.