When did my wanderlust turn into wander-meh? I have travelled through Europe by train, days of no sleep, no showers, no food—but a lifetime of memories of French lavender fields, the Swiss Alps, the family that boarded in Florence with their cages of squawking poultry. I lugged my eight-months-pregnant belly all over Seattle and Vancouver for the chance to see one of the most spectacular corners of the world. Crisscrossing the United States by car a few times, an adventure in regional dialects and cuisines, was worth every stretch of boring, billboarded highway. Mexico? Montreal? Been there, done that.
My journey (no other word will do since it also suggests an emotional passage) to Australia fulfilled a lifelong dream to see the place that had captured my imagination since childhood. Who can resist a country “sung” into creation by its ancestors as they traversed the landscape, laying down “songlines”?
Lately, though, when I read the travel section of the newspaper, no matter how picturesque the location, how enthusiastic the writer, I am underwhelmed. I am neither incurious nor lazy and am perpetually physically restless—but too easily satisfied with watching travel programs on television or reading books by people who’ve done the legwork for me. My list of places I have no desire to visit has become longer and more idiosyncratic. No palm trees (a weird quirk of mine, but there it is. I loathe palm trees and their suggestion of shoes without socks, 24/7 leisure, and party-till-you-drop). I require a place that experiences four seasons (regardless of the fact there are few places I’d travel in the dead of winter). I have no wish to go to countries ending in –stan. No tropics, no deserts, no islands. The list goes on.
Air travel has become a demeaning, often gruesome experience (don’t get me started on airport food)—one justifiable reason for my reluctance to travel beyond the armchair. Paradoxically, I think it’s my love of walking many, many miles a week that has clipped my wings. It satisfies the restlessness that got me up and going around the world in the first place. The exertion is healing—physically, mentally, emotionally. My senses are more focused and acute when my body moves through space at its natural pace. The redundant rhythm of walking, too, frees my mind to wander further that an airplane or train might take me. Wallace Stevens, for instance, famously composed his poems while walking.
This reluctance to travel may be a phase I’m going through. I’ve been getting a curious hankering lately to head north, some sort of internal guidance system that’s leading me to Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland, Scandinavia. My passport’s up-to-date. My packing skills are as efficient as ever. Now if I could stop walking long enough to book a flight.