I never had wanderlust. I never had any desire to even leave the country at all – the UK, in my case. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to go anywhere else. It wasn’t that I thought England was particularly amazing, I just couldn’t see how anywhere else could be any better.
I have fair, burnable skin, so I didn’t long for hot weather. I have no affinity for languages, so I didn’t crave foreign encounters. I am regimented in my daily routine, so I wasn’t looking for adventure. I got homesick within a matter of days, so I didn’t fancy months away. And, in all honesty, if anyone spoke about tales from another country, I just switched off. I felt a disconnect from the rest of the world which I believed was simply in my blood. In the same way some people are bad at maths or science, I was bad at travel.
Most of my family members had done their own bit of travelling and eventually settled back in England. My grandparents lived in Africa for two years, my mother lived in France for four years and my father lived in Australia for six months. That was enough for everyone, then they were back to the mothership. That confirmed it for me, lack of wanderlust was is my genes, it couldn’t be changed. There’s even research that claims there is a ‘wanderlust gene’ called DRD4-7R, which I was pretty certain I didn’t have.
One day, I realised I was unhappy. I didn’t enjoy my job and I wasn’t excited by the city I lived in. I racked my brains for ways to ‘spice things up’ but no solution came to mind. The more I tried to think of other cities and career paths, the more I felt trapped. I realised that I may have exhausted all options for excitement, not only in my city, but also in my country.
A few days after my down-heartening realisation, I dropped the idea of leaving the country into conversation with my boyfriend. Then, things escalated pretty damn quickly. Notices were handed in, savings were pulled, flights were booked, huge rucksacks were bought – the works! Before I knew it, I was on an eight hour flight to New Delhi, my first flight out of Europe.
We spent three months travelling around Asia. Every place was an assault on the senses in a way I’d never felt before. We got deathly food poisoning in Thailand. We abseiled down waterfalls in Vietnam. We climbed a volcano in Indonesia. We were atrociously scammed in Malaysia. And we zip-lined over one hundred metre drops in Laos. Whether it was a near death experience on a Thai tuk-tuk or being photographed by the locals in Myanmar, every experience was memorable, to say the least. There were wonderful experiences and terrible ones. To say it was the best experience in my life would be too simple. It was a combination of the best and worst feelings I’ve ever had over an incredibly short few months.
Four months later, I’ve been living and teaching in Vietnam, driving a motorbike like the locals (but not as well) and attempting to speak the language. I love it here but I can already feel myself getting that itch to explore new places again. I don’t have the endless amount of enthusiasm of most travellers. I’m not a natural adventure or a spontaneous being. However, I am raring to travel more.
For anyone else who is a self-proclaimed un-traveller, I can’t tell you that you must travel or that travelling will be the best time of your life. However, I can tell you you that I did more living in those few months than I had done in the last 22 years. I experienced more emotions than puberty and learnt more than I had done in my entire degree. For anyone who is too busy ‘living’ to travel or can’t take a break from ‘progressing’ in their career, you could find travelling is the fast track into life that you’ve been looking for.