Free to Wander




I can’t tell you when the restlessness began. Perhaps as I bathed in the rays of an Amsterdam sunset or floated down a frigid canal in Munich. Maybe the lights of Rome and Paris still glimmer in my eyes.

I suppose it’s possible that Alpine air is trapped in my chest, or the smoke of a Venetian nightclub lingers in my hair.

As a child, I knew the smell of pine on the trail and the feel of my father’s hand pressed tight against mine as we wandered through Mexican streets. I knew the joyful sight of hot air balloons dotting the Colorado sky and the way a rocket left a farewell trail of smoke as it rose from the earth. I knew the perfect sensation of waves lapping against sandy toes as my mother and I gathered dozens of seashells together on the coast. Hours later my sunburned skin taunted me but my freckled smile knew that it was worth it and I’d walk the beach all over again for the promise of another shell that I’d hold to my ear, knowing the sound was the echo of my own rushing blood.

But now I see the truth. It was the ocean, the earth beckoning to me as I stood still, listening, salty curls flickering in the breeze.

I’m blessed. More blessed than I could ever hope to be, and I’m only twenty-three. I’ve known the damp scent of a well-used tent and the ache in your muscles that comes from a long hike with your siblings. I’ve known chapped lips from ski slopes and the taste of charred marshmallows and the dying warmth of sunsets from shorelines and mountaintops and hillsides. I’ve known a good laugh with total strangers and the splash of bay water from a mischievous dolphin. I’ve meandered through the Smithsonian with my grandfather and danced in the plazas of New York with my best friends and let the Chicago wind tangle my hair as I leaned out the window of a yellow taxi. I’ve known long, crazy days through Europe and the thrill of icy water against naked skin. All this, and I still want more.

I suppose that’s why they call it wanderlust. A physical ache to see and touch and savor something you didn’t know you needed. But you crave it just the same.

This young and wild heart, though it loves good books and the familiar tug of home, longs to roam more than anything.

To where? We’ll see. For now, I’ll be dreaming of distant horizons.

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