I laugh when I tell people at home in America that I lived in a foreign country, and I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting their responses. They usually tell me they’re impressed I had the courage to take such a big risk and that it was something they could just never do. I just nod, smile and accept the compliment, knowing very well it’s complete BS.
For some insane reason, people don’t want to believe you can have an amazing experience abroad without it being consistently difficult, or going through gut-wrenching obstacles. The truth is that was hardly my experience at all.
Sure, some things were a pain in the ass, like standing in line at the Motor Vehicles Department for 5 hours just to get a second eye test, or being accused of being a prostitute because your Russian friend wears her skirt a little too tight. But, hey, both of those things could happen in downtown Orlando on any given day, especially if the unions are on shaky ground or you’re out at the wrong hour of the night.
Because I like you, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Almost 90% of my experiences were absolutely and completely incredible. Every day I felt more alive and enthralled about my expat reality than any day I had experienced before in the United States. You know why? Because I have the Wanderlust gene.
The best and most successful travelers I have met are the ones who understand and value their time alone. Now, this doesn’t mean they’re closet weirdos who play with paper dolls in their spare time. But it does mean that they take time for quiet reflection, or to just enjoy the presence of their own company.
After all, when you’re hopping on cross-country flights, waiting on connections or spending 5 hours on a local bus where no one speaks your language, if you don’t like yourself, you’re in trouble my friend. On the other hand, you know you’re a born traveler when you relish the time to read, think, contemplate or just enjoy the presence of yourself and your surroundings.
Gossip is just a part of life. I get it. But born travelers are different from the rest of the pack in that they are slow to judge and quick to understand. In your circle of friends, you know who the gossipers are. Maybe it’s all of them. (In that case, I’d consider branching out).
But if you’re someone who feels a little icky about it, you might have the wanderlust gene. And if you’re someone who resists the urge to talk about the guy in the corner with the high-water jeans and fanny pack and would rather walk up to him and ask him his story (I mean really, a fanny pack!?) you are definitely a Wanderluster.
Let’s face it, life is scary. There are probably a million things that happen every day that could kill you right in your own backyard. And if you believe movies like Taken I or Taken III (Taken II was crap) then you might buy into the hype that these “scary” things only happen in someone else’s backyard. But not if you’re a Wanderluster.
People with the Wanderlust gene understand that fear is a natural part of life and is often unjustified. They feel the same fear as others but know how to recognize it and see it for what it is. They also understand that the excitement that comes from overcoming those fears is entirely worth the effort it takes to let them go.
We all know those people in our lives that define indecisiveness down to a T. The ones who can’t go to a mall, movie theater or even the bathroom by themselves. The ones who need the approval of 3 of their closest friends before every clothing purchase. Well, the Wanderluster is the exact opposite, and sometimes even to a fault.
The Wanderluster resists the urge to compromise to public opinion and will often make decisions that seem a little reckless, unwise or just plain silly. But don’t be fooled — the Wanderluster always has a reason for their decisions. They just let their instincts win over the force of public opinion and “customs” every single time. If that’s you, give yourself a pat on the back and start planning your next trip, pronto!
Tired of watching Netflix marathons or partying until 2 a.m. at the same dingy club around the corner? You might have the Wanderlust gene.
Born travelers have a constant hunger for new experiences and prefer the adrenaline rush that comes from trying new things. Whether it’s mountain climbing in Northern Nepal or surfing the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Wanderlusters are always reaching for greater and greater heights. And the idea of Friday night game nights with friends is more terrifying than befriending your local Sri Lankan snake charmer.
Don’t believe me? The science proves. A recent study conducted by psychologist Chuansheng from the University of California, proves there is, in fact, a “Wanderlust Gene” and it’s called DRD4-7R.
I’ve got it, do you?