“artist by trade. wanderlust by birth.”
my instagram bio character limit states this proudly, without shame and with full understanding of the words. it was what i could efficiently describe myself as. now with the uprise of the social media trend and
overuse misuse of the word “wanderlust” i am contemplating removing it. over the past year, i have noticed a widespread social media movement in which one mistakingly confuses a desire for a vacation and coins it as having innate wanderlust. now lonely planet even writes books specifically for wanderlusts. huh??
“ten ways to be a wanderlust…”
“wait, you are a wanderlust? but you would never visit asia or central america?”
“oh cool, the johnsons posted on facebook that are going on their annual “wanderlust” vacation to hawaii for a week…wait, what?”
“how to wanderlust…”
trends kill everything beautiful.
everything sacred gets distorted when the mass majority of people start to think they are one thing but they aren’t.
i am guilty of this. i am sure my mom friends think this way when i talk about my cats being my obvious offspring.
“umm…your pet is not the equivalent as my four year old daughter!” they most likely
bitch discuss logically to their husbands about me.
i get it, ladies. my purrfect cats are purrfect cats. your kids are humans. and although occasionally within the walls of my private home i do think my cat talks to me like we are chatting over a cup of coffee, i do acknowledge that the true definition of parenting is not pet ownership.
likewise, and to my rambling point, enjoying a vacation every so often does not deem you a wanderlust. if anything, a two-week-vacation hurts more for a wanderlust at heart. it is a reminder that you can only do this for a short period before having to return to a place that is not your true home. not where you belong. i know this pain first-handedly as i tried to fulfill this part of my life for the past four years with international trips that could only logistically last for a couple weeks. and as soon as i knew i had to return, the sunken sorrow of reality would hit and send me into a downward spiral.
bethany, chill out.
but i couldn’t last night. this internal battle of whether or not to change a stupid online bio about myself dove my mind into the mental library of moments so pivotal in my life that it became something beyond the misuse of the word.
this term encompasses the beautifully messy confusion as to who i am as a person. [side note: this and the
public’s incorrect correct definition of introvert are the two key words that as an adult can accurately describe who bethany is. and most of my life choices reflect that.]
| wanderlust ignition | part i | the high school years |
i was sitting in my honors english class in eleventh grade. my completely nerdy-nasally-teacher whom i had a mad crush on spent his school summers living in the united kingdom to fulfill that responsibility to himself and his love of all things U2. he would return in the fall with stories, images, and tell us to write our viewpoints down on a certain topic [was shakespeare a real person?] while listening to the soulful political and emotional lyrics of bono. in this dark classroom in a colorado spring’s public school, the flame that had been planted in me before i was even born had ignited.
i want to experience this…the smells of the curry-infused streets in london. i wanted to photograph the ivory coast. i wanted to hear bono singing in my head as i dash through the crowds trying to find a sign to tell me where the nearest public toilet is in cambodia. although, let’s be real here, celine dion is my obvious choice of music.
| wanderlust ignition | part ii | the post-high school months |
my first trip overseas. it occurred the day after i graduated from high school. i left denver international en route to aeroport charles de gaulle with a friend to galavant europe with her and her mom. what i later realized was that i was a friendly distraction for the daughter while the mom embraced the reality that when we returned home her husband will have moved out of the house and forward with the divorce. and as terrible as i do feel for admitting this, then teenage-bethany benefitted from that messy-marriage-ending-situation. that innate tug in my heart to be abroad deepened along with the inspiration to experience life and write about it. i wanted the said sexy english teacher to be proud. writing this now, i know he would be. it was a life-altering event.
needless to say that i came home a different person. my mom would say it was the much-too-older-chase-morgan-assest-inverstor-from-new-york-that-i-was-obsessed-with had changed me. but i would beg to differ. the gregarious jewish man has disappeared out of my life but the intense desire to always be in a new foreign place, always a tad uncomfortable and where another’s language was as melodic as a symphony has never ceased.
| wanderlust ignition | part iii | the college years |
i was one of those applicants in college that applied for all things abroad: i applied to go to business school in ireland when i was a freshman in college. i was politely rejected based on the reminder that the application was only for junior and senior applicants. and i wasn’t even a business major. i worked on the application for hours – trying to convince myself that my parents would obviously agree that it was the next best step in my life. i tried this process again with going abroad in u.k. and in italy. none of it panned out.
meanwhile in college, i dated a
douche nice guy that i had inspired told that he needed to get a passport as soon as possible if we were to date. he was one of the 70% of americans who do not own a passport. but then he met me. and i was itching to wander around another country. key word: wander. not plan. not schedule. not be an american tourist. i wanted to blend in with the locals. i wanted to practice my terrible spanish and get lost in a creepy part of town. i wanted to figure out hotel stays when the sun was setting. i wanted to feel that passion burn inside of me. but….
have you heard the rumor that traveling with someone for a long period of time will make or break a relationship? this truth became apparent to me when hours before leaving to lax for our trip that a rigorous itinerary appeared.
i cannot be an american tourist. i need to fly by the seat of my pants. i refuse to get upset that the french aren’t speaking english to us.
we inevitably, thank the wanderlust lords, broke up.
| wanderlust ignition | part iiii | the post-college-pre-marriage years |
after dodging that relationship bullet, i promised myself that i would move abroad. and i would do it before i ever got married. i had to for myself and for my future marriage. if i didn’t, i would put the “desperate” in “housewife” for the rest of my life. and that’s not fun for anyone. just ask terry hatcher.
so during one of those late-night phone calls with my new crush, i took the bull by its stinkin’ horns and told the future mr. bethany carlson that i had plans to live abroad before i ever settled down. he thought i was a cool chick who most likely didn’t really mean it and even if i did, we had only met each other once and so this news wasn’t detrimental to him at that time. however, six months into dating and a whole lot more invested than prior, he became aware of just how serious i was. i was applying for a job in korea and would be leaving that year. being true to his remarkably sweet and supportive nature, he had my back. it took a couple of “this isn’t because i don’t want to be with you…it has nothing to do with you…i just know i have to do this for myself” conversations before he didn’t take it personally and we made it work.
side note wanderlust women/men of the world: these conversations are exhausting but worth it.
the backlash i got from friends and family for peacing out on such an incredible guy to go live abroad opened my mind up to a few things: 1) people put a ton of pressure on a girl to get married and 2) i had something in me that a lot of people around me didn’t understand.
but six months into living in korea when TK showed up for an adventure of a lifetime, he understood me. he finally knew me in a way that so many close friends and family have never seen me.
he calls it “bethany abroad is a bethany alive”.
its true.. as inconvenient as it is.
| wanderlust ignition | part v | the marriage years |
when TK and i got engaged, we made the grave mistake of having me move back to the states. yes, i know life happens and we sometimes make decisions that are “meant to be”, but like many wanderlust know, when you go back it is more difficult than ever leaving. we tried to mend the wounds with bandaid trips to iceland, canada, turkey, israel, mexico, sweden, etc. but it always was the same. you have to go home to an existence that you were not made for.
that’s why at the heart of it, wanderlust are not vacationers. they are identities.
it took us 3.5 lowly, confusing, passionless and rather depressing years for me to know and accept that living abroad before marriage wasn’t going to heal a heart of fernweh. it was only going to deepen it. making it one internal battle that most people don’t understand about me.
it has been a blessing beyond all belief that my partner’s heart aligns with mine for adventure. TK now says he doesn’t know if he will ever be able to live back in the states again.
being this way does have its sacrifices. watching your family and friends get older from afar. not being there for important and the little moments that make up life. i sometimes dislike this part of who i am – why cant i be content with the “american dream”? it would mean i could be there for my nephew’s fifth birthday party.
many people say they will travel when they retire. but for wanderlust, retirement is too late. most of the time people think you are on a trip that will have to come to an end. but for us, it is a way of life that we are made for. the lust we have to traipse across this world cannot be satisfied by a week’s stay in hawaii.
it is satisfied through being an outsider looking into a world that you do not understand. it is intentionally realizing that you, yourself are so small in a world so great. it is a humbling experience to know that your ideals and morals are for your own compass but cannot be everyone else’s. it is the education that you cannot fully receive by being in one place your whole life. you have to be okay with change. you have to be okay with putting everything into question about what you thought was absolute or “the way things are supposed to be”.
i realize that it cannot be everyone’s identity.
it is not everyone’s agenda.
it is not everyone’s truth.
but it is mine.
so for the sake of the original instagram argument, i wont call my cats “kids” if you dont call your desire for a vacation at sandals resort your “wanderlust”.