That clever north wind
What is that makes some of us have the irresistible urge to travel, constantly looking to the horizon for the next destination, while others feel happier putting down their anchors and creating a fixed and permanent abode?
I’m not talking about the almost inevitable OE that has been a rite of passage for many a high school and university graduate.
I mean the kind of wanderlust that some people never seem to satisfy, like an incurable itch.
There are those that work simply to travel, or deliberately look for job opportunities that keep their frequent flier status securely at gold level, while others would be content to live in the same house, in the same life, for decades, travelling only for a brief respite for a well-earned holiday when time and finances allow.
My own early childhood sat firmly in the wandering camp. My parents had a robust case of wanderlust, and admirably (I think), instead of simply deciding that having children meant the end of whatever adventures they still had the desire to chase, they took us along for the ride.
The first ten years of my life were spent between various locations in New Zealand, Australia, England and America.
I travelled more in the first ten years, than many do in their entire life time. We did not stay anywhere longer than two years, most places were much less.
By the time my 10th birthday rolled around, I had attended six different schools in three different countries. Sometimes we owned a farm, sometimes a house. Sometimes we rented – sometimes sensible brick suburban homes, other times ancient national trust houses with secret rooms and attics with narrow winding staircases.
We drove a station wagon around Europe, a Ford Bronco through America and a Toyota Hilux across Eastern Australia. My parents were not (thankfully) the Disneyland kind of travellers: it was always about the historythe Castles, the Abbeys, little towns with cobbled streets, motels with dark staircases worn down from literally centuries of traveller’s feet.
Joanne Harris in ‘Chocolat’ (read it if you haven’t already) talks about ‘the clever North Wind’, that would blow through your window, into your life, giving you the almost irresistible urge to break free of your moorings and follow the stars to the ends of the earth.
I could always feel when we were to up sticks and move, it was never a surprise, it was expected. Where next? Then, two weeks before my 10th birthday, we settled. On a farm, by the ocean.
When the opportunity came to move again, and the North Wind blew once again for our family, we chose to ignore it. We had enough. Settling is not necessarily the lack lustre choice, and wandering is not always the path of the reckless.
As with most things, it comes down to intention.
If you are settling because it brings contentment, the chance to join a community, create long term friends, and to ground yourself, then great. Nothing boring here.
If you wander to see the world, to change your perspective, to liberate yourself from things that are no longer true for you, and if material possessions are not a priority, then fantastic.
However, if you are settling just because you feel it’s the done thing, something to check off the list of what is expected of you; or your intrepid journeys are more about self-escape than selfdiscovery, then maybe it’s time for a little soul searching.
Interestingly, scientists have discovered and isolated the gene for wanderlust, not so romantically called DRD4-7R.
If you have nomadic ancestors, it’s more likely that wanderlust is literally in your DNA.
As for me, nomadic genes or not, my life is very clearly a happily settled one. Sometimes though, when the North Wind blows, I can feel an ember of wanderlust reigniting.
At this point, I slam the window on it, and stamp out the ashes.
One day, maybe I won’t.