That clever north wind

Northern Outlook - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

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.

Claire Ink­son

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