Mother of four, Christian, reader, runner
I first heard the word wanderlust as an exchange student during high school. It is a German word meaning the irresistible desire to travel. For years I felt called to explore the world, to immerse myself in other cultures, and to encounter the unknown. Now that I have 4 children, my ability to travel has changed, but not my desire. I’ve realized, though, that it’s no longer just about me. I relish the wonder in the eyes of my children as they try new foods and attempt to talk to people who don’t share their language and culture. I feel excitement when I overhear them tell other kids about our trips. I believe that traveling with children is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give. Not only does it show them that the world is much larger than they ever imagined, but it also inspires confidence and a drive to learn and try new things. It teaches children acceptance of people who are different from them. And if we are lucky, they inherit a touch of wanderlust too.
A little anecdote:
I cried myself to sleep often during those first lonely months of my year as an exchange student. I did not speak a word of German and my host parents spoke no English. I spent many dinners trying desperately to understand what they were talking about, why they were laughing, and wondering what they thought of me. I can recall sitting at the table with their extended family during a birthday party and finally mustering up the courage to say something. “Ich bin heiss,” I stammered. It was a sweltering day and I figured small talk would be a good place to start. Suddenly, all eyes were on me and boisterous laughter erupted. I gathered that I had not, in fact, clearly communicated that I was hot. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, but let’s just say I blurted out an adult innuendo. As horrified as I was, this moment was a break through. I figured I could not embarrass myself any more than I already had. I began to talk to other students at school and study in my room at night before bed. After 6 months, I had a dream in German and began to really engage people in conversation. I became comfortable riding the bus by myself, ordering in a restaurant, and making friends. Once I shed my fear, the world began to open up for me. I was so excited to experience more of what was out there.