Caution, Wanderlust

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When I was a child, my mom used to get so exasperated with me. She and my nannies and a veritable army of…well, actual soldiers, would spend an entire afternoon looking for me through the woods in Camp Lapu-Lapu (a military camp, where I grew up). I would saunter back into the house just as the sun was about to set completely covered in dirt, mud, scrapes, and smiles. My mom used to tell me that I stank to high heaven, too and the first order of business was always to throw me in the bathroom and order a bath.

Asa naman sad ka gikan?” (And where have you been this time?) and “Asa naman sad ka nalagput karon?” (Where have you been thrown to this time around?) As a semi-literal translation goes.

I would tell her about my adventures. Did you know there is a creek to the west side of the camp? And my mom would exclaim that a child had died in that creek (which sadly only piqued my interest in said creek). Did you know there are people living in the woods and they own pigs? My mom would sigh and tell me that they were squatters on government land and my dad would have to do something about them.  I saw two dogs stuck together from the butt. A statement my mom never followed up with anything. Now, I know why. I found a new way to the back of Daddy’s office. My dad worked on the top of the highest hill in the largest white building in the camp. The front was a meticulously designed garden with acres and acres of marching grounds. The back was an unpaved parking lot that bordered the woods. My mom would sigh. You have to be careful, mi hija.

Then we would get to the point where she would have to scrub my feet. I wore flip flops everywhere. It was almost always dusty, dirty and muddy wherever I happened to be. She would seat me on the toilet bowl cover, put a basin of water which was a mix of the lukewarm tap and water specifically boiled to clean…well, me. She would dip a washcloth into the warm water and start to scrub my feet, making sure to clean my heels and in between the toes. I would squirm and complain, but it was a ritual, almost.

We would eventually get to the dark mole on the side of my right foot, just beneath the ankle bone. More than once, she would sigh and point to it. “La-agan gyud ka, tan-awon palang.” (No straight translation comes to mind, but it means something like I am stricken with wanderlust just by the very sign of it.)

To this day, my tendency to be anywhere but home is both a joking and sore point with my mother. I never stay home on the weekends and most nights I do wander off before stumbling home. When I stay home for too long, I feel suffocated, like there was somewhere else I should be. Once, my parents had gotten mad at me for pushing my brother off the swing (hey, I was 6!) and they told me I could not go outside. I normally would have howled and caused a tantrum when I didn’t get my way. But this time, they thought it was so eerie how I simply stood in front of the window and stared outside, tears silently streaming down my face. I didn’t make a single sound. It was like I lost my spirit.

I do that at work too, almost every day (minus the crying, of course). My bosses and co-workers have noticed my tendency to spend at least a minute or two each day just staring out the window in silence.

I explained that it was this urge, this longing to be outside at all times. I have to move. I have to see something different. I have to feel the sun beating against my skin. I have to feel the ground beneath me as I walk towards somewhere…anywhere. I have to.

As I grew up, it became a driving need for knowledge and adventure. I had to meet these people I’ve read about in encyclopedias. I have to see the culture I have only seen on tv. I have to listen to the languages I have only ever heard on tape. I have to taste the food I’ve only ever seen pictures of. I have to. I want to know for myself whether something is true and real. To me, the only way to do that is to experience it.

You see, I have never been the person who couldn’t sleep when they were somewhere new. I have been comfortable on the floor, on hay, on a giant mattress, on a hammock, on the sand, on a carpet, on anywhere. I can sleep in a cramped car, in the bed of a pick-up truck, in a camper, and even on the hood of my car. I’ve never had a problem with unfamiliarity. I embraced it and occasionally, I’ve actually yearned to be somewhere utterly unfamiliar and new. Do you know how utterly amazing and mesmerizing it is to do, feel, and be something entirely new? I would follow that feeling wherever it takes me in this world.

However, later on, as life became more complicated (as it surely does when you become, gasp, an adult) it became a need to escape. I had my heart broken and I had to run away. I had to see places and things and people that didn’t remind me of him. I was overwhelmed with the decisions I’d made in the direction of my life, so inexplicably (or rather, because of it), I found myself turning towards the exact opposite direction.

Wanderlust–as strangely driving a need as it is can be dangerous. I’ve become a flight risk even to my own family. They look at me with unsteady eyes–their gazes asking me if I will be around for long enough. I’ve left what I call “home” in shambles because I cannot stay long enough to build one. Sometimes, the life I supposedly live in is a mess because I’m too busy living somewhere else.

It’s exhausting. Suitcase to suitcase. Miles and miles. Jumping from one adventure to another.

It’s financially draining. Simply because this is how the world works. To get somewhere, you have to pay for it.

And finally, it’s lonely.

When you need something different all the time, when the scenery has to change all the time, when the experience has to be different every time…it’s hard to find someone who can stay along with that and fulfill that. I’ve demanded new adventures, experiences and lifestyles of the same person before. It’s not fair. I know this.

And so now I’m a little bit older. A little bit more settled into adulthood that I’ve realized I cannot simply runaway from growing up. I’ve stayed in one place long enough to see that I do want that silence, that comfort of the same bed every night. I’ve started to envy the way fingers from two hands just learn to fit perfectly into each other instinctively.

I’ve started to question the need for the giddiness and spark in exchange for comfort and safety.

I don’t know. There’s only so far that wanderlust can take me. I need to settle down within myself long enough to find what’s missing. And that, my friends, is what I need to do now.

On a brighter note: March sends me Tahoe, April to Los Angeles and Dallas, May to the Philippines, June to Chicago, August to Las Vegas and Cabo, and October to New Orleans…yeah, I’m pretty broke right about now. But I’m so excited.

Hey, I never said Wanderlust was entirely bad, just that…y’know, I had to tone it down a bit.


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