Monday, December 23, 2013


I have favorite trails, favorite fishing holes, favorite songs, favorite roads, favorite movies, favorite books… the list is long. But it wasn’t until recently that I decided on a favorite word: wanderlust. Or, wanderlust! with an exclamation point. It’s a word that, if enunciated properly, should have sort of a growling drawl to it – it’s of German origin, after all – with a bit of lingering emphasis on the “s” in “lust.” It should also be accompanied by some sort of vigorous hand gesture, like a fist pump. Of course, the fact that the word “lust” is a prominent part of it adds the sort of sauciness to it that makes it almost inappropriate around children or gentlewomen. I can picture a guy with a cigar clenched between his teeth. I can’t picture my preacher’s wife saying it. (Okay, actually I can picture Molly saying it, but she’d at least look over her shoulder first to make sure no one else was listening.)
Settling on a favorite word has not been a life-long quest. I haven’t lain awake at night wondering and wrestling over my options. In fact, I’m not sure having a “favorite word” is something to be proud of or to bother writing about. After all, only a nerd would have a favorite word, and although nerds are actually the ones who will run the world, no one wants to be called a “nerd.” So writing about a favorite word is an exercise in treading on thin ice.
Nevertheless, a strong desire to travel is something I somehow picked up from my mother, either through nature or nurture or both. When I was just a kid, she’d entrust the road maps to me as we’d drive from Florida to California or New York. I was the navigator, and I still am. I enjoy surrounding myself with maps and planning a trip almost as much as I enjoy actually travelling.
But I lust after the travelling, too. The actual getting in the car and driving for days, noticing the odd names of the towns and roads, hearing the change in accent of the waitresses in the restaurants, watching the landscape change, asking for tea and getting a cup of hot tea (instead of iced tea as God intended). I’ve never been very interested in flying, mainly because it’s like being in a time – or in this case, a space – machine. You step into the chamber in Tennessee, sit in a seat for a few hours, and step out in Colorado. It’s magic.
People who prefer to travel by air don’t really have a serious case of wanderlust. They have destinationlust, I guess. They like to visit new places, without truly travelling. They like to be there, but they don’t like to actually go there. I know that sometimes flying just makes more sense – both time-wise and money-wise – but I still prefer a long, hard road trip that starts at dawn and ends well after sunset, and maybe even dawn tomorrow. I’ll blame it on my Dutch and English ancestors who apparently had strong Puritanical tendencies which require a dose of pain and suffering in every meaningful life experience.
I’ve been on a few hikes with folks who seem totally unconcerned about where we started, where we’ll end, and how we’ll get there. They just enjoy being outdoors. While the rest of us huddle around the map to check the names of creeks and ridges and the topo lines that define them, they sit quietly, eating an apple and staring at the trees or listening to the river sing. Now that I’ve written that, I see that just walking and then sitting is a perfectly reasonable approach to a day outdoors, but I can’t do it. I’ve gotta know where I am and where things are.

Which reminds me… a rather significant event in my life happened at 35° 33’ 44” North and 83° 48’ 2” West. It was the Fourth of July… [To be continued.]