Wanderlust can be described as a strong desire or impulse to explore the world, to travel to new and far off places, to discover the exotic and unfamiliar. Life can be chaotic and unexpected at times, and even though one’s sense of wanderlust may be great, there might not always be the opportunity to travel. Anyone who possesses wanderlust knows very well there is a constant, almost insatiable need to fill this void. For this reason, for me, having wanderlust is not always just about traveling somewhere physically; it’s also about trying to discover the interesting and exotic that surrounds you.
As a child, I always had the need to wander, to explore. As one of my favorite pastimes, I used to try to purposely get “lost” as a means of discovering someplace new. (Needless to say, I almost gave my parents a few near heart attacks here and there when I would just “disappear” for hours at a time). Growing up, I was always drawn to Hispanic culture, as well as the Spanish language. It could have stemmed from the fact that I grew up just outside of Washington, DC and in an area heavily populated by Hispanics, I found myself constantly surrounded by Latin American influences. My inclination towards Latin American culture it could be due to the fact that my high school had a large Hispanic presence and I whenever my friends invited me to “Latin parties”, I found they were just more fun. Or it could be that that almost failing Spanish I my freshman year in high school and then having to re-rake it my sophomore year, made me all the more confident and proficient in the language. I like to think that my passion and appreciation for Hispanic culture comes from a variety of influences. After repeating the year of Spanish, I found that I was actually quite good it, and began to really like it, so much so I decided to make it one of my majors as an undergrad at Virginia Tech, a decision which led me on a study abroad adventure in Spain, where I was able to experience the Running of the Bulls, living with a homestay, and discovering Spanish culture. It was this experience that sparked my inherent need to travel and experience other cultures and languages that for me were more vibrant and exciting than my own.
Upon graduating from Virginia Tech with my Bachelors degree and double major in Spanish and International Studies, I discovered that I wasn’t finished yet. I wanted to keep learning about Spanish and Latin American culture, and most of all, I wanted to improve my Spanish. It was then I decided to go to grad school to study Spanish and Latin American studies. I had no idea at the time what kind of career possibilities awaited me, but I didn’t care, it’s what I was interested in, and what I wanted to do.
My studies inspired me to discover Latin America on more of a personal level, not just through books. So I decided to wander. I found myself living along side the Kuna people of Panama, playing with sloths in Costa Rica, beach hopping in Uruguay and Colombia, getting stuck in a snowstorm in the Andes en route to Chile, and eventually ending up in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I lived for almost two years.
Though I’m currently living in Washington, DC, I continue to seek out the Latin American influences around me. I teach Spanish because it allows me to continue to speak Spanish, and talk about Spanish and Latin American culture all day. I write for a Latin American magazine because it gives me opportunity to do something I love, writing, while allowing me to fill some of the void to experience other cultures. I am essentially paid for going to Latin music concerts, cultural events, restaurants, in other words, things I would normally do anyway. Wanderlust for me doesn’t always mean you have to travel physically to another country; it’s also about finding outlets to fulfill the need to experience other cultures.