I'm teaching another travel writing class for Catapult, starting Feb 29

War and wanderlust

I have an affliction: a serious case of wanderlust. But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to travel, I can almost hear you say. And, true, there isn’t. But when travel turns into an addiction – and even trickier, a profession – it becomes a double-edged sword.

There’s the lack of a “normal life”. No matter what I start gets interrupted by yet another trip. No personal project sees the light of day because the traveling takes over. Social life begins to suffer – my friends never think I’m around so they don’t bother calling or inviting me to events.

Now that I’ve spent six straight weeks in New York – hurray! – I have actually begun to feel what it’s like to let roots down, to truly belong to a physical place. Those calls and invites have started to come in. My small daily routines have set in. Yet I already know it won’t last. Even though I have articles and projects aplenty to take me through April without having to accept another trip, I am struggling to resist the call of the open road.

Here’s a metaphor for what it feels like: Imagine a heroin junkie trying real hard to kick the habit. Then somebody waves a bag of heroin in front of her face. Well, that bag-waving happens to me, on a weekly basis.

Since my travel embargo took full effect in early December, I received the following trip invitations: Cook Islands, the Brazilian Amazon, Desert Springs, Curaçao, a Northern Lights cruise in Norway, Taiwan and Hong Kong & Hainan Island. While it’s relatively easy to say no to a few days in Desert Springs, how does one turn down ten days in the South Pacific or a week of frolicking around China. Tough, right? Especially for a travel addict.

I’ve often wondered where this intense wanderlust comes from. Recently I’ve started to think more often and with more intensity about my lost home, the country once called Yugoslavia. For years I suppressed the memories of what happened during the breakup of my native land. On a self-imposed exile since 1993, I had to give myself emotional anesthesia in order to move on. It was easier that way.

The day I left Croatia marked the start of my peripatetic existence. The journey has since taken me all over the world. Yet all along there’s been a sense of missing something, like a phantom pain, an amputated sense of belonging. And I couldn’t let those roots down. Even after finding the closest I’ve ever felt to a true home, New York, I still kept on traveling. Obsessively. I even turned my addiction into a profession! A boon, sure, yet also a curse.

Hence everthenomad, hence travel writing, hence the serial globetrotting… But, frankly, if I could give it all up to erase the war that swept my old country, if I could turn back the clock to a time before any of us, children of Atlantis, knew what it means to be adrift, I would – in a snap.

I wonder if war can lead to wanderlust…

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