Wanderlust has pulsed in my inner life, leading me to reach for new places and experiences, since at least the third grade. That’s the first clear memory I have of the euphoria of anticipating a trip. My aunt and uncle had invited me to join them and my younger cousin for a weeklong visit to southern California. Southern California. I remember naming the place as if it were exotic, telling anyone who would listen about this fantastical locale I would be visiting. A place of beaches and the world renowned San Diego Zoo. A place, in fact, only seven hours away by car down I-5, but seven hours is an approximation of eternity for an eight-year-old.
With each new year of my life the longing to be away has lingered. In high school half the fun of youth group was going away to camp or leaving the country for the first time on a short term missions trip. I fantasized about going away to college, which would turn out to be for naught. Instead I honeymooned with my husband, deeply in love with him and the moonlight we shared over the Pacific. In the midst of childbearing years, overwhelmed by the necessary but often stifling grip of my place, I marked time by our family trips to Disneyland. Each new year as I survey our calendar, travel is still at the forefront of my mind; where will this year take us?
This longing has made home a complicated concept for me. Home is the place I’m always leaving behind. Home is the liminal space of return before going away again. It’s the place to hang your hat so you can grab it on your way out into the wide world beyond the lintel.
The problem with wanderlust, like it’s root lust, is that it implicitly never reaches fulfillment. It’s always one foot out the door, ready to take off the moment the wheels touch down. Wanderlust is ever-searching, ever-seeking, an ever-moving target, but through this chase I am learning the necessity of home. There is no leaving without a starting point. Planes need hangars. Ships need harbors. Humans need homes.
A few years ago I decided to redecorate our front room. This was a big deal for me as I’d never had much interest in interior design. I would much rather put that money elsewhere—toward taking us elsewhere, actually. But a strange thing happened as I invested in bringing beauty to an otherwise somewhat barren space. I began to find my place in it, right here among pictures and trivialities of our travels. I placed the vintage children’s atlas of South America I used to read at my grandparent’s house on top of a freshly painted (and artfully distressed) armoire. I hung a framed map of Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise above a small wooden shelf, which holds a jar of sand dollars I had collected on Pismo Beach.
Like the rest of my life, this room is always in-progress. As is the rest of the house the beautification project eventually spilled over into. I am learning that I need a place to belong, and so does my family. My utilitarian view of home as a space to keep my place between adventures robbed me of much present joy. My hyperopic vision, with eyes always trained to the horizon, made me blind to the fecund soil beneath me, the taproots of the little lives digging in around me. Home wasn’t trying to tie me down and bind me to the crumb-covered, sticky floor. Home was inviting me to deepen my own roots. Wanderlust feels as much a permanent part of me as anything, and I’m learning this desire to be away isn’t inherently wrong, but it can’t be at the cost of the great treasure within these walls. There are countless places I’d like to visit, but I get to live here.
Aleah Marsden is the Communications Director for Living Bread Ministries and handles social media for Redbud Writers Guild. Her writing can be found in publications like Christianity Today and Books & Culture, as well as a handful of devotionals in the NIV Bible for Women: Fresh Insights for Thriving in Today’s World (Zondervan, 2015). She has spoken at numerous women’s events, moms’ groups, and retreats. She blogs about life, faith, and her travels at AleahMarsden.com. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (which is her favorite).