ON MY THIRTIETH birthday – a while ago – a friend showed me a cartoon parody of a high-school reunion. It depicted a group of thirtysomethings reuniting two decades after graduation. One of them boasted, ‘I have a secure job, a spouse and a good retirement plan. What about you?’ The person next to him answered, ‘I climbed the peaks of the Andes, lived with the indigenous community in the Amazon, and photographed a pride of lions for National Geographic.’ I was aware this was only an exaggerated parody of life-choices and their consequences, but I also instinctively knew which choice I had already made. Since I can remember, I have wanted to travel. I was born in communist Poland where little travel was possible, yet I spent hours reading books about faraway lands, dreaming that one day I would visit them. My uncle was a sailor and I worshipped him. He was a mysterious and adventurous figure, removed from the mundane normalities of life. In my imagination I saw him visiting islands that looked like pearls scattered on the crossroads of the oceans. His room was always locked and I imagined the treasures that must have been hidden there. Since then I have lived, worked, studied and travelled extensively in both Americas, the Caribbean Islands, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. Even now, having settled in Melbourne, I am still guilty of nomadic tendencies. It is not just a love of experiencing new places that drives me. It is an inner impulse irresistible in its power; an intuitive knowledge that travel is the key to who we are.
It was not until I entered academia, first as a student, then as a lecturer, that I learned of the fashionable assumption that wanderlust is a modern invention. Undoubtedly, new technological advances in transportation and information technology have helped us to move around with greater efficiency and speed and to more easily visit faraway places. Not only do more of us travel, but even more people would like to participate in the great movement of people and capital. Terms such as ‘global nomads’ and ‘ethnoscapes’ have a stronger presence in our lives than a decade ago. And although I admit this is true, I also believe that the desire to travel is as ancient as human imagination. Human beings have always loved to move from place to place. Irreverent as it might sound, wanderlust is not a modern invention or, as some would have it, a modern malaise. It is a natural state of being for us. In our hearts, we have always been nomadic.
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