Thought Catalog
March 18, 2016

Forget Wanderlust, There Are Unexplored Worlds All Around You

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Paolo Raeli
Paolo Raeli

I love to travel. I love the excitement of packing bags, the rush of a plane taking off, the smell of sky and earth in a new place. Even the anticipation of standing in a security line at the airport gives me a rush.

I love that there are so many places and worlds that are unexplored. So many foods I haven’t tried, so many faces I haven’t smiled at, so much sand I haven’t yet ran my fingers through.

I think there’s a little bit of wanderlust in each of us. This underneath-our-layers desire to explore, to discover, to fall in love with what we’ve never known or seen. It’s beautiful.

But it’s not everything.

So often I see people, 20-somethings in particular, that gravitate to the idea of traveling, of leaving everything you’ve known behind, of picking up your life, packing it into a little bag and going. In many ways, this is incredibly inspiring. I love to see people’s passion as they set off chasing their dreams, finding themselves in foreign places.

Their worlds are exciting and new. It’s amazing, really. And a part me of understands. After my junior year of college, I too, went abroad. Not out of fearlessness like the men and women I admire, but out of a desire to see and understand what I didn’t even know existed. And I loved every minute.

I spent every single day of those three weeks soaking it all in. I tried every strange and terrifying food, walked through each hole-in-the-wall bar, sipped strange beers and wines, and stood in awed silence in front of every beautiful painting and piece of architecture—I was captivated by the experience, by the feeling of being somewhere new and rediscovering what was important, who I was.

In many ways traveling allows you to see, clearly, what life really means. You realize what’s important. And you see that you’re incredibly small in a world of millions of people, thousands of beautifully carved sculptures, breath-taking paintings, and structures built from specks of rock.

But even in all that wanderlust wonderment, I still feel so strongly about this: you don’t need to travel the world to find who you are.

There are thousands of unexplored worlds all around you—the lives of the people on the streets, the homes of your neighbors, the silent rooftops, the halls of the elementary school where you can volunteer to read to struggling readers, the local museum where paintings decorate every empty surface.

There is the unknown, uncharted mind of an artist, whose dips and swirls of the brush create a new world. The thoughts of a homeless man, curled up next to the steps of a bank, or the recovering alcoholic, who runs as a means of fighting his addiction.

There are books to be read, music to be listened to, voices and memories to soak in. There are people and places and entire worlds outside your front door, just waiting to be discovered. And you can find yourself in all of it.

I believe in wanderlust. I believe in exploring, in being outside of your comfort zone, of embracing something new and being unafraid to leave what you’ve always known.

But you can have wanderlust for the places and lives around you.

You can explore what you’ve overlooked, what’s been right in front of you, begging to be opened, begging for the layers to be peeled back.

And then, when you open to this life that exists in the streets and smiles outside your home, you can find yourself, see yourself clearly, and discover all that you’ve missed, bright and beautiful before your eyes. TC mark