For about a month I was behind the great firewall of China, which blocked access to a bunch of sites including Facebook and Gmail. Originally I’m from California, and the reason I’m in China is because I’m an English teacher here. There are many reasons why I am an English teacher here, with one of them being wanderlust. Without Facebook, social media, and Gmail for about a month, I began to feel distraught and out of touch with home. Naturally, I grew curious about home, so I decided to invest in VPN (software that bypassed the firewall), which gave me access to the people I missed through the internet.
Shortly after I unblocked the sites, I began to scroll through my newsfeed on Facebook and noticed some trends. Now that I’m 27, people were getting married, some were buying property, and some even had kids. My friends were starting to settle down. This was normal. This was expected. This was not especially surprising because it was what people are supposed to do. But I couldn’t help but feel slightly alarmed. These trends represented the antithesis of my projected trajectory in life as a wanderlust.
Teaching English all over the world as a career is not a typical career, but it does have some advantages for a wanderlust. You can save up money. You can meet all kinds of people and be exposed to all kinds of cultures. You can continue to explore indefinitely. The drawback if you are addicted to social media like me is that you spend your days watching the lives of friends and family grow apart from you while you fade into obscurity as a stranger in their minds.
Is wanderlust something that humans are naturally interested in or is stability a more common desire? The concept of land ownership wasn’t always the norm for humanity after all. I mean, we have to go back to the Native American Indians for those times, but I do believe humans naturally have a propensity to explore, and I don’t think it is a natural human desire to dress in business professional attire working the same monotonous job from 9-5 with the same repetitive routines every day.
For that month where I didn’t have access to my regular sites, I started writing a lot more and thinking a lot more about what constituted natural human life. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that capitalism was an anthill with hierarchical structures which provided social prestige to those at the top. Meanwhile, the underprivileged and oppressed, which constitutes the vast majority of the world, languished at the bottom. This was an unsavory thought that I became inundated with.
One of the centerpieces of capitalism is ownership. “Why is ownership of something so gratifying?” I kept wondering to myself. Wouldn’t I rather have experiences such as traversing the actual Great Wall, climbing the Yellow Mountains, or exploring the Forbidden City in Beijing as opposed to flashing a $2,000 watch/ring/other accessory that would inevitably erode with time? Wouldn’t I rather get lost in awesome historical sites than constantly worry about the possibility of losing my material shit?
As I sit there with my thoughts and my notes, I feel content with my wanderlusting life until I think of home. But when I’m home I start to feel wanderlust. The 20’s always seems to be full of conflicting desires, of having the cake and eating it too. Two roads are diverging in the yellow wood and I want to take the one less traveled which I know will make all the difference, but home will always be where the heart is.