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Italian Holiday


Lana Hawk

Wanderlust: a strong desire to travel

Yep. That about sums it up. The world is a fascinating place and I want to see it all. That hasn’t always been the case. I used to be content living in my own little world of small town Indiana and then small town Northwest Arkansas. I was fine seeing the same people and places and doing the same thing I always did. I was fine. Now, don’t get me wrong. I left those places and traveled across the US and to places like Mexico and the Dominican Republic. I even went on a mission trip to Honduras in college, but nothing prepared me for the change that happened when I went to live in London after graduation. I’m not sure what drove me to do it, but I decided to get a temporary work visa, connect with a substitute teacher agency, and up and move. I knew one person there with connections to two others. I went with no place to live outside of a hostel for a month, no set job, a limited amount of money, and having never traveled Europe before in my life. What was I thinking? There is no explanation outside of divine intervention that led me to London that year, but to say I am glad would be a gross understatement. Outside of marriage, there is no experience that has changed my heart and soul more than those six months. I had traveled before, but my vacations to the beach surrounded by other Americans were relaxing, not life changing. How can they be? They involved me experiencing the same life just in a different geographic location. London was different.

My six months in London introduced me to new ideas, cultures, viewpoints, and people.  Despite living paycheck to paycheck, commuting 3-4 hours each day, spending Thanksgiving and Christmas away from family, and working day-to-day in area schools; I would do it all again. Because despite the stress and sometimes overwhelming existence I had over there, I also had a neverending list of new experiences. I rode public transport daily including planes-trains-automobiles to work and across the continent, worked with all British colleagues, lived with four South Africans, met a neverending stream of Aussies and Kiwis, and rarely hung out with other Americans outside of my dear friend (and fellow wanderlust believer), Kym. I wandered solo through art museums, ran for buses, grocery shopped like a true Brit (Sainsbury shoutout), experienced the 100 days of darkness in London, and drank… a lot of tea. Seriously, a lot. And that was just London. The thing with London is it brings the rest of Europe to your doorstep. From there I saw Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Hungary, and Switzerland. I ate a crepe at sunset overlooking the Eiffel Tower. I wandered the Louvre for hours by myself seeing some of the most incredible art in the entire world. I skied in the Alps for crying out loud, which was quite the shock to my system after having only skied the hills of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Ask my brother, we’ve got stories of epic falls. I toured the Highlands of Scotland followed by Edinburgh Castle and a warm plate of haggis. I even had the chance to see and experience Budapest, Hungary with three Hungarians and two Austrians.

Since my London days, I’ve had the chance to return and see the coast of the Mediterranean, the David in Florence, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the stained glass windows of Sante-Chapelle in Paris, floor to ceiling mosaics of St. Mark’s in Venice, and the Colosseum in Rome. Two years ago, my husband and I spent five days staying in an apartment in Vienna that belonged to a family friend who happens to be German. We spent everyday walking through Naschmarkt indulging on falafel and pastries. We explored the city via a bike tour with a local guide. We ate Sache Torte and lingered in Vienna’s famous coffee houses. We even had the Liechtenstein Castle all to ourselves for a tour. Vienna became “our city” for the week because we let it. All of these experiences changed me, not because I left the country, but because I left the country AND experienced the culture and people. I saw history come alive and gained a new perspective. And to me, that is what travel is all about.

So why do I travel? Because every time I travel, I change for the better. Recently, one of my college friends went to Europe for the first time spending six weeks in London. You know what she said when she returned? “I didn’t know traveling would change me this much.” How true that statement is. You can’t fully understand or believe it until you experience something truly new and eye opening. Each time I see a new place, the world becomes both smaller and larger at the same time. I feel more connected to places across the globe (smaller), but I also come to realize how small I am and how truly vast and varied this world is.

So my advice to you? Go. I beg you, GO! Go see something you’ve never seen before and do something you’ve never done before. Make the sacrifices, save the money, hop on a plane, and see the world. And while you’re there, experience the culture, meet new people, allow your eyes to be opened to a different perspective, and allow yourself to be changed. You won’t regret it and you certainly won’t forget it.