By: Andrea Weidel
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is that being content is a choice. Contentment be hard for anyone, but especially those with wander-lusting hearts. Everyone has moments where we dream about what could be or what we think should be. There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, those moments are what keep me going when it seems like my dreams will never come true. The problem is when we live in those moments.
I spent most of my teenage years wishing I was somewhere else. I was discontent with a lot about my life, but the travel bug hit me the hardest. My first two years of college followed much of the same pattern. My mantra was “everything will be better when…” I dwelt on the fact that friends were studying abroad or going out of state for school and I was still in little old upstate NY.
As my major changed and the likelihood that I would stay in this area after graduating grew I knew something had to change. There had to be something here that called to me besides my family and friends. My hometown had a bad rap and the city (Buffalo) I was in the suburbs of had an even worse one, but I determined to find places I could enjoy.
As with most things in my life, this started with coffee. I downloaded the Yelp! app and realized there was an adorable coffee shop less then eight miles away. In fact, it’d been there for almost a year and I had no idea! I visited the next weekend, was completely charmed by the owners and bought the best chai latte I’d ever tasted. I realized it was my fault for dwelling in what I wanted to be instead of going out and exploring what was around me. If I couldn’t travel the world quite yet, I was going to travel my region as hard and long as I could.
It took a bit longer for me to explore other cities and towns in the area, but I was grateful to attend a University that was only 20 minutes from Buffalo. Soon I began getting downtown whenever I could, even if it was just once a month. Art festivals, coffee shops and a whole host of cheap or free events drew me into the city. At the same time I began to notice that Buffalo was thriving. By this point I’d been charmed by the history, culture and small size of the city, and was determined to participate in its return to “glory”
A year-and- a-half after visiting that coffee shop (which has since closed!) I’ve fallen head-over-heels for my part of the world. My deliberate actions to explore bled over into other areas of my life as well. I got involved in my church again, called or texted my friends first and continued to explore New York. I chose to be content.
I began to realize that the old saying, ‘the grass isn’t greener on the other side; it’s green where you water it’ had a lot of truth. You can’t sit around waiting for life to happen to you. Sure, driving 40 minutes downtown isn’t the same as flying to Thailand, but that thrill of stepping into a new cafe or museum, or stumbling upon hidden street art is the best balm for my wandering heart.
If you’re in the same situation: you want to travel so badly but just can’t right now, for whatever reason, here’s my advice. First, get off your butt, download Yelp onto your phone and fill your gas tank. I don’t care if you’re in the middle of a city or 45 minutes away from the nearest Target. Figure out what you’d like to do: hike, sip a latte, photograph nature, wander through a museum, and go do it. Second, invest in the people around you. Be the one to make plans and open your home and heart when you can. Third, break out of your comfort zone, whatever that is. Go back to your old haunts with new eyes and do or order something different. Sit in a different area of your home with a new tea blend and write, edit, watch Netflix or whatever it is you love.
It’s about the simple stuff, friends. You don’t need to empty your wallet or drive all day to have new adventures. You have wanderlust in your heart – go wander.