“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”W.B. Yeats
Odds are good you’ve heard the word wanderlust, which means a strong desire to travel. Wonderlust is a term I use to describe another calling: the desire to live a delighted, awe-inspired life.
the desire to live a wonder-full life
Someone with a case of wanderlust may watch videos about faraway places, fill a map with destination pins, and travel as often as possible. Someone with wonderlust will stay curious, revel in human connection, cultivate creativity, explore the natural world, and live deeply.
I wonder is a question, a longing to learn more and make new connections.
A wonder is a cause of amazement or astonishment.
What do you wonder about?
What wonders are in your life?
Wonder can be found in relationships, creativity, and the natural world. Wonderlust thrives when we do three things:
- Get curious about the human connections, creative pursuits, and parts of nature that ignite wonderlust in our life.
- Acknowledge and prioritize the experiences that feed our wonderlust.
- Stay curious about what nourishes our wonderlust and be open to an evolving sense of wonder.
Take a moment to consider the wonders already present in your life. Which relationships bring you joy? Where does creativity pop up in your life? Do you spend time in nature or considering the natural world?
Maybe your mind is zooming with the ingredients of wonderlust already in your life. Or maybe the thoughts are slower to come and you’re having difficulty remembering the last time you felt awe. Either way, it’s time to get curious.
Revel in Human Connection
Let’s start with a few examples of how to revel in human connection:
- Falling in love.
- Welcoming a baby into your family.
- Listening to your child laugh.
- Conversing on deep thoughts with a friend.
- Hearing someone describe a feeling or experience you feared was unique to you.
- Seeing someone who you’ve missed.
- Saying something at the same time as someone else.
- Being wrapped in a needed hug.
The possibilities are as diverse and endless as the number of people and personalities. So, how do you acknowledge and prioritize relationships and connections in your life?
I’m married. I’m a mother to two kids. I have a fantastic circle of friends. My life is supported, delighted, and made wonder-full by all of them. But I still had to learn to revel in our shared connection.
When you see your spouse everyday, it becomes easy to dismiss deeper conversations in favor of asking “How was your day?” and only expecting one word answers from each other.
I love my children so much my heart aches when I think about them for more than a moment. My heart strings are attached to beings outside my body. I worry for them. I try to guide them. I would die for them. And yet it’s easy to lose sight of this tremendous love in the face of everyday life—to snap when patience wears thin or ignore when dishes fill the sink.
My core circle of friends and I meet once a week almost like clockwork. We rely on one another for advice and understanding. Yet, there are things I do not share with them and know they do the same. We fall into the same trap I recognized in my marriage—a quick check-in of how our week has gone answered with quick, cursory replies.
This is the norm for most of us. It’s not wrong, but it’s not wonderlust. These thoughtless actions do not lead to the most fulfilling life possible.
I’ve learned how to revel in relationships and I’m still learning. It requires vulnerability, honesty, loyalty, and attention to our affection. Intentional relationships focused on those traits will thrive and fill your inner well of wonderlust.
Creativity is an essential part of wonderlust. Whether we are creating alone or appreciating the creativity of others, art in all its forms brings us into connection with ourselves, our peers, our culture, and the world around us.
One of the fastest paths to my own well of wonderlust is visiting an art museum. Forging a personal connection with an artwork is an experience like no other.
Artists made something born from their brain and experiences. They spent time making it a physical reality. At museums, I get to walk up to their art and feel an emotional connection born from my own brain and experiences.
It doesn’t matter how much time has past since the artwork’s creation. There are no language or cultural barriers. Art is human. Through art, we can speak truths that have no words. Experiencing that connection is wonderlust incarnate.
But art museums are not the only place to experience this.
It happens in restaurants and home kitchens where good food nourishes our body and spirit. It happens at concerts and comedy shows. It happens in theatres and in the minds of readers. It happens at sporting events, poetry readings, and dance halls. It happens in our headphones, when we listen to podcasts or audiobooks or an album we love.
Anywhere creativity is on display, there is an opportunity for wonderlust. Find what art experiences fill your wonderlust well with verve and delight. Partake in these experiences as often as possible.
Not everyone feels comfortable calling themselves an artist, but artists we are. Anyone with wonderlust should engage in a creative hobby or activity. This may sound daunting if you believe you have no natural artistic talent, but remember that there are many ways to be creative. Wonderlust is not about forcing yourself to do things you don’t enjoy. It’s about finding your inspiration.
When we create, we remember our own power and imagination. Here are some examples of creative hobbies and activities that may fill your wonderlust well:
- Keeping a journal or diary
- Baking or cooking
- Playing an instrument
- Making crafts
Explore the Natural World
Think about the beauty of a single flower. A cluster of stars. The horizon at the beach. A sunset. The lines on tree leaves.
I remember the day I came home from the optometrist with my first pair of glasses. The world was clear for the first time, but the thing I remember most was what I saw when we turned onto our street. I looked up at a neighbor’s tree. The blurry smudge of green I knew transformed through the lenses. Spring was in full swing. The leaves were vibrant emeralds. Even at the top of the tree, I could make out the individual lines on each leaf. It astounded me. I wondered what else I’d been missing. Seeing those incredible leaf vanes shifted my perspective immediately.
Nature is uniquely qualified to amaze us. We were born from the stars. Each atom in your body was created by exploding stars. It is not an exaggeration to say we are the universe experiencing itself.
Contemplating our place in the universe can make us feel small, but it can also make us feel infinite. We are related to everything in the natural world. We are made of star stuff, just like every flower and tree, every kitten and dolphin, every raindrop and blade of grass. There are many ways to explore and contemplate the majesty of the natural world. For instance, you can:
- Take the time to appreciate the warmth of the sun and how it enables our existence.
- Thank the bees for bringing flavor to your food.
- Breathe in and remember that trees are keeping you alive.
- Pause to ponder as you sip water, the liquid wonder that makes life possible.
- Look up at the moon.
- Take a nature walk or hike.
- Listen to birdsong, thunderstorms, waves, or the wind.
- Trace a constellation or search for a falling star.
- Invest in a telescope.
- Watch the clouds move across the canvas of the sky.
- Learn about the planets.
- Notice the wildflowers so often dismissed as weeds.
To live a life of wonderlust, you must make room for wonder.
The more wonder you seek, the more wonder you’ll find.
Through wonder, we find meaning. Through meaning, we find purpose.
Humans are meaning making machines. Our thoughts are all stories we’ve made up or been told—scraps of meaning written from our past, present, and what we predict will be our future. Our thoughts come ceaselessly, unbidden. Without caretaking, they run wild.
Do you remember what you were thinking about ten minutes ago? Ten hours ago? Ten days ago? What about ten months ago? Ten years?
The flow of forgettable thoughts can drag us along in its current for a lifetime—our curiosities forgotten, our delights fleeting, our worries come and gone.
Wonderlust is more than one wonder, it is a desire for a wonder-full life. Turning this desire into a personal reality requires methodology. To live curiously and invite delight into your days, you must consistently set the intention to do so. You must remember that this life is short.
We will die. We don’t know when or how, but we know that it’s coming. I don’t believe in an afterlife. But even if I did, I’ve never come across a faith tradition that promises an afterlife identical to our current life. So regardless of what you believe may come after, this is the only time you’ll be living this life and it isn’t going to last more than a collection of decades.
Accepting our own demise is a key that unlocks our ability to live deeply—to feel our emotions, interrogate our stories, create, explore, and connect.
Pursuing our wonderlust is a vital part of living a meaningful life. When we acknowledge what inspires us and prioritize it in our lives, happiness and gratitude come naturally. Meaning emerges effortlessly. Purpose flows from there.
But we struggle to prioritize our wonder. It’s hard to make time for ourselves and the experiences we crave. How do we live our best lives?
That’s where Wary Wonderlust comes in.
Wondering is questioning, curiosity, an allowance for awe.
Wariness comes from a realistic awareness of our challenges.
Wary Wonderlust is a philosophy for living a wonder-full, difference-making life.