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Simonson Says: I got that wanderlust

I used to be able to say I didn’t watch much TV. Reruns of The Simpsons, Scrubs, Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond were about it. Then we got Roku, which includes Netflix’s selection of free viewing, and it has opened my eyes to, well, more reruns. Those of you who have Netflix, especially if you’re an anthropology, geography or psychology major, I recommend you check out a few episodes of the National Geographic Channel’s Taboo, which, yes, looks at taboo practices in other cultures and our own.

You know those dreams you have sometimes, that your house has this whole other wing you never use, or a swimming pool you forgot you had, and you marvel at the fact that you’ve always thought you have a small, boring house and completely ignored or taken for granted all the extra space or the amusement park in your backyard? Well, that’s how I feel when I watch shows like Taboo that take us to countries and cultures most of us have never even heard of, or places you knew existed but never comprehended how vast and beautiful they are. They show casual footage of a lush, green mountain in China standing next to the Yangtze River, or show us a remote community that has achieved complete matriarchy, and it hits me hard that this is all in the same world I am, theoretically within reach, and I’m sitting at home missing it, stuck in the same place I’ve always been (name that movie).

I’ve never been out of the United States, and I can count the number of states I’ve been to on my fingers. So I’m willing to accept I might be romanticizing the concept of travel. I know everyone who knows me is a little sick of hearing about it; as a child, I was bent on racing around the world in a hot-air balloon like the Chipmunks and Chipettes did (my family probably wants to sue the filmmakers of The Great Chipmunk Adventure, because that might well be where my travel mania started), and my family recently had to talk me out of blowing $6,000 on Weber State University’s study-abroad trip to England, Ireland and Scotland, the very three countries I most want to visit in the world. Seriously, I could cry when I think about how badly I want to go on that trip. Every year since I’ve started at WSU, I’ve planned to go, but life always happens and forces me to be realistic about it, and now that the potential cost has doubled for me (I’m not exactly going to go without my husband), I have to admit it might never happen. My family probably wishes it had, if only so I’d stop lamenting about it and/or announcing every year that this time, I’m really going to do it and no one is going to make me rethink it.

In some ways, I might be suffering from a grass-is-greener complex and pining for no reason over countries that might not even be that impressive once you get there. I recently read a stunningly written book (go back to my previous column for the name of it; I’ll refrain from repeatedly name-dropping the same products) in which the protagonist owns a successful travel guide company and gets to go to all these countries and write about the best deals there. I was so achingly jealous of this character that it was almost painful to read; I can’t even wrap my head around being so lucky. To me, people who get to travel like that are on par with royalty or celebrities in terms of incomprehensible fortune and glamour. But this character says that some part of her expected other countries to be fundamentally different in some way, like another planet, or even another state of being, and when she got there, she found herself actually disappointed that there were trees there too. Nothing against trees, of course; it just hit her that this was the same world, and at a certain point, maybe there’s nothing new left to see, and this obsession with travel is based on an illusion that there is something more out there that we’re missing at home. Maybe all of us with the wanderlust harbor that delusion, and going somewhere new won’t make us any happier.

Nah, I can’t relate. My life will be infinitely richer when I can visit another country. Now accepting monetary donations for my backpack trek across Europe.

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