The German word “Wanderlust” literally translates to “the joy of hiking/travelling”. This feeling of the need to explore and seek adventure is one of the main motifs in German Romanticism and has been taken up by famous writers such as Novalis (Heinrich von Ofterdingen), Heinrich Heine (Reisebilder I & II) and Goethe (Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre) and a lot of German Folksongs written during this period refer back to it as well (“Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust”, “Kein schöner Land in dieser Zeit”). Oftentimes Wanderlust as such is not only portrayed as a sentiment as such, but also has a goad, namely to form the individual character, the protagonist and in this way, Wanderlust and Bildungsroman become very much intertwined in the (German) literary tradition.
I, for my part, did not feel or experience this very sentiment up until recently and much more lived according to the leitmotif “my home is my castle”, surrounding myself with books and nice people. Even after moving to the U.S. 4 years ago, to study German Literature and Film, I hardly changed this motto and focused on being comfy in what I wanted to call home here instead of using the time to travel. As time is running out now, I realize that I have not seen a lot of this country and honestly regret it. Of course there is a way to engage with the world through books and films – I still love to do that – but there is also a unique momentum in making your own experiences far away from your every-day life (and then writing about them, of course). While I will not become a backpacker and travel year-round through the world – I am also a defender of another German concept – Heimat (“homeland”) – which I missed a lot while being in the U.S., my plan is to travel or really merely wander much more in the years to come, revisit cities and places I have not seen in quite some time and also explore new places and things.
Travelling in the 21st century is of course connected to – or should I say infected with – tourism, that shapes our perception of what “we really need to see” and this is where my natural (also very German) cynicism comes in, that has only been enhanced by American Grad School. I am skeptical of tourist attractions and spending too much time and money on them, while at the same time I have to admit that there must be something to them that makes them so popular.