Satiating Wanderlust and the Act of Writing by Guest Blogger Stephanie Tingzon
“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you, have not been shaped by a paterfamilias or a schoolmaster, they have sprung from very different beginnings, having been influenced by evil or commonplace that prevailed round them. They represent a struggle and a victory.” –Marcel Proust
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had nomadic tendencies: whether it was related to work, academics, or pleasure, I’ve always felt an overwhelming need for a constant change of scenery. This craving for travel has now been termed as Wanderlust. Like many others I’m sure, I’ve wanted to visit new places, experience things out of the ordinary, and learn about subject matter far out of my interests. And as of late I’ve realized that one of the reasons I’ve been so excited to visit far off places and immerse myself in new cultures is because I always felt that experiencing something new and different would compel me to create something fresh and interesting from what I believed was my own drab and hum drum writing.
My most recent adventure was not one of those times. In all honesty, I didn’t write one word.
Lisa Young gave me a few notebooks a couple months ago as gifts and I had eagerly packed them into my carry-on luggage, believing that I would write during the 8-hour plane ride to Paris. I didn’t write a thing. I also made sure to put a smaller notebook and pen in my purse in case The Thunderbolt of Inspiration happened to hit me whilst my best friend and I were wandering the palace and gardens of Versailles, or hiking through the Palatine hill and ancient ruins of Rome. No such luck on jotting any thoughts down.
Despite my eager expectations of writing more than a few poems on my 3-week long excursion, I was doing a different kind of writing and working during my travels. I found myself thinking about origins and history of the artwork, of the history, of a culture. I was constantly thinking of the kind of life the gypsy down the street lived. What was their story? What about the painting by Jacques-Louis David of Napoleon Bonaparte I crowning Josephine? What kind of emotions are the characters portraying? Why might that be?
Out of all the questions that I had asked myself, I constantly kept thinking about how alive and present the history of a city or monument or artwork seemed. I was so used to thinking of history as something that was more easily understood in textbooks. By traveling and going to actually experience other cultures that are so deeply rooted in their history I was able to visualize and sympathize with the lives of historical figures or with the auras of writers, artists and people of the past in these beautiful cities. I appreciated and loved breathing the air they took in and viewing the world through similar eyes for but a moment.
The truth about Wanderlust is that people will always yearn for some place new. We will always want to see what life is like for someone else. However, it is the beauty of traveling, of seeing with another’s eyes, and the personal journey that we go on which opens our eyes to an alternate way of life and of thinking. We discover so much about ourselves while traveling: we realize our effect on people, their effect on us, and we deeply think about how those two things can change with our new knowledge of ourselves and of a world which has opened up new experiences for us.
Even though it’s been more than a week since I’ve been home, I’ve found myself still thinking about these things and how intensely useful the newly acquired knowledge of myself and of other places can be used in my writing. Although I didn’t write a word on my trip I thought constantly about writing: people, places, events, and ideas that got the cogs in my mind turning and really thinking about a perspective in my writing or current project that I might have not considered yet.
And I truly believe that that is the greatest gift traveling could give me: new eyes to see my life and my writing with, and newfound wisdom to fill my lungs and breathe into my writing at home.
Bio: Stephanie Tingzon is a co-host of Toronto WordStage. Her work has appeared in dead g(end)er, irregular artifacts press, and several Brock University anthologies. She is currently working on a project tentatively titled “foreign soil” which concerns the experience of a first generation Canadian and the language and cultural barriers or fluidity one can encounter.