Once, when I was 18, I was riding an overnight bus in Australia. Bored on the long ride, I was eves dropping on the conversation happening between the two men in the seats in front of me. They were trading travel stories. I did the Trans-Siberian railroad last year. I did Asia for a year. The stories went back and forth. For me, this conversation was a revelation. As a teenager from New York City, I never knew that travel of that magnitude existed, that there was a subculture of people who spend months at a time traveling the world. Questions assaulted my brain. Where does the money come from? How can they get that much time off from work? Searching for answers, I continued to eavesdrop. With finality, the man sitting closest to me declared, “Once you’ve got the itch, it’s a hard itch not to scratch”. I have thought about that man, and that conversation many times in the last 12 years. And at some point in my life since that moment I had a realization. I have the itch.
Since then I have done my fair share of traveling. But I have never been like those men. I have never hit the road for months at a time, a carefree world wanderer. I have always had to work, and had family obligations that tethered me to NYC. Each time I am out there I feel fulfilled in a way that I rarely feel at home. Which is difficult. Recession, financial crisis, unemployment, downturn. I see or hear these words on a daily basis. Right now, I am trying to save money. That means, working as much as possible and not going anywhere.
I have had another realization. New York is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and the only difference between being home and traveling is mindset. I am going to embrace New York City, tourist style. I work in lower Manhattan. From now on, during my lunch break, I am a traveler. For one hour a day I am looking at my city with new eyes. When I get back from lunch I can bust out my carpel tunnel reducing mouse pad and get back to the corporate desk monkey lifestyle, but during that break I am embracing my carefree world wonderer.
And I am doing it incognito, because sightseeing during lunch isn’t exactly the type of thing that is encouraged in my office. Welcome to Wanderlunch.