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DateLine Sunday, 25 May 2008





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Itchy feet or travel bug?

Wanderlust, itchy feet or travel bug are terms used to depict a strong impulse and longing to travel. ‘Wanderlust’ is a German loan word. A compound of the two German words ‘wandern’ (to wander) and ‘lust’ (desire).

Even after man went from nomad to cultivator, it seems that he just hasn’t been able to shake off that wanderlust. Humans have that undying need for a change of scenery, a breath of fresh air, the sun, the sea the sand, etc... etc... I have always wanted to travel my whole life. Who wouldn’t.

To get to the bottom of the phenomenon I talked to a highly recommended globe trotter. Thishya Weragoda, attorney at law, has travelled to 30 countries. He has covered almost all of the Eastern Europe and been to Malasia, Indonesia, Egypt, Czech, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Kosova, Serbia, France, Spain, Cambodia and Vietnam.

“I don’t like to visit the mainstream countries. I like to travel to countries others don’t consider.” When inquired about his wanderlust Thishya, who is also an amateur photographer told the Sunday Observer “I don’t know how it entered my gene pool. But it’s more about capturing places now, than seeing them. I always make a point to take as many detours as possible, when I’m required to travel, so I can cover more ground.”

He also sees an additional advantage in travelling. “The more you travel more you come to love your own country.” He explains that seeing more of the world, it’s diverse cultures, broaden ones horizons.

“Most people are not open to new ideas. It broadens your perspectives to visit places like Louvre and the London Museum. It really adds value to your life. Travelling is a great opportunity to enrich your life by learning.”

But the question arises is travelling a must? Learning is fine but learning can be done through watching TV. If I have not seen the Amazon, Yellow Stone National Park and the Grand Canyon in the Discovery channel would I have ever yearned to travel to those places?

In which case would this wanderlust one day take man to other worlds? Kumara Perera has a contradictory view of travelling to that of Thishya. He claims that he never wants to travel abroad. “And I definitely don’t want to migrate. But I love to travel within the country.

I don’t know the exact reason why I don’t want to travel abroad, but I think it’s because I value local stuff and don’t have a ‘western mind-set’.” An ecologist by profession and tree hugger by nature he says that he loves going on expeditions to forests, visit panoramic landscapes and beaches. His objective of travelling is also contradictory to Thishays.

“I like to observe the natural beauty of the places.” When asked whether he gets fed up of the travelling that comes with the territory of being an ecologist, he says that he is used to it. He says that he has another objective for visiting archaeological sites in Sri Lanka. “I like to visit archaeological sites, to fathom how people at the time got by with out the modern technology.”

Actor Roshan Ranawana, who used to work for a travel agency, also agrees that he does not want to settle down in a foreign country. But claims that he loves travelling, although he does not get to travel as much as he would like to because of his busy schedule.

“My mother told me that I used to cry every time we returned home from family trips. But after I became an actor I got too busy to travel.” He says he does not differentiate travelling abroad and travelling within the country. “I enjoy going around the country for shooting sessions. I like to meet new people, see places. Basically I like change.”

Roshan claims that he never wanted to do a desk job where he had to go to office in the morning and leave in the evening. When asked his opinion on ‘wanderlust’ he said that it’s because people need change in life, an alternative to their hectic life, to get that peace of mind.

Daya Dissanayake, the award winning writer, author of the first e-novel , the Director and General Manager of Nawakrama told the Sunday Observer that although he likes travelling for pleasure he does not like travelling for business. “I like to see as much as possible of the world’s historical sites, like Sigiriya and the pyramids.” He claims that travelling, with the security measures of today, is such a hassle that it has taken all the fun out of it.

“It’s fun after you reach a destination, but not while you are travelling.” He also says that travelling, specially for business, is unnecessary because of current technology, like tele-conferencing and video phone facilities. “Most of us have wanderlust. But it’s difficult for people like me, who work according to a tight schedule to travel frequently.” However he says that he sees an increase in travel in present day Sri Lanka.

Medical doctor and best selling author, Dr. Priyanga De Zoysa told the Sunday Observer that ‘wanderlust’ does depend on the locality. Citizens of developed countries like US and other European countries prefer to go on lengthy vacations overseas. But most Sri Lankans will be content with just dinner at a local restaurant.

“The need for change is a very human phenomenon.” the doctor explained. “Imagine if the world was full of the same faces, people wearing the same clothes, using the same language. It would be pretty boring wouldn’t it.”

He explained that there is a naturally built in variety to the system. It’s natural for people who are eternally stuck with a desk job to seek an escape from the mundane. It may be globe trotting or just dinner at a local restaurant.

“The method of escape depends on ones economy, necessity and the time available.” In western cultures the vacations fall in line with their seasonal changes and can extend for months.

“Some like long drives in rugged pathways.” And whatever the explanation one gives to their ‘wanderlust’, whether it is the learning experience, meeting new people or seeing places, it ultimately comes down to one basic need - to feel good. Now to get back to my original hypothesis, is ‘wanderlust’ a primeval need left behind by humans initial nomadic life style? “No” says the doctor.

“But is based on concepts framed in people’s minds. Of what a vacation is or the definition of having fun.” Every person will have a different opinion, a different concept. “The trick is to have your own version. To discern what makes you happy without depending on concepts borrowed from pop culture.”


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