There are things I know of because I read of them, because I was
taught about them by parents or in school, or because I otherwise
gathered it from my experience in this American culture. There are
words that I think I know, but when asked to give the definition
and the origin, I falter and say "you know, I'm not exactly sure.
Let's look it up".
Wanderlust. Noun- A strong, innate desire to
rove or travel about. Origin: 1902. From German, literally "desire
I have known this word for years. I googled it once when I heard
it in a Flogging Molly song of the same name and again when I read
it in a novel. I knew what it meant but I never appreciated its
history (or recognized that it is part of the German language
tradition of sticking two words together to handcraft your own new
word), and certainly never understood it through my own experience.
There are many things that I have long understood on a conceptual
level, but no matter how well I think I grasp the concept, my
understanding cannot match the integrity of the actual experience.
Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of "book learning" and I
definitely don't want to experience everything that I have a
conceptual knowledge of… but for those things that I do strive to
understand on a deeper level, conceptual knowledge becomes
preparedness for an adventure in experiential knowledge. Just as
this trip allowed me to realize the true meaning of wanderlust (as
we schlepped our belongings from place to place), it
allowed me to transition many other perceptions from conceptual to
I'd studied the rotator cuff, but then I saw an open shoulder
surgery in a teaching hospital in Bonn.
I'd heard of cities bombed, but then I stood in front of a
church rebuilt from the rubble in Dresden.
I'd seen pathologies described in text books, but then I walked
through rows of medical history displayed in jars and cases at
Charité and again at the Narrenturm.
I'd read about the treatment of Jews, gypsies, and political
enemies of the state by Nazi authority, but I never dreamed I'd
stand inside the old headquarters of the Gestapo in Cologne, stand
by the trail walked by the Roma and Sinti to the train station, or
enter into the cold and barren grounds of the concentration camp
I'd heard of great rivers, but never thought I'd walk along the
Elbe, pose for a photo on the Rhine, or take a nighttime adventure
to sit and talk beside the Danube with friends.
I'd read my history, and biographies, and memoirs, but then I
stood where rubble met Gestapo basements met the Wall and history
itself had to stack up like my text books in Berlin.
…and now, there are buildings, museums, hospitals, lots of
people in lots of cities, train rides, cultural elements, and
historical monuments that still steep me in gratitude because I was
able to experience them. I'm so thankful for the students and the
leadership that made this trip exactly what it was! Thank you!! The
Germany experience challenged me to move out of my comfort zone and
see the world a little differently. In many ways, it is still
challenging me to make my days count more, to go out of my way to
enrich my daily experience and the experience of those around me,
to get out of my comfort zone, and to not let myself be
under-stimulated and complacent in my routine. It is challenging me
to move knowledge from conceptual to experiential.
And of course, there is always the Wanderlust. I wonder where
I'll go next.