Wanderlust is not a sustainable resource. Within weeks of my arrival in the textile capital of South Korea, the Asian novelty wore off and I saw that an Asian microwave was just a microwave, that a job was a job was a job, and that the same scrabbling for cash was going on all over the world. My pent-up reserves of suburban rage evaporated. I no longer thirsted for Monte Cristo revenge against the jocks who scribbled nasty things on my book covers in 8th grade. I discovered that my problems had followed me, undetected, through any number of security checkpoints and customs inspections.
And yet I kept traveling because I had nothing better to do. In a poof of coal dust, I appeared in a woebegone Polish mining town. Then I washed ashore in Mexico. Wanderlust, I suppose, had congealed into something like wanderlove. I worked and went jogging at night, drank with multiethnic hipsters, did the same sorts of things I would have been doing in Omaha. I certainly wasn't roughing it and I only backpacked in the sense that I kept a backpack full of underwear and often traveled without an itinerary.
In 28 days, I will embark on my last great adventure: two years in China, serving as a buck private in the U.S. Peace Corps. I am, of course, looking forward to doing all of the cultural bonding you're supposed to write about in a Peace Corps application essay. But I am not unaware of the fact that returning to the U.S. fluent in Mandarin will be more lucrative in the long run than sticking around Omaha and fighting off the wolves with a Bachelor's in Creative Writing. My 22-year-old self shudders in his idealistic cocoon: lucrative, Future Keith, honestly? But at a certain point in one's mid-twenties, for emotional and chiropractic reasons, sleeping on a futon loses its Bohemian luster and what one wants most of all is a comfortable bed, preferably with someone else in it. And two cats in the yard, while you're at it.