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The first documented use of the term in English occurred in 1902 as a reflection of what was then seen as a characteristically German predilection for wandering that may be traced back to German Romanticism and the German system of apprenticeship (the journeyman), as well as the adolescent custom of the "Wanderbird" seeking unity with nature.
The term originates from the German words wandern ('to hike') and Lust ('desire'). The term wandern, frequently misused as a false friend, does not in fact mean 'to wander', but 'to hike' (cf. Wandervogel, literally 'enjoyment of hiking', although it is commonly described as 'enjoyment of strolling, roaming about, or wandering'.
In modern German, the use of the word Wanderlust to mean 'desire to travel' is less common, having been replaced by Fernweh (lit. 'far-sickness'), coined as an antonym to Heimweh ("homesickness").
Robert E. Park in the early twentieth century saw wanderlust as in opposition to the values of status and organisation, while postmodernism would by contrast see it largely as playfully empowering.
Among tourists, sociologists distinguish sunlust from wanderlust as motivating forces – the former primarily seeking relaxation, the latter engagement with different cultural experiences.
Wanderlust may reflect an intense urge for self-development by experiencing the unknown, confronting unforeseen challenges, getting to know unfamiliar cultures, ways of life and behaviours or may be driven by the desire to escape and leave behind depressive feelings of guilt, and has been linked to bipolar disorder in the periodicity of the attacks.
In adolescence, dissatisfaction with the restrictions of home and locality may also fuel the desire to travel.
- Etymology of wanderlust from Online Etymology Dictionary
- Erik H. Erikson, Childhood and Society (1973) p. 325
- Robert E. Park; Ernest W. Burgess (1925). The City, "Chapter IX – The Mind of the Hobo: Reflections upon the Relation Between Mentality and Locomotion". Heritage of Sociology Series, 1967, p. 158
- M. Trask, Cruising Modernism (2003) p. 3
- Piers Beirne. The Chicago School of Criminology 1914-1945: The gang, p. 170-171.
- A. Ganser, Roads of Her Own (2009) p. 34
- P. Robinson, Tourism (2002) p. 196
- Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 369
- S. Freud, On Metapsychology (PFL 11) p. 455
- Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2009)
- Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey (1980)
- S. D. Ezrahi, Booking Passage (2000)