What To Do If You Have Wanderlust But Can't Travel

photographed by Caroline Tompkins; modeled by Emily Valle; modeled by Imani Palmer; produced by Julie Borowsky; produced by Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez.
In an ideal world, everyone would be able to travel whenever they wanted to, money and vacation day allotment be damned. But in reality, life gets in the way, no matter how much your friend who recently studied abroad insists that anyone can travel if they really want to. For starters, even traveling on the cheap costs some kind of money, and not everyone can afford to make vacations a priority.
Still, almost all of us probably experience wanderlust at some point, or look at someone's Instagram photo from Iceland and think, I wish that were me! Even if you're not necessarily itching to globe-trot, Marni Amsellem, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Smart Health Psychology, says that you might just be desperate to get away from your day-to-day.
"You could be craving to get out of the rut that you’re in, and [travel is] equivalent to an escape from your reality," she says. "Visualizing yourself on the beach or in some beautiful location might be the exact opposite of what you’re dealing with in the moment."
It also probably doesn't help that it can feel like everyone on your social feed is jetting off to Greece and Italy every other weekend while you're at home, feeling some very real FOMO.
Long story short, there could be a lot of different reasons you're feeling wanderlust, but Dr. Amsellem says it probably boils down to wanting a change of scenery, though some of us are more inclined to crave exploration than others.
"Some people are more naturally novelty seekers than others, so there is that temperamental difference and inclination towards seeking out things that are new," she says, adding that this can be especially true for people who would rather go to a new exotic locale every time they vacation, versus those who go back to their favorite city every year.

You could be craving to get out of the rut that you’re in, and [travel is] equivalent to an escape from your reality.

Marni Amsellem, PhD
Either way, if you can't travel at the moment, there are still ways you can sate your wanderlust (though you might have to rely on your imagination a little).
For starters, Dr. Amsellem says you can't underestimate the power of a staycation.
"A staycation is takes you out of your zone," she says. "You might be seeing some of the same landscape, but you are removing yourself from your work email, the pile of bills, the pile of laundry, and whatever is stressful for you."
Sometimes, you do need to take a day to recalibrate and do all the chores you've neglected, but a staycation isn't about that — it's about getting a break from all of that. And as much as you think your city is too boring for a staycation, remember that the grass is always greener, and other people might see your city as an escape or vacation destination.
"There are people who come to where you are to get away from their reality," Dr. Amsellem says. "Imagine someone is coming to visit you who isn't from the area — what would you do with them?"
In other words, if you're dying to take a vacation but can't do a big getaway, it might be worth taking a day or two to yourself to try out that new restaurant you've been dying to sample, or to revisit all your favorite places in your city. (Personally, I love getting a weekday to go to the museum or my favorite brunch places when they're less likely to be teeming with people.)
If you really want to get away, Dr. Amsellem suggests starting to save up or plan for your dream vacation. You might not be able to go now, but planning and budgeting for it in advance might give you something to look forward to. After all, taking time off is great for your mental health, even if you don't use that time to fly across the world.

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