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How to Satisfy Your Wanderlust When You’re Stuck at Home

Updated: Nov 12, 2023

Because sometimes life requires us to keep our feet planted at home.

high altitude lake with red algae in bolivia
Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

When it comes to the desire to travel, our appetite is larger than our stomachs. In less metaphorical terms, our travel dreams are much larger than our bank account or available vacation days. So what are we to do? How do we keep the wanderlust in check and satiate the growing desire to hop on a plane and explore another corner of the map? It’s not easy, but there are a few things that will take the edge off while you wait for the pennies and the PTO to add up.


Seek out new and exotic cuisines.

One of the greatest bits of traveling is the culinary experience, so why not recreate that close to home? Try to find authentic, hole in the wall eateries and experiment a bit. Ethiopian, Cambodian, Lebanese, South Indian, real Italian,… you may discover a new favorite!


Look for pocket ethnic neighborhoods & find international culture programs in town.

Many big cities have sections of town known for being a hub for a particular ethnic group. Go there! It’s like being transported into a different world. I love going to an Arabic part of town and walking through the grocery stores, checking out the international delicacies and spices. I also love hearing (and Shazaaming) the Arabic music blasting overhead. Also look for cultural programs going on in town, such as dance or theater performances. I’ve found myself at Indian dance performances before, and it brought me great joy to watch and think of my memories from India and Bangladesh. Okay- I’d be lying if that didn’t make me think about planning a trip back. Tread lightly, as these activities can also incite wanderlust.


Take short local trips.

Whether you’ve got a day or a weekend to spare, there is something cool to do within driving distance of your house. Do the things that are on your list, but you’ve never gotten around to doing. I’ve lived in Southern California for ten years and still have not been to Joshua Tree, or skiing in Big Bear- let alone visited Yosemite or Tahoe. That’s crazy. Put your ideas on the calendar and make them happen. If it isn’t planned out, your good intentions will likely get squashed by laziness or a looming To-Do list. These little trips let the explorer in you out to play, and can be surprisingly restorative. Highly effective at satiating the wanderlust for a while.


Volunteer.

There are often volunteer opportunities in your city that allow you to work with an international population. Perhaps there are immigrant kids and families that need help with tutoring, learning English, or job skills. A website such as Volunteer Match can help connect you with an opportunity that fits your talents and time commitment. Another great idea is to host international families or students for dinner or a holiday meal. If you’ve ever been abroad alone, you know that nothing beats an invitation to a home for a meal. This is a win-win situation, because both you and your invitees get to learn about each other’s cultures. If you’re not up for a local connection, try supporting a cause abroad in a country that you’ve been to, or want to visit.


Involve yourself at home.

A desire to travel often creeps in when we feel less connected to our communities, families, and friends. Social ties make us want to stick around, and give us reasons to. We all want to be seen and to be known; but that only comes from making an effort to get involved. Try joining a new group, reconnecting with friends you don’t see often, or stepping up to lead something. Show up consistently. Look around your life to see where you have influence or gifting, and figure out how to impact people that way. When our lives at home are filled with meaningful connections and pursuits, we want to leave them less- for a time, anyways.


Prepare for, and plan a trip.

Okay, this wanderlust squasher works best if you have a specific destination on your heart that is definitely going to happen- but you need to wait a bit longer for the pieces to fall into place. Start researching where you’d want to go, stay, and what to do- just don’t consider dates or book anything yet. This way, once you get enough money, or vacation days, or whatever it is- you’ll be good to go and (relatively) stress-free. Along those lines, you may want to start learning the language of your next destination- this is the time to do it! I always hunker down and force myself to review Spanish before trips. The threat of looming travel and the desire to not be helpless abroad make for a motivating deadline.

rushing river in the Andes of Peru
A river along the Inca Trail

Last-ditch self-preservation methods:

When the pull of wanderlust is super strong, you may need to resort to these :


Cut yourself off from travel related media.

  1. Don’t read travel books, look at travel photos on social media, or watch travel shows on tv. Take the National Geographic book off the coffee table. If temptation is not in your face, it’s much easier to forget about. I go through lots of seasons where I rely on this method.

Train for a race.

  1. Sign up for something big, like a marathon. That’s a guaranteed 12 weeks of training where you’ll be thinking of nothing but running, nutrition, and sleep. Your effort will be laser-focused on attaining a new goal, which is nearly as satisfying as planning a trip abroad. You may even be able to work in a mini runcation for a race in a nearby city. What wanderlust?

Adjust Your Attitude.

  1. Find positive things to attribute to your time “grounded”. This could include saving money, being present for family celebrations, improving your work ethic, or even just being able to keep a recurring commitment for once. This will help the season feel worthwhile and less disappointing. For more on how changing our words can dramatically impact our minds, check out this other post.

The fun of experiencing new cultures doesn’t have to be limited to our travels abroad. Thankfully, the world isn’t as small as it used to be- there is more of the world in our own backyards than ever before. So if you’re stuck in a season where you’re grounded, use these tips to satisfy your inner explorer until it’s time for the next adventure!



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