EXPEDITIONIST Diaries: Feeling 'Fernweh' For Places You've Never Been
What's wonderful about traveling, aside from the gorgeous and unique landscapes, textiles, tastes, and smells of a place is the differences in our languages and the way we communicate. Countless words in other languages have no equal English translation. One of my favorite words where this is the case?
That's right. Fernweh. Unless you grew up in Germany or had relatives speaking the language to you, it's possible you've never even heard of this word, but oh, what a wonderful word it is. The closest translation would be a general feeling of 'far-sickness'- it's antonym being 'homesickness'. The word conjures the same emotions felt when one is homesick, and wants to return to the familiar, but is felt in reverse.
Feeling fernweh for a particular place means you long for that place with a deep, guttural ache, much in the same way you would long for a loved one or special person in your life. But how is this emotion possible if the place you long for is somewhere you've never been? Turns out, it's possible and happens more than you might think.
Another way to understand fernweh would be feelings of wanderlust. You lust after the unknown, the adventure. The mystery and wonder of a new place. When I first heard the word and understood its meaning, I felt an instant connection to it. I felt I had found the right word to describe my intense feelings of desire to visit places I have never been. Places other than my hometown. Places where the culture, language, food, and traditions are foreign to me.
The more I travel the more my feelings of fernweh increase. As I learn more about a certain city or country I visit, I find my mind shifting to new horizons, new adventures, new avenues to explore. I sometimes wonder if I'll ever be fully content to stay in one place and take up roots.
The ultimate answer to that question is yes, but where? I've yet to find out. The obvious answer would be back where I started, at home in Vancouver. With all the globe-trotting I've done it keeps popping up in my mind, although I was sure when I set out I would find a place I could consider calling home other than Vancouver. Perhaps I've yet to come across it. Perhaps I'm meant to cure my severe case of itchy feet by exploring as much as I can and then settle back home once I've seen all I can see.
There will always be places I wish to see and landscapes I've yet to take in, but the big difference is the eventual roots I know I'll take up will allow me to have a springboard to jet off from. It doesn't matter that I haven't got it all figured out yet. What matters is that I continue to look toward new experiences with wanderlust. With a sense of positive fernweh, knowing that each destination is special in its own way.
Ever experienced fernweh yourself? Share with us your favourite spots and the next stop on your travel bucket lists in the comments below!
Featured Image: Arthur Edelman via Unsplash