Fernweh, das noun
The ache for travel and the far
Translatable to wanderlust, die. Defined as the desire for travel.
As the second block comes to an end many of us set out to see different parts of the worlds, what are they fueled by? What makes them want to see the world? I'd venture to say it's wanderlust, or, more accurately, “Fernweh”.
Both words are of german origins, yet the former is used in English. It does, however, not accurately express what “Fernweh” means. Fernweh is the opposite of Heimweh, something which some of you might feel or have felt in the first weeks since coming here. This one has an accurate english translation, namely homesickness. “Weh”, however, does not translate to sickness when it comes to “Fernweh”. “Fern” means far, “Weh” is an old expression for pain. Thus the literal translation would be “farpain”.
“Fernweh” expresses a(n almost) physical sensation of wanting to drop everything, pack a bag and leave town, the country, or even the continent to set sail towards an unknown world.
Some might feel this most when they’re dropping someone off at an airport, when the possibility to just buy a ticket and get on a plane seems almost overwhelming.
Others might feel it in a car; just them, the endless streets and the music accompanying them, sparking their sense of adventure as the world seems vast and open for exploration.
Others might feel it in the city, just standing there, waiting for the passing ships and the bridge to go down again. Seeing the boats sail by, wondering where they came from and where they are going to creates the nearly irresistible urge to jump on the boat and vanish to never be seen again.
I believe it is fair to say we have a good life here in Groningen. We get to study, have a home, food and friends surrounding us. Is this longing for more, that “Fernweh”, not weird when everything, our friends, obligations and home is here? Refrain from answering this question for a moment and think of why we feel “Fernweh”.
The far appeals to our fantasies of how life could be as it appears as a unwritten paper. Of what our life would look like if we dared to do what our hearts tell us to do and acted on our gut feelings. It signifies the urge to break out of our usual patterns and the need to experience something new. Life may not always run as smoothly as we would wish and when that happens, dropping everything becomes very appealing. Giving your mind some time to wander, to escape the struggles of everyday life, is a healthy habit. It allows us to gain some distance from what got us fed up in the first place, to think of more pleasant thoughts and regain a positive attitude. Don't beat yourself up when your attention wanders, take it as a little mental vacation from the everyday stress.
Now having this in mind, is it weird that we have a feeling like this sometimes? I wouldn't say so and I think you wouldn't either.
What are we to make of this feeling though?
I want to give you a little task. Think about the place that comes to mind mind when you think about leaving everything behind and write down your thoughts. Think about it hard, think it through all the way to the end, think of all the documents you need, all the struggles you`re going to face, culture-wise, even sanitation or infrastructure wise, language barriers, green cards and what not. Plan every little detail.
You´ll soon come to realise that we have romanticised the idea of “Fernweh”, of brave heroes living through astonishing adventures, skillfully navigating the unknown, saving the day.
This little mental experiment has two benefits. For one, you'll realise how chill life here is: all the convenient things that fill our everyday life hopefully appear in a little better light. And on the other hand, if that's exactly what you feel like doing, you have a perfect plan, know what hardships are going to be coming your way and may feel more motivated than ever to actually go through with it.
The world is full of wonder. The other day, on a yogi-tea bag, I read the following quote: “Let things come to you”. But this seemingly wise piece of advice could not be further from the truth. No, those who wait for things to happen to them will never get anything done. When we hear about someone who did an amazing journey we don’t think: “Oh, that must have come to him.” No, we know (or should know) a journey like that takes planning, endurance and motivation to actually do it.
Maybe you´re a person that is perfectly content in their own fours walls, but maybe somewhere inside of you there is an adventurer that wants to see what this amazing world has to offer, to learn of different cultures, history and people. Maybe you´re someone who really likes travel but never dared to venture beyond a certain scope. You will never find out if you “let things to come to you.” If that’s you,listen to your feelings, gather some courage and dare to go out and see the world. To quote my favourite movie: To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life. -The secret life of Walter Mitty.