I’ve selected the German word, fernweh for our word of the month. Fernweh is the urge to travel. In most dictionaries, it is synonymous with wanderlust, but often fernweh describes an urge stronger than wanderlust.
According to St. Augustine, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”
I’ve met a few people with no desire to leave their homes and see at least some small part of the world. Are they really so content with their lot, or are they afraid to leave the comfort and safety of the familiar?
I also know people who move across the country and travel the world always searching for something newer and brighter/bigger and better, but never seeming to find it. Jack Kerouac and Christopher McCandless each experienced fernweh with disastrous results. Elizabeth Gilbert recounts in Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia the positive effects of her fernweh.
When I was younger, I was sure I would travel the world. I studied maps, read books and watched movies about amazing places. Fernweh led me to choose a college over 500 miles away from my home.
I have traveled by foot, bike motorcycle, car, eighteen wheeler, bus, train, boat, ship and airplane. I have yet to actually fly in a helicopter, ride in a submarine or a blast off in a rocket ship or space shuttle.
I’ve been to North America, the Caribbean, and Europe, but have yet to visit Central or South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica or the Arctic.
For me, fernweh is still strong, but it’s been replaced by responsibilities and monetary concerns, so I live vicariously through the fernweh of others.
Given a choice, I would love to indulge my fernweh. But, I would travel the world to experience all its majesty and imperfection, and return home to enrich my own world with these experiences.