On “Fernweh”

Purpose:  To enlighten my readers on the word fernweh, which I have used at least twice without any explanation of its meaning.

Fernweh is a German word, and its meaning requires a little explanation as it does not translate very comfortably into English.  Fern means “far” and weh means “ache” or “pain.”  Fernweh describes the painful wish to travel in far places, especially when doing so is impossible.  It does not merely describe the desire for adventure, which is what wanderlust, “wander-desire,” is for.  Fernweh is the ache felt when one is prohibited from wandering; it is a “goading restlessness,”1 the longing to be some place else.  Fernweh is the opposite of homesickness—it is away-sickness.

When I used fernweh in “A Light on the Road,” I described it as “less a desire to discover and more a longing to find.”  Because fernweh is an aching to be away, not in search of new things for the sake of their novelty, but simply for the joy of being absent from home, one has to go in search of it.  It is not a desire to discover something new, it is a longing to find the satisfaction of something one has already experienced.

Note:

1Daniel G. Brinton, The Basis of Social Relations

2 thoughts on “On “Fernweh”

  1. Thank you, Nicole. Honest to goodness, thank you. You have found a word that perfectly describes what I’ve been feeling so much lately. I just want to go. (Imagine that ‘go’ is italicized.) I’ve literally been describing it as “a home-sickness for somewhere out there” but this word works so much better 🙂

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s