Feeling Fernweh

Fernweh is my favourite German word. No, I digress. It is my favourite word of all words and the only one that can aptly describe how I feel on an almost daily basis.

I long for new adventures, to travel, to explore new worlds and cultures. I feel homesick for places I’ve never been. The stars tug at my heartstrings, the horizon begs me to travel beyond its glistening border. My curiosity demands I walk around just one more corner, around one more bend, over one more hill. There is no stopping.

My sisters and I often blame our parents for our restlessness and constant need to be on the move. We grew up in the tropical city of Darwin in the Northern Territory, visiting remote peninsulas, majestic waterfalls, jungles and other outback curiosities almost every weekend. We also travelled back down to New South Wales every Christmas to reacquaint ourselves with our extended family, a journey that no doubt further mucked up our internal compasses.

Feeling Fernweh Wanderlust
image via pexels.com

A feeling of fernweh further ingrained itself upon my psyche when, at the age of nine, I dreamed of visiting Canada. Our teacher had placed a huge poster of the Canadian mountains to the left of the blackboard, and I would stare at it in hope during many a maths class. Never before had I been gripped with such an intense feeling to be somewhere foreign. My young mind pictured a train, gliding between snow-capped mountains and a sea of pine trees.

I finally fulfilled my Canadian dream when I travelled to Canada in the summer of 2016 for a friend’s wedding. Sitting on the plane as we flew into Vancouver, I cried the moment I glimpsed Canadian soil for the first time. Even though I’d never been to Canada before, I felt like I was coming home.

After the wedding celebrations were over, we road tripped along the Trans-Canada Highway between Alberta and B.C, bound for Shuswap Lake. At one point we stopped at the small township of Golden in Yoho National Park where I glimpsed a train winding through the mountains!

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At Golden, B.C with my Canadian friend, Christina and her Koolie, Bruno. You can’t see us very well, but I’m the one on the left!

A few years before I flew over to Canada, and while studying for my degree at University, a bad case of Fernweh took hold. In my third year, I succumbed to the feeling and applied to study abroad in England. I didn’t immediately get homesick during my exchange like all the other international students. Fernweh propelled me forward, my curiosity only partially sated when it was time to move back home.

In my early twenties, I was continuously thrown further opportunities to live overseas, as if the universe knew exactly what my soul craved. I was once offered a Print Design job at a school in Tanzania, but I inexplicably ran away from that opportunity and instead submitted an application to teach English at a school in China. When I received my offer of employment, I backed out last minute due to concerns over the low wage. To satisfy my cravings for the unknown, I took a job governessing in the Australian outback instead.

After my teaching experience, I floated around Australia for another year or so before I moved back to my hometown in rural NSW. It didn’t take me long to find a permanent, full-time job. Not long after, I bought a house with ‘spectacular views’ that I really couldn’t afford. Because you know, appearances. It’s been five years and nothing has changed.

This is not how I pictured my life turning out. 

My soul yearns for more, my eyes lingering on the horizon and the stars. I dream of moving to Canada or setting up shop on a remote Tasmanian beach so I can write full-time and become a successful author.

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image via pexels.com

I often imagine what the alternate reality version of me is doing – are they living overseas? Are they writing a travel blog about the time they visited the Mount Everest base camp? Did they walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, work in Antarctica, travel along Route 66 and view the sunrise over the Grand Canyon? What languages did they learn? What mountain peaks did they marvel at? What oceans did they sail upon? What magnificent slopes did they ski?

So why have I not done these things? Why am I sitting in a stagnant pool of my own making?

Fernweh pushes me to explore, but my desire to conform to societies expectations holds me back. Even though my parents have only ever encouraged me to chase my dreams, I feel pressured to carve for myself a successful, albeit bourgeois, existence. I’m worried that if I throw in the towel now and leave my life behind, I risk putting to waste the years I spent participating in the doldrums of ‘normal life’ when I could have been travelling the world through the bright eyes of enthusiastic youth.

Of course, nothing is stopping me from travelling per se, but it simply won’t be the same as that time I backpacked around Europe with my high school friends for three glorious weeks. To save money we slummed it at hostels, navigated the metro in Paris and camped on the floor of a friend’s apartment in East Berlin. It was rough, but we didn’t mind, we were young, we were having fun.

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image via pexels.com

But all is not lost. Even though fernweh constantly lingers in the backwaters of my mind, I have my creativity to rescue me from drowning in rough seas. I give thanks every day for my love of writing and the unbridled joy it gives me. And this is not an exaggeration. I write every day, and therefore, I feel happy every day. If I don’t write, my soul itches to move and my heart yearns to explore.

I write to curb this curiosity and more often than not, it satisfies my insatiable hunger for travel. When I write, I am at peace with the world. There are even moments of clarity when I can see that travel is not the only way to satisfy fernweh. Writing is a gateway to exploration, even if only in your mind’s eye.

And so I write.

Perhaps one day I will leave the gilded cage I built around my wild, fernweh desires. For the moment, I am still here, still writing and exploring. Dreaming of something more.

 

 

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44 thoughts

  1. Wanderlust must not really drive you else you’d succumb to its siren’s song. And your ownership of a dog seals the deal, you’d rather stay home than explore the world. But, I respect your desire, your roving spirit, and your languishing desire to renew it.
    My 20’s were packed with wander. No responsibilities and only a duffel bag of possessions to weigh me down. But I intentionally surrendered my own wayfarers notions to raise a family. Until that happens, you still have a chance. Then again, you can write from nearly anywhere in the world, so maybe that’s your ticket to return to exploring. Sell your stuff and head out.

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  2. I had one of those “I’ve seen the picture, now I’m there!” moments, too. Mine was Crater Lake, a lake in an extinct volcano in Oregon, USA. Saw a color photograph of it in National Geographic when I was a kid. Knew I HAD to go see it someday.

    So, first time out to the American West Coast on my own, car trip from Seattle to Los Angeles, you can bet I stopped there. Stopped, hiked down from the rim to the lake, took the cruise, set foot on the cinder cone island in the lake, ate a meal at the National Park Service-run lodge. Yes!

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  3. I absolutely love everything about this post. While I have the curiosity to want to travel far and wide, my anxiety and need for stability (and lack of funds lol) usually keep me in one place. Still, I’m (very) slowly but surely checking things off my “places to visit” list. I hope you find your balance!

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    1. Lack of funds is my issue too. That’s wonderful to hear that you are checking off your list, even if slowly.

      I sometimes feel like I should just sell my house and go! My list is so long, yet my ticks so few.

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  4. I did a double-take when this post came up in my reader. I’ve named the city in my current manuscript Fernweh and my initial reaction was, “HOW DOES SHE KNOW??” You don’t see the word use that often, lol.

    Also, if you ever end up back in Vancouver, let’s grab a drink!

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    1. Oh you’ve got to be kidding! It’s such an unusual word. I would have had the same reaction as you!

      I’d love to meet some of my WordPress friends! I’ll let you know if I ever move to Canada 🙂 As a huge Stargate nerd, Vancouver has always been my first choice and now that the age limit for the Working holiday visa has increased for Aussies from 18-30 to 18-35, it’s a definite option for me! Ah I can dream.

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  5. I dream of traveling again too but with every day, week, month, and year that goes by that I don’t do it, I feel the chance of doing it slips away more. Mostly due to lack of money, but also health is a real factor, as is not having a csr. So I feel your fernweh. Bloom where you’re planted, read books, watch foreign movies, befriend travelers and maybe even host them, but explore your surroundings and become hyperlocal may all be good advices, but they don’t quench the wanderlust. I wish for all of us both success enough to make our dreams come true! Thanks, Milly; I always resonate with your posts. By the way, if Upwork isn’t a good platform.for writers, which ones are?

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    1. I feel that same way – with every day that passes me by, I feel my dream of travelling slipping away. Lack of funds mostly keeps me at home too, but sometimes I wonder if it’s because I’m too afraid to take the plunge! In regards to freelance websites other than Upwork, I haven’t had much luck with any besides Airtasker, but the offerings are few and far in between on that sot and the tasks don’t pay well

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  6. I grew up in Australia, and regret not travelling more within the country. I always wanted to do the train journey to the Northern Territory, love this country so much majesty. Canada is one of the few countries that really draws my soul everytime I see photos I am missing something special. Scotland is another love of mine everytime I visited I felt at home. My desire to travel has stopped for the moment, though I travel spiritually all the time. I truly understand Fernweh. Bless you Milly.

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  7. What an amazing word! For whatever reason, fernweh grips me whenever I’m on a car ride anywhere outside town, even if it’s just to the Air Force base 20 minutes away. It’s an incredible feeling. This was a super cool post to read😄👍

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  8. Guten Tag Fraulein Schmidt, Wie Gehts? (Excuse the highschool German)

    When I get a case of wanderlust or fernweh I let my pen/keyboard do the walking. This a wonderful post. I like that you’re wondering about the alternate reality version of you. Just from looking at your avatar I picture you as a brunette constantly on the go because of your job – you’re an air hostess for British Air stationed in Amsterdam. During your downtime, you prowl the streets looking at the expensive jewelry and wondering if you should take that job in Queensland. You dislike living in an apartment the size of a shoe box.

    I can’t pull up stakes whenever the spirit moves me – cancer – but I can dream. And thanks for dropping by in Canada. Wish you had come east to Toronto. I think you’d enjoy it in the summer. What’s your favorite season?

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  9. Great post, Milly.
    I understand that desire for freedom but having the pressure of “real” life negatively affect it. Owning a home has definitely slowed my roll. Also, working in the U.S. doesn’t help as we tend to get crap holiday time in comparison to a lot of the developed world. I’m going to the UK for a wedding in May but will only have a week of vacation built up by then so will have to take an unpaid week of time, which they are allowing me to do. Doesn’t help planning for great adventures.

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  10. Follow your heart because nothing is ever a waste of time… simply more “classroom time”! Conforming to society may well stifle your creativity, and expressing your creativity may well sacrifice financial gains. Making prudent financial decisions may lead to a shallow existence, but not making them may lead to a frugal lifestyle. Who really cares? Nobody except you has to live with your decisions. If you are happy with being very stable, very unstable, creative, conforming, social butterfly or hermit …. the only opinion that should matter is yours, because you are the only one that has to live with the outcome. Everybody else is simply on the outside looking in! As I quoted in an earlier post in the context of conforming to the expectations of family, friends etc., regardless of what you do “Those who matter won’t mind, and those who mind won’t matter.” 🙂

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  11. Whenever I have a feeling of ‘Fernweh,’ but I’m not in a place to pick up and go, I often can find at least half the fulfillment in a good novel – one taking place in a different time or place (and written by an author from that culture/country!). Thanks for the post 🙂

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  12. I hear you. I feel similarly. I could relate so much. Like you, I feel “at home” when I travel to foreign places. And I don’t get easily “home sick”. Yes, I might miss some of the people that I left behind, but I’m always excited about here and now, and not there and then.

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    1. Isn’t it strange how we feel so at home in foreign places? I never quite understood it. Instead of looking back, I’m always looking forward to the next adventure. Seems like you’re the same as me 🙂 Perhaps it’s a feeling peculiar to writers?

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  13. That is me to a T. Since I was a kid, always on the move. I wanted to go to France when I was in 4th grade! None of my friends were like me. For me, I am a Christian, so I think it has something to do with longing for my real home, which is not in this world, but with Jesus. For now I try to fill that longing with traveling to mountains that make me want to cry , I love them so much. I’ve been quite depressed since my last trip to the mountains , last September. I am going next month. The thought of it helps me get through my day. Hope you get to travel soon!

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  14. What a beautiful piece, Milly. Thanks for a new word in my vocabulary, and a new expression for that familiar feeling you described! You described so well the power of writing in all of this- Writing (and music and art) are amazing mediums for “travel” when my feet get itchy for an adventure – here’s hoping you get some opportunities for physical travel too before too long. 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment Anne! I’ve been experiencing a recurring, mild case of the fernweh again, so had to share 🙂 Even just writing this piece… made me feel better. Still desperate for that physical travel though! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

          1. OOOOh yes! The first few days when the snow was falling and we all played outside were like a vacation. Then it kept going…and we couldn’t leave…. At least I had a chance to dig through the back of the pantry and find out what we still had in there 😀

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          2. Isn’t it lovely when the snow first falls? It doesn’t happen often here, but when it does, it’s so much fun.

            I’d be terrified to check the back of my pantry. I’m no gourmet cook so I bet half the stuff would be out of date. I’m sure you’re the opposite and totally have your pantry all in order!

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