There are a lot of words in German that are veritable tongue twisters or concepts that are almost impossible to translate with a single word into English. Conversely, there are some short, precise and absolutely beautiful words that make me smile each time I hear or use them. Fernweh is one of them, its official translation – ironically – being wanderlust, which is yet another German word that was wormed its way into English. In any case, fernweh encapsulates a succinct longing to travel, and I am sure this feeling resonates with so many of you out there at the moment.
I have been travelling ever since I was a baby, and have 16 relocations under my belt, in addition to the countless leisure and work-related trips over the years. Traveling in in my bones, by any means, and for whatever purpose. Give me a destination, a purpose, and a camera and I am good to go. But COVID-19 has changed all that, for everyone.
Gone are the days of making last-minute reservations on Flixbus, the train, airlines, and booking hotels or BnBs on the spur of the moment. I miss the thrill of packing and the excitement of double checking whether I have my documents and equipment, not to mention the joy of checking in and waltzing off to the departure lounge. Yes, I am “homesick” for airports, train stations, even long-distance bus stations. In short, I am suffering from fernweh and my suitcases are gathering dust in the closet, suffering from immense neglect.
It is impossible to plan for a trip at the moment, and sadly, the time is fast approaching where we have to resign ourselves yet again to the all-too-familiar Bermuda Triangle between bedroom, living room and kitchen. For those of us where travelling is / was an integral part of the work, being confined to one place is unsettling enough, but Home Office takes things to a whole new level. Even worse, if you are like me who relies entirely on public transportation to get around, going on a road trip no matter how short, becomes a fleeting dream. Those of you who drive and have your own car, for heavens sake be grateful for this and understand that you are among the privileged who can get around a bit more during these times. Good Lord I miss driving!
Back in March when all this turbulence began, watching movies or series of faraway places was a psychological crutch to bridge the gap and cope with the lockdowns. But now, I think most of us are just getting antsy and eager to get back on the road, and the virtual world just doesn’t cut it anymore. I am running out of things to watch on Netflix and Prime Video, and there is a finite amount of podcasts that I can digest a day or week no matter how brilliant the host may be.
As I have recently learned, there is no time like the present to learn to let go of both the past and the future. Savour the little things around you, practice mindfulness, kindness and compassion on yourself, and remember, you are not alone in this.