‘Not all who wander are lost’ — Tolkien or anonymous

One foot in front of the other. Step-by-step-by-step. Progressing forward towards a destination that may be known, may not be known. The lay of the land stretches far out before and bends below the horizon. Footprints trail behind from where you had once been. What lies on the other side of the horizon is unknown, but there is a pull of curiosity. A natural thought for one who is a wanderer. A soul who is never content to be in one place for very long. Nomads, gypsies, transients all have the will of wandering in their blood. It’s their drive to rise the next morning, to sate the curiosity of what lies beyond the reaches of sight.

Those who wander are never lost. Wanderers may not always know where they are going, but the travel is not so much in the destination, but the journey itself to reach the destination.

The journey may be easy, it may be tumultuous, it may be exciting, and it may be horrific.  The venture may not always be a positive experience, yet it is the act of travel that entices the wanderer to continue on to ‘the other side of the mountain’. A journey is like a high. Adrenaline pumping adventure. A constant experience of learning and exploring. With each step the wanderer grows. They become a different person shaped by their travels. An enlightenment. Those who wander are less lost than those who stay sentient for life.

Wanderlust. Merriam-Webster’s definition is a (n) strong longing or impulse toward wandering. Breaking the word down further, ‘wander’ (intransient verb) to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal; to follow a winding course; to go astray (as in from course or morally) / (transient verb) to roam over. The word is derived from the Middle English wandren and Old English wandrain. ‘Lust’, while there are a couple of definitions, we are just going to stick with (n) an intense longing. Derived from Middle English and Old English, possibility this word derives from the Latin word lascivus.

Quite a complex word is ‘wanderlust’. Saying it aloud does stir within one the urge to move, to just aimlessly move towards an undecided destination. In its purest form, wanderlust is what is in the heart of every nomad, gypsy, and transient. People who are never settled in on place. They see that the world is so large and they are so small, thus they are constantly being pulled to see what is on the other side of the forest, the mountain, the sea.

‘Wanderlust’, quite poetic, is it not? Great authors over the centuries have brilliantly captured the passion that is exuded from the word. Jules Verne and his adventures to the bottom of the sea, to the core of the Earth, and around the world (in only 80 days). Tolkien and his myriad of hobbits, elves, dwarves, and other magical folk are always afoot, meandering the great realm of Middle-Earth. While all of his characters may not know where they are going, they know that they are on the correct path. ‘Not all who wander are lost’, it is said that Tolkien had coined that phrase, but I don’t think it is quite definitive. Whomever first said it first is quite brilliant. Those who wander are truly never lost. The destination is unknown, but wandering is never fully about the destination. It’s about the journey to the destination. It’s about the adventure and experience that one has along the way that defines the reason for the wandering. Those who wander should always cherish the journey and see the destination as a break until the next journey begins.

The word ‘wanderlust’ has always captivated me. It’s a word I do hold dear to my heart; yet, the word has never fully satisfied me. While I do always feel a longing to wander, the phrase ‘longing’ just doesn’t have that punch. ‘Lust’ for wandering is not a strong enough definition. There are times that when I am too sentient and become physically sick. Think of it like the exact opposite of homesickness (which is something I have yet to experience). My mood becomes irritable and I’m prone to daydreaming when the point is reached where there is a severe lax in travel. The term wanderlust is too soft for how I feel when I am at my crux of non-adventure.

As most know, words define the world for me. Thoughts, emotions, actions. I needed to name how I feel in regards to ‘wandering’, but could not settle upon the correct term, until I haphazardly stumbled across a new word.

In first seeing the word, it caused a flutter in my heart — without knowing the definition. The way that it was written instantly drew in my attention. It evoked the sense of a lush wooded trail winding through a dense forest full of tall trees. The ground covered in ferns and moss and rotting tree debris. Saying the word out loud and suddenly I was breathing in the scent of the deep woods. Musky, dark, earthy, balanced. A world beckoning to be explored. The word just felt just right.

Then I read the definition and my soul was at such ease. The epidemiology of the word is German. The translation literally means (n) farsickness / (v) longing for far-off places. The antonym is heimweh: (n) homesickness / (v) longing for home.

Farsickness. Feeling ill when not traveling, when not journeying. Oh how I know that feeling as it often rocks my core. My sights are always on the horizion, constantly wondering what lies beyond. The pull of that curiosity is so strong that I feel sick to my stomach when I know in reality, I cannot take the steps forward to see. Real life sometimes stands in the way — but not always…

While wanderlust will always invoke the passion of traveling, it is ‘fernweh’ that truly defines what I am feeling when I long to journey.

Fernweh – the longing for far off places.

Life was never meant to stay in one place.  Go out there and see the world. All the wonders out there are waiting. Discover them.

NI 3
On the path to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge on the Antrim Coast (c) Amanda Headlee, 2015

One thought on “Farsickness

  1. Interesting “exploration” of words today. While I always try to experience the area I am in, 40 years of business travel has me looking forward to days of staying close to home and/or revisiting favorite places. I hope you have many good journeys.


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