Wanderlust: a German desire to travel

The German language is known for providing compound words that perfectly encapsulate feelings, sensations and concepts that are otherwise difficult to describe. For example, wanderlust is a combination of the German words “wandern”, similar to wandering in English, and “lust”, which translates to desire.

We have previously covered loneliness of the forest on the CultureReady blog: “On the surface, ‘waldsolitude’ is a compound word with ‘wald’ meaning ‘forest’ and ‘solitude’ meaning ‘solitude’. However, this translation of ‘solitude in the forest’ does not fully encapsulate the enlightened feeling and blessed that comes from being alone in the woods “.

Another German word that captures a specific experience is wanderlust. This compound word brings together “fern”, which means distance, and “wehe”, which means disease. Roughly, the wanderlust translates as a pain to travel and visit faraway places – think of it as the opposite of homesickness.

Prince Pückler-Muskau introduced fernweh into the German lexicon in 1835 in his books which entertained his travels across the continent. The word found widespread use in the 20th century, when German travel companies employed it to persuade German citizens to visit the world abroad. Where the term wanderlust finds its roots in the exploration of German forests, wanderlust refers to foreign places further away from the doors of German citizens.

Ilona Vandergriff, a German professor at San Francisco State University, believes the wanderlust may not only be a pain to travel to a new geographic location, but to experience a society that is less rigid than German social norms. “I think fernweh for Germans refers to the desire for warmer and sunnier places, palm trees, lemons but also a different, more carefree and less orderly lifestyle,” says Professor Vandergriff.

We’ve probably all felt the urge to travel in the recent past, with the health and travel restrictions of COVID-19 keeping most people close to home. Hopefully, people who experience the urge to travel will soon experience new places and new cultures.


To know more:
The pain of the journey that you cannot translate