For a long while, I thought I was simply struck by wanderlust. But at some point last year, probably while listening to a podcast in my car, I learned a new word – one that seemed far more suited to what I was experiencing when I stayed in one place for too long.
The English translation of the German word fernweh is basically the direct opposite of homesick. It’s a little like wanderlust – a German word that succinctly describes a desire to travel. But fernweh is more than simply wishing to venture out. Broken down literally, it translates to (fern) distance (weh) sickness.
If you’re me, fernweh is an ache that sits in your chest and makes it hard to breathe. It is a weighty energy that eats at your creativity and makes you sluggish and hungry for sweets and liquor. It isn’t that you want to travel, it’s that you must in order to preserve your health and wellness.
We are midway through January, and I’ve been here at the ranch in Tennessee since just before the new year clicked over. Two weeks. It’s taken me two weeks to fall into fernweh. I don’t want to, and I do everything I can to NOT. I busy myself with cleaning and sorting and writing, and also, I bake. I do a lot of baking. But it always comes. The fernweh always comes.
Last year was exhausting and amazing as I wandered the country for work and to see my family, along the way adding pins to the map representing far off, previously untraveled destinations. It seemed crazy to just go to the race, work, and come right home; there were all of these opportunities for adventure along the way! The more I looked at the map, the more possibility appeared. So, I pointed my car in the direction of places I’d never been, and I went. For the entire year.
My 2018 Jeep Compass touched 36 states last year. In all, I drove just over 42,500 miles, and I spent 789 hours behind the wheel. That gave me plenty of time to use my angelic voice for singing (primarily along with the Lumineers, Foo Fighters, and Depeche Mode) and to fill my brain with knowledge via audio books (mostly biographies) and some podcasts (The Ed Mylett Show, WFO Radio, and NHRA Insider).
Of course, I have a notebook full of sloppily written notes jotted while keeping my eyes on the road. Here I should note that there may be a small splash of dark red nail polish on the steering wheel from when I got stuck on a highway in dead-stopped traffic for two hours. Oh! And a cool thing: I learned how to use the on-board air compressor to inflate my tires. I also learned that if you let the auxiliary battery die and don’t replace it, it can suck the life right out of your primary battery. That was not a cool thing.
Between oil changes, tire replacement, and that whole “we’re both so dead right now” battery fiasco, I spent many hours last year just waiting on my car to finish getting tuned up for our next journey.
Honestly, I cannot wait to begin again. Tuesday, I will set out for Texas to see my babes, then I’m back here at the ranch for a spell, and then on to Gainesville and into a new season and a whole new set of adventures.
It’s snowing here today. Just little baby flakes, but it’s something different than I normally see, and that quieted the fernweh for a moment.
A short while ago, however, I stood next to my car in front of the house and tipped my face up to feel the snow on my cheeks. When I closed my eyes, I remembered our January honeymoon eight years ago in Calgary and Lake Louise.
The air smelled the same. I could picture the stretch of frozen lake beneath our feet and the glacier in the distance. I could hear the skaters around us, laughing and trying not to fall. The memory was so vivid and so stunningly delightful that I became ravenous for more. I wanted to run into the house and start looking at the map and plotting a new course immediately.
A few months back, I was overcome with this same urge while paging through a very over-priced magazine in the grocery store that held images of the “100 most beautiful places in the world.” At that time, I was home for just a few short days between travels. But I went home and started pricing flights, knowing that there was no way I could swing any of these far-off adventures to the 100 most beautiful places in the world. At least not yet.
Because fernweh, it’ll drive you to figure it out.
Alright, that’s enough talking for a bit. I’m going to try to savor these last few days of stillness and quiet. It kinda feels like the perfect time to plan an adventure, actually.
See you out there (very soon)!