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Fernweh Collective – The Beginning

The truest words to describe my childhood are comfortable and safe. Growing up I lived in a bounded social mold, leading a life that, for the most part, was shaped by the circumstances of my existence. As I navigated through high school a longing to break free of everything I knew, or thought I knew, began to emerge. I often found myself sitting at home, daydreaming about living outside of my element, as a stranger in a distant land. This unidentifiable yearning consumed me—for I didn’t know what I was looking for or where I longed to go, but I knew I had to get on my way. So I traveled across the earth, leaving behind the confines of my secure and limited reality in search of something, somewhere else.  

I now know the ambiguous feeling of the German word, fernweh; a word with no equivalent in the English language. When broken down, fernweh literally translates to, “farsickness,” and is often unsatisfyingly paraphrased as, “an ache for distant places.” Despite the translational shortcomings, and whether explained in German or English, the word remains difficult to grasp, perhaps because the feeling fernweh aims to describe is inherently ungraspable.  

The best way to understand fernweh is through analyzing exactly what it is not—homesickness. A familiar term and common feeling many have experienced at some point in time, homesickness is an acute longing for one’s home during a prolonged time in its absence. While homesickness can lead to distress and suffering, it is nonetheless, in most cases, a mendable ‘sickness’—we can always return home. Fernweh, or farsickness, is also a suffering, but is less clear cut. It is a consuming longing to be somewhere you’ve never been; an aching to be in a distant and unknown land, an ambiguous yearning for anything, anywhere else, as anyone else. But how do we go about searching for a place we’ve never been? How do we fulfill a yearning, the source of which is unknown to us? And the most pertinent question remains: why do we ache for places we’ve never known?

When we are homesick, we long for a place known to us, a place of safety, comfort, and stability. On a surface level, we miss a physical structure with walls, a front door, a place filled with objects, memories and people whose faces are as familiar as our own. Home is a place we can touch, smell and see. Fernweh is an ache for experiences never had and sensations never felt. Where homesickness is a yearning for the familiar, fernweh is a yearning for the complete unknown—a place free from the limiting confines of our familiar society and home. It’s a purposeful desire to recognize nothing and no one.  Instead of longing for a physical structure, it’s a desire to discover home under the wide open sky in a far away land, where the front door is the expansive sea and the bedroom, its sandy shores.

But the question remains: why do we yearn for unknown experiences in unknown lands? The unknown is a place for reinvention. It’s a space of limitless possibilities and, as such, an opportunity to wipe our slates clean and begin anew. It is a chance to relinquish confining mental constructs of the self—how we view ourselves and how others view us. The formlessness inherent in fernweh allows us to re-conceptualize and re-create our being in any way we choose.

But, in the end, homesickness isn’t really about home at all. When we are homesick, we miss the feelings and comforts that the physical environment inherently provides. We miss the feeling of belonging somewhere. The root cause of fernweh is also fueled by a desire to be somewhere you belong—the somewhere that allows you to be the truest expression of yourself. Fernweh is also about finding home inside of us, anywhere in the world—on a mountain peak or winding road in the middle of the earth, recognizing nothing, but being part of everything. 

We can come back home, but how do we amend fernweh? Maybe it can never be permanently relieved because when it strikes once, it will strike again, perhaps even harder the second time around. But fernweh is a feeling for dreamers—where we imagine endless possibilities and realize how limitless the conditions of our existence really are. And the world can always use a few more dreamers.

2018…here we go!

well 2018 is here and it’s going…it came quick and hit the ground running.

I can’t believe it’s already 22 days into the new year, time stops for no one. But in the start of the new year I’ve finally found the time to reflect, pray, and dream for 2018…a few days late, but hey life happens.

I have a friend who introduced me to this practice of adopting a word for your year. A word to hold onto for the whole year and see what God does. As I began to pray for 2018 and the world that God has for me I couldn’t help but look back at 2017.

2017 was a hard year. One to bury in a box, to never look back on again. It threw me off course more times than I would like to count, but somehow, I am here in 2018 knowing what it means to dwell in a place of self-grace. What is self-grace? It is my word of the year and means to simply allow yourself to be who you are…all of the crazy, the pain, the dreams, the confusion, the joy, the restlessness, the doubt…it’s accepting what you are feeling, recognizing what brought you to this point and truly believing what you are going through to be valid. It’s knowing we are exactly where we are supposed to be no matter the circumstance because our mighty Author won’t lead us astray.

Moving forward into 2018 though…it’s on my heart to encourage you (and myself) to keep accepting yourself and smothering yourself in self-grace. (this is what I’m learning) What does that look like? Well it’s different for each of us…

Maybe it’s quitting a job or asking for a raise.

Maybe it’s packing your bags or deciding to finally sit still.

It could be learning a new skill or giving one up that doesn’t make your soul feel alive.

It might be deciding to stay with that person despite everything or knowing the healthiest thing is going your separate ways.

Perhaps it’s deciding to start your family or changing directions on how you go about doing that.

It could be changing majors in university or taking the risk to walk away from what you thought your future was always supposed to look like.

Moving back home or to a new city where you know no one.

Maybe you finally make that appointment with the counselor whose number you have been holding onto forever.

Maybe you finally call that person who hurt your heart so badly once, but you are ready to tell them you forgive them.

Your sight might be set to touch the highest of mountain tops or to take that literal jump out of the plane to feel your body soar through the sky.

Maybe it’s allowing 2018 to be the year of saying no or possibly finally saying yes…

Whatever it is for you, LET IT BE. You do you. Allow yourself to be inspired, but don’t conform. Take that leap or actually… let yourself sit still. (sounds harder than you think) When you feel lost, know you are far from alone. You are surrounded by people who love you and a unrelentless God who will be with you no matter which direction you choose to go.

Cheers to a 2018, a whole new year ahead of us…we still have 343 days this year to make them look like however you dream of them looking like and when they start to look different, embracing them and yourself anyway.

-S