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The wonderful German word that sums up the way we're all feeling

The German word “fernweh” describes a debilitating “longing for distant places” – which avid travellers suffer more than most

The German word “fernweh” describes a debilitating “longing for distant places” – which avid travellers suffer more than most


But the pandemic, of course, has grounded us and curtailed even the making of future plans to escape. Consequently, many of us are beginning to feel quite sick of home – of the kitchen and cooking, of the television blaring bad news, of the neighbours and their infernal strimming machines and, now that autumn is upon us, leafblowers.

As the nights draw in, thoughts inevitably turn to sunnier climes – just as further restrictions threaten to come down like dark blinds.

Who is not dreaming of open roads and far horizons?

When lockdown began, I promised myself to make the most of this unusual situation. Compelled to stay put for an unknown length of time, I resolved to explore fully my immediate environs and see what a low-mileage, low-carbon lifestyle felt like. I sky-bathed under the contrail-free blue dome that hung over England from March through May. 

I ignored the easing of rules allowing some travel; just as well, given the continually changing government rules around quarantine and flight corridors. 

But, of late, the urge to spin a globe and consider something epic has resurfaced with a vengeance. Good old Wanderlust – derived from a German term for “to enjoy hiking” – doesn’t quite cover it. Another German word Fernweh is far more apt. While translators often render it as “wanderlust”, it literally means “faroffsickness” or “longing for distant places”. 

Lots of studies have demonstrated the tangible benefits of holidays. A 2019 study by Syracuse University professors Bryce Hruska and Brooks Gump found is that people who holidayed more frequently over a 12-month period had a “lowered risk for metabolic syndrome and metabolic symptoms. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

My new passport arrived last week. For now, it sits there like an illicit drug, a risqué little book waiting to be opened and indulged in. The pandemic is certainly putting the “lust” back into Wanderlust. 

But if a second lockdown is imposed, I can see Fernweh spreading at viral speed through the travel-loving population. 

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