(I just really like this picture of Korra and she kinda looks sad and homesick)
Homesickness is a well known phenomena. It doesn’t happen to me that often but when it hits, it hits. Not everyone has experienced it but the idea itself is not hard to understand. You miss the people, the places, the smells, the weather, the cuisine, things you grew attached to and maybe even the things you used to hate. For instance, I am missing out on some historical snow action in my home state of Maine at the moment. I remember quite clearly despising driving to Portland in the winter, especially having to warm up the car, cleaning the windshield and dealing with what ever else old man winter could throw my way. I even once accidently destroyed a mailbox while pretending to loose control in a snow storm to freak out my car mates. Now however, I seem to be missing all of these things and more even though I was just home for two months.
Today I find myself, once again, in some random townie ski village in the Alps. I ended up here though because of another sickness, one that I only just learned about while living here. The people of the Germanic language have many words that we do not but this particular one stood out to me. The word is Fernweh. It might literally translate to seeing sickness or viewing pain but what it actually means makes more sense. It means an ache, not a desire or longing, but an actual pain for wanting to travel. It is actually a lot like feeling homesick only the exact opposite. You are homesick for a place that you have never been to. I wonder if this urge might have been passed down to us from our nomadic ancestors. I like the way that sounds but Im not a genealogist, so its probably just my own over exaggerated romanticism that I get from the French side of my family. Regardless of where the travel-ache comes from it is a serious problem with really only one solution; move. I don’t just mean move where you live but more like move with the earth as its turning. And I don’t just mean go walking or hiking for your health either. Nor do I mean spending the week at a beachside hotel. I mean packing as few things as you can to get as far as you can. I mean really experiencing all that you can find out there. I have met some great people traveling, people I know would love to meet my friends back home, some of which even have! I have also seen some of the most fantastic places with their help. Music, art, architecture, history, culture and languages await! Acknowledge, accept and breath that fact that you are a monkey thing magically strapped to a giant boulder flying around a massive burning ball of fire. Only then can you get rid of this disease.
I have recently thought that this may be all part of some homesick pattern. This was after stumbling across a Welsh word. Hiraeth, which means the homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past. This is also something that I can relate to. After spending semi large swaths of time away from home and coming back several different times I start to notice and really feel how things had changed there. Almost as if I had some how thought that home just went into a frozen time bubble while I was away, waiting for my return. Of course today’s social media doesn’t allow that to happen though, (I catch up on all my Maine news and I chat reasonably with family and friends) it was more about this feeling. The feeling of the days I cannot return too, possibly these are my youth, the home that maybe never was is my fogging memory, the nostalgia and yearning for the good times we had there. Though I know more good times are sure to come.
Fernweh, Homesickness, Hiraeth, (also check out Saudade) are these almost unexplainable emotions. How does one even grasp where a feeling like that comes from? You are sitting there one minute drinking some coffee in a cafe, someone walks by that looks vaguely like someone from your past, the cogs start to turn and suddenly you are a little bit sadder than you were when you ordered coffee sixty seconds ago. For me it was this pattern. First, the Fernweh takes you out of comfort zone (which is where people keep telling me the magic is but I have definitely still found magic in comfortable places ). Still it makes you wonder what is on the other side of those hills and it makes you want to run for it just to find out. Perhaps it is pure curiosity but it feels like more, as if the curiosity had a conscience and a will of its own. You can fight it as long as you want, read books, study geography, watch foreign films. But if you have a really bad case of it you will most likely wind up on a long dirt road, or in a strange city park or train station just trying to find a wifi signal.
Once you have gotten used to the strange new place the homesickness can start to grow until it finds the right moment to rear its ugly head. For me, when I feel it, I can taste it. It tastes like guilt. I love my home, I love my small town, I even love my State, and occasionally my country (country does not mean government in this instance) However, I can’t take York County on vacation with me, let alone the whole State. I barely managed to get my own brother and a Bob Ross look alike across all of Ireland and back. So I realize my guilt is misplaced. I just want the same amazing opportunities and experiences for my friends, family and neighbors back home. But until I am back the homesickness remains.
Now here is where the Hiraeth comes in. Something about being in Europe, meeting all these different nationalities, and they are all so proud of where they come from most of the time, it made me appreciate my home even more. But then I read the news and I have seen the changes and some things really worry me. I long for those days at summer camp without a care in the world, not understanding the news and not caring who Al Gore was. However, the world keeps spinning. So all I can do now to fight the Hiraeth is to try to give a little bit of Maine to every place I visit and to also know that I will bring a little bit of the world back to Maine some day.
I wouldn’t force Fernweh on anyone, I could only recommend catching it.