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Person staring into distance on beach


Fernweh in German describes a desire to be someplace else. Fern means far away or remote, not unlike the prefix tele- in English, with Fernstudium meaning distance learning or education, Fernrohr being a telescope, and Fernsehgerät a televison. Weh means pain or ache, with Kopfweh meaning headache and Zahnweh meaning toothache.

Fernweh has no single agreed English translation, being variously translated as homesick for a place you’ve never been, farsickness, aching to travel, longing to see distant lands, desire to travel, or even far-woe. The slightly archaic English word woe does a better job of reflecting the somewhat melancholic and aching element of Fernweh, which makes Fernweh different in emphasis from the more upbeat German word Wanderlust. Fernweh is the opposite of Heimweh, which means literally homesickness, longing for one’s home. Several leisure clothing makers have branded their wares Fernweh, and the term is used in German travel advertising as well.