What places make you feel fernweh, or farsick?


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

In a fascinating reader survey, Atlas Obscura asked their community to “tell us about the places that make them feel a sense of fernweh, a German word that literally translates as “farsickness.” Put another way, it’s the concept of feeling homesick for a place you’ve never been or could never go. The responses are in, and they are beautiful.” I think many people who have seen the movie Black Panther may have recently had a similar experience!

What was the most common response?

By far the destinations that our readers said invoke that strange sense of foreign homesickness more than any other are the misty green landscapes of Scotland and Ireland, with an overwhelming number of responses invoking those two regions. Icelandic and English locales were also popular places that you miss without having been there. Still others wrote in to tell us about their feeling of connection with fictional places such as The Shire and Narnia.

But the common thread among nearly all the responses is a sense of poetry. Your responses speak of places both real and imagined, in lush, often evocative verse that paints a vivid picture of your own personal fernweh.

A few questions and thoughts:

  1. What do you make of this (anecdotal) report?
  2. Ask a friend what makes them feel ‘farsick’ - and report back to us how the conversation went. (This week’s #evangelism-challenge!)
  3. What makes you feel ‘farsick’?

(SeanO) #2

I saw a video about surfers who search for the coldest, remote places near glaciers and surf where only a few captains are willing to go. They talked about the search for ‘one more wave’ and I had a sense of fernweh for those times in your life when you seem to have a clear hold on purpose. The image of the surfer with the aurora borealis in the background hit deep. It made me wonder what life should be like when following Jesus’ command to leave the 99 and search for the 1.

(Melvin Greene) #3

I find this to be very fascinating, @CarsonWeitnauer! I never knew there actually was a global phenomenon like that, let alone a term for it, farsick. I immediately was reminded by C.S. Lewis describing a longing for the “far green country”. I think he nailed it. We all have a sense of things not being right. That there is this “oughtness”, or a feeling that things ought to be different. I think this is something that has been handed down from Adam and Eve. A sense that we had something beautiful, something perfect, and then we lost it. We have fallen from a great hight and we’re seeking a way back.

It’s interesting that an overwhelming amount of people chose Scotland, or Ireland as the the country of their fernweh. I remember that while flying back to the United States from Kuwait, we had a stop over in Shannon, Ireland. Since we were in military uniform, we couldn’t leave the terminal. Like most airports that I’ve been in, there were walls of windows to look out. I was struck by how beautifully green the countryside was. I remember just staring out the window, longing to be able to travel and explore the country.

I also remember the first time I read the “Hobbit”. I was in high school and I had such a vivid imagination. I could see the Shire, and I was thinking that I would love to have lived in a place like that. @SeanO and I had a talk about Hobbits and the Shire a while back; didn’t we Sean? Speaking of which, that picture you posted about those surfers surfing near glaciers gives me goosebumps just looking at it!

Something else came to my mind. I recently saw the movie, “I Can Only Imagine” which tells the true story of how that song came about. Not only was that song a number one hit on Christian charts, but it also was one of the most requested song on secular music stations. I think this parallels the farsick phenomenon. That song had such an impact on people, and I think it’s a reflection of people’s fernweh.

Yeah, I can relate to farsick. You know Carson, it seems like the older I get, the more farsick I become. Some times I get so sick and tired of all that’s wrong in this world; all of the violence and death, and the evil that men do. I just want to go home. But, I think there is a danger in that. I think we Christians can get too farsick and want to just withdraw from people., and I know we can’t do that. God leaves us in this world so we can be the light in this ever darkening world.

(SeanO) #4

@Melvin_Greene Hobbits make me farsick :slight_smile:

Every time I read the end of The Return of the King where Bilbo and Frodo leave for Valinor - the dwelling place of the Valar - an uncorrupted land.

(Carson Weitnauer) #5

Hey @SeanO, that’s a beautiful picture! It gives me fernweh! Wow.

@Melvin_Greene, yea, it was a new word for me as well. I had heard of being homesick, but not farsick. But once I heard it, the concept was instantly recognizable. The Shire is a place I long to visit as well. I wonder if fictional places will be made real in heaven…?

(Melvin Greene) #6

I don’t know, my friend. But, it will be perfect!

(Helen Tan) #7

Hi Carson, I’m not sure if this fits the criteria for a fernweh, but I would have loved to be with Mary on Resurrection morning to meet the resurrected Jesus, and having mourning turned into indescribable joy! And then to be in the Upper Room awaiting and receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit. It never ceases to amaze me that both God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have come right here into my world to save me, and to live in me to be my Paraclete.

(Jennifer Judson) #8

Every time I see a movie where the setting is the Greek Islands I feel a tug to go there. Oddly enough I’m more a mountain girl than a beach/ocean girl so I’m not sure what draws me. But it does draw me in a powerful way.

I did spend a long summer in North Africa on the Mediterranean, so I know the beauty of the water. But there is something about those islands that call me. I just never knew there was a name for it – fernweh.

(SeanO) #9

@Helen_Tan The moment when Mary realized it was Jesus and said “Rabboni” is a powerful moment of fernweh for me as well. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I feel like life is often like that - God is there all along, but we must “be still and know that He is” (Psalms 46:10).

The sad journey Mary took to the tomb and the moment of realization that the Master was alive - C. S. Lewis paints it wonderfully in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe when Lucy and Susan witness Aslan’s death and then the stone table cracks and he comes to life.

From death to life - sorrow to joy - crucifixion to resurrection - def some powerful fernweh there…