Some foreign words pull us far from the margins of our guidebook glossaries. One such word is the German compound noun Fernweh. While its antonym, Heimweh, translates neatly to “homesick,” Fernweh is more elusive. It combines distance (fern) with soreness (weh). In other words, Fernweh means “farsick.” But since the calque has yet to be added to the dictionary, it’s more often described as the “ache for distant places” or the “call of the faraway.” Whether lost or found in translation, it raises the question: Can you feel farsickness, too?
Homesickness is characterized as “a feeling of intense sadness and longing caused by absence from one’s home or native land,” by the American Psychological Association dictionary. It’s the mini grief you feel on your first sleepover that wells into night sweats and long-distance phone calls from summer camp, that catches you off guard on campus, or leaves you crestfallen after a big move abroad. Unlike separation anxiety, which can strike pre- and post-departure, homesickness tends to be temporary and is not categorized as a mental disorder, though it can be tied to depression and anxiety. While much clinical attention has been given to this minor malaise, far less has been extended to its not-so-distant counterpart.