18 Best Synonyms for Wanderlust (Beautiful Travel Words)

By
Shanna Lindinger
|
April 12, 2024

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Welcome to a linguistic journey that spans the globe!

Today we delve into Wanderlust, not the genetic predisposition, but rather a word that conjures the spirit of travel and adventure, has counterparts in many languages, each capturing a unique facet of this irresistible urge to explore. From the fjords of Norway (bucket list, anyone) to the bustling streets of Tokyo, let's embark on a multicultural exploration through language.

A wanderlust thesaurus, if you will.

A quote by Charlotte Erikson goes: “There’s something about arriving in new cities, wandering empty streets with no destination. I will never lose the love for the arriving, but I'm born to leave.”

Ready to explore some of the most beautiful travel words from around the world and the universal allure of wanderlust?

n = adjective.
v = verb.
a = adjective.

1. Fernweh (n) [fern-vey]

Origins: German

Meaning: Literally "far pain" or "far sickness," it's the longing for distant places. For instance, "Each winter, I feel an intense Fernweh for the sun-drenched beaches of Spain."

Personal Connection: My father, a German, carried this feeling when he moved to South Africa, embodying the essence of Fernweh.

Fernweh is that pain to see far-off places beyond our doorstep and a wish to travel anywhere. Fernweh is the word, if felt long enough, that will get you on a plane, train, bus, or bicycle off to Oaxaca, Mexico,Koh Lanta, Thailand, or even the wilds of western Ethiopia.

Fernweh
Photo by kilarov zaneit on Unsplash

2. Saudade (n) [sow-dah-deh]

Origins: Portuguese

Meaning: A deep, melancholic longing for something absent. "Saudade fills me when I recall my childhood vacations by the sea."

Cultural Note: In Portugal, Saudade often carries a sense of love and loss, reflecting a deep emotional state. The difference between nostalgia and Saudade, however, is that you can feel "Saudade" for something that might never have happened. Others call it absence. This word is intrinsic to the Portuguese soul, often described as very melancholic and romantic.

This word has no tangible English equivalent. The closest translation to the meaning of the word Saudade comes from the book "In Portugal." Written by Portugues scholar Aubrey Bell, who describes Saudade as "...a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present."


My first exposure to the word comes from the song by legendary Cape Verdean singer Cesária Évora. For me, the theme of Sodade encompasses the feeling and meaning of the word.


3. Unresolvedness (n)

Origins: English

Meaning: The state of being unresolved or unsettled, akin to the restless desire to travel. "The unresolvedness in my heart grows as I pore over maps of unvisited lands."

Merriam-Webster defines unresolvedness as "not settled, solved, or brought to resolutionnot resolved." Also called unsettledness. When we refer to wanderlust in these terms, it is that feeling that sits deep within your chest, beckoning you to go. Go somewhere because you have yet to see everywhere.

4. Sehnsucht (n) [zayn-zoocht]

Origins: German

Meaning: A wistful longing, akin to Saudade. "Looking at old travel photos fills me with Sehnsucht for places I've left behind."

It is defined as a "Tender, wistful, and/or melancholic desire; yearning, longing." Sehnsucht is closely associated with Saudade, the Portuguese word. It is that feeling that comes over you when thinking back to a space in time or a place you may have been and the yearning to return. And though Sehnsucht isn't associated with traveling per se, the Cambridge dictionary has associated it with a craving. And there is nothing like that of a thirst for adventure.

Sehnsucht
Photo by Claudio Büttler on Unsplash

5. Eleutheromania (n) [eh-loo-ther-o-may-nee-a]

Origins: Greek

Meaning: An intense desire for freedom, often experienced while traveling. "My first solo trip was driven by a deep eleutheromania."

We all, at some point, have felt this feeling, and I know traveling conjures this feeling within. Landing in a new place brimming with possibilities is uber liberating. It is as close in feeling to wanderlust as any of the words we've come across thus far.

The book Into the Wild by John Krakauer reminds me most of this particular word. Suppose you still need to read the book or watch the movie. It tells the true story of one man, Christopher McCandless's exquisitely heartwrenching quest for freedom. It is well worth every second.

A little less wild, at some point, most of us have opened the car windows and stretched as far out as we could, closed our eyes, the sun beaming down, the wind rushing through our hair...

6. Resfeber (n) [race-fay-ber]

Origins: Swedish

Meaning: The tangled feelings of anxiety and anticipation before a journey begins. "The restless race of the traveler's heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together."

I'm sure all of us have felt this feeling at some point. Just before leaving on an adventure, that excitement and fear all tangled together. That's the feeling, resfeber.

Resfeber

7. Dromomania (n) [dro-mo-may-nee-a]

Origins: Greek

Meaning: An overwhelming urge to travel. "Whenever I return from a trip, my dromomania has me planning the next."

Fun fact: Dromomania was considered a genuine mental disorder in the 1880s through the early 20th century in France.

The word dromomania is derived from combining the Greek word dromos, meaning "running," with the root word, mania or "insanity". Dromomania is an uncontrollable desire or impulse to wander or travel and wanderlust to an extreme. Some people previously referred to it as "Vagabond neurosis." People with dromomania feel more alive when they're traveling and start planning their next trip as soon as they arrive home. Sound like you?

dromomania
Photo by Nick Dunlap on Unsplash

8. Novaturient (a) [nuh-vuh-nyoo-tree-uhnt]

Origins: Latin

Meaning: Desiring a powerful change in life, often through travel. "Feeling novaturient, I booked a one-way ticket to India."

Novaturient is derived from novāre (make new) and ent. The present participial ending is the word-forming element making a noun or verb an adjective. Besides the desire or seeking of powerful change in one's life, behavior, or situation, it's also defined as breaking the mold, letting go of what's familiar, or charting a new course.

So next time you feel a little novaturient, a road trip down the coast or up into the mountains may be just what the doctor ordered. A change of scenery is an excellent antidote to most challenges, especially for those experiencing a bit of wanderlust.

Novaturient
Photo by Marcus Dall Col on Unsplash

9. Itchy feet (n)

Origins: English

Meaning: A desire for travel or change. "Spring always gives me itchy feet, urging me to explore new places."

The poemDe Propah Kindwas written by Will F. Griffin and published inThe Sun(Baltimore, Maryland) on 27th August 1906. It is one of, if not the earliest, evidence of itchy feet used in its context:

"Ah don’t keer much fer wind sighs dat trickle thru de trees,
Ah don’t keer fer de seashore where dey gits de coolin’ breeze;
De all impohtant question what agitates mah mind
Is how ter get a melon of jest de propah kind.
Ah don’t keer fer de flowahs o’er yander smellin’ sweet,
De country road don’t tease me nor
give me itchy feet.
I’so busy cogitatin’ wif a burden on mah mind,
It’s how ter git a melon of jest de propah kind."

This poem gives us the natural feeling of the meaning of itchy feet. It's that sense of boredom or restlessness and an almost dire desire to travel, move on or experience something different that comes over you. Itchy feet are the precursor to wanderlust and the urge to travel or explore.

Woman running through the mist, atop a hill in the morning sun.
Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

10. Nefelibata (n) [ne-feh-lee-bah-ta]

Origins: Greek

Meaning: "One who walks the clouds," someone with an imaginative or unconventional mindset. "As a nefelibata, I often dream of fantastical journeys."

A most intriguing word, nefelibata or nephelobátēs, comes from the phrase nephélē meaning "cloud," and‎ -bátēs, meaning "walker." In Portuguese, the word nefelibata literally translates as "cloud walker."

A nefelibata is somebody who lives in their imagination or is an unconventional person who doesn't obey society's rules. It has also been said to denote someone who thinks and lives outside of preconceived boxes, is true to their heart, and follows their own path.

Nefelibata - Cloud Walker
Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

11. Flâneur (n) [flah-nur]

Origins: Old Norse

Meaning: A leisurely wanderer, an observer of life. "In Paris, I love being a flâneur, strolling aimlessly and taking in the city's beauty."

Derived from the Old Norse verb flana, Flâneur means "to wander with no purpose." Then around the nineteenth century, French poet Charles Baudelaire, in his essay, The Painter of Modern Life (1863), came to identify a flâneur as an observer of modern urban life. This interpretation helped the word evolve to encompass a set of rich associations.

Some included the urban explorer, the man of leisure, the idler, and the connoisseur of the street. Some have also associated a flâneur with a stroller or loaf—a person moving unconsciously but joyfully, watching the world's environment.

Flâneur
Photo by Andreas Wagner on Unsplash

12. Eudaimonia (n) [you-dey-mo-nee-a]

Origins: Greek

Meaning: A state of flourishing or well-being, often found in travel. "Traveling alone has brought me a sense of eudaimonia, a true contentment."

Eudaimonia comes from Aristotle's philosophical work on the 'science of happiness' (Irwin, 2012) and Nicomachean Ethics. For Aristotle, eudaimonia was the highest human good.

He deemed it the only human good desirable for its own sake. It is an end in and of itself rather than for the sake of another. Or, in fact, as a means of respecting some other end. I resonate most with this "for its own sake" concept associated with wanderlust. There is a great delight and wonder to be found in wandering for its own sake. The closest word then associated with eudaimonia is "flourishing".

13. Gallivant (v) [gal-uh-vant]

Origins: French

Meaning: To roam in search of pleasure. "This summer, I plan to gallivant across Europe, soaking in every experience."

Gallivant or galavant (gal-uh-vant, gal-uh-vant) means to wander about, seeking pleasure or diversion. Interestingly, the word gallivant was first coined in 1809 from gallant ("wooing women"), initially in a sense "to flirt." The Oxford English Dictionary's definition suggests it means "to gad about in a showy fashion." The word later broadened to mean "roaming without a plan."

14. Hygge (n) [hoo-gah

Origins: Norwegian

Meaning: The cozy, contented feeling often experienced in homely settings. "After a long day of exploring, I find hygge in a quiet café corner."

Hygge (hoo-gah) comes from the sixteenth-century Norwegian term hugga, meaning "to comfort" or "to console," and is interestingly related to the English word "hug." Hygge is one of my favorite words; strangely, the sound gives me the feeling of what the word means.

It is associated with relaxation—the feeling of warmth and comfort, indulgence, gratitude, and enjoying the simpler pleasures in life. Hygge has long been regarded as a part of the Danish national character.

Hygge
Photo by allison christine on Unsplash


15. Trouvaille (n) [troo-vai]

Origins: French

Meaning: A lucky find, often encountered on travels. "Stumbling upon a hidden beach in Greece was a true trouvaille."

A most unusual and endearing word, Trouvaille (true-vye), comes from the French word "trouver" and ultimately is defined as a lucky find or a chance encounter with something extraordinary. It makes me think about that hole in the wall discovered while taking a wrong turn or Jim Dee discovering a rare piece of piano sheet music. Most delightful.

16. Sonder (n)

Origins: German

Meaning: The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid as your own. "Traveling makes me feel sonder more intensely, as I cross paths with so many."

Coined by John Koenig for his online Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, Sonder is considered a neologism. It is inspired by the German words sonder- ("special") and French sonder ("to probe"). It is the understanding that each random person you witness is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. A different take on the saying, behind every face is a story unseen.


17. Onism (n)

Origins: English

Meaning: The frustration of being stuck in one body, unable to experience everything. "Onism hits me when I see a world map, knowing I can't visit every place."

Another brilliant word coined by John Koenig, author of "The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows."

Onism is defined as the frustration of being stuck in just one body that occupies only one place at a time. This feeling is associated with standing in front of the departure screen at an airport, scanning the strange place names like other people's passwords. Each place represents one more thing you'll not get the opportunity to see before you depart this life—and all because, as the pointer on the map indicates, you are here.

It makes one a tad melancholy, the awareness of how little of the world you'll genuinely experience in one lifetime.

Onism -
Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

18. Acatalepsy (n) [a-ka-ta-lep-see]

Origins: Greek

Meaning: The impossibility of understanding everything, often felt in new places. "Every new culture I experience adds to my sense of acatalepsy."

Acatalepsy is a doctrine held by the ancient Skeptic philosophers and is defined as the state of being impossible to conceive or understand. That is incomprehensibleness, or the impossibility of comprehending or conceiving a thing. It is the opposite to the Stoic doctrine in which it is believed that human knowledge can never know certainty.

The image of a small solitary plant in an endless site of sand.

Finding Joy in the Antonym of Wanderlust

While wanderlust drives many to explore far-off lands, there's a profound beauty in its antonym—embracing the comfort of home, routine, and local pleasures. Let's dive into the world of staycations, the joys of being a homebody, and the luxury of domestic bliss.

1. Homebody (n)

Origins: English

Meaning: Someone who finds contentment within the confines of their home, often preferring it over traveling. Example: "In a world that praises the wanderlust, I take pride in being a homebody, finding serenity in my own space."

A shift from avid traveler to a homebody reflects a deeper appreciation for simplicity and the intimate comfort of home life.

2. Staycation (n)

Origins: English (a blend of "stay" and "vacation")

Meaning: A vacation spent at home or nearby, exploring local attractions. Example: "This year, we're embracing the art of the staycation, discovering hidden gems just a stone's throw from our doorstep."

Adopting staycations has taught me to appreciate my local surroundings, finding adventure in the familiarity of what is closer to home.

3. Domesticity (n)

Origins: Latin (from domesticus, meaning 'belonging to the house')

Meaning: The appreciation of home life and family activities. Example: "Domesticity, with its routines and shared moments, offers a unique kind of joy distinct from the thrill of travel."

Embracing domesticity has allowed me to find joy in the day-to-day, grounding me in the beauty of ordinary life.


Wrapping Up

Have you ever wondered what the perfect synonyms for wanderlust are?

Wanderlust is more than just a desire to travel; it's a complex tapestry of emotions and experiences, beautifully captured in these words from around the world. Do you have any personal favorites or stories related to these words? Share them with us and continue the journey of exploring the depth and breadth of language and travel.

As we traverse the globe through words, let's remind ourselves of the profound joy found in both the journey and the expression of our wanderlust. May these words inspire you to seek new horizons and find your own unique path in this vast, beautiful world.

The singer, Mogli and her song Wanderer bring this word home for me. I hope you enjoy it.


Do you have any words for traveling or associated with wanderlust that resonate with you? I am an absolute logophile, aka word nerd, so do feel free to drop me a line, and I'd be happy to add to the list.

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