24 Unusual Travel Words You Should Know

March 7, 2016

We’ve all tried to find words to describe how we feel when we travel, and sometimes nothing seems to quite explain it right. I love discovering new ways to express myself, and over the years I’ve slowly collected the below list of words that are either not commonly used in English, or are from another language and explain those travel emotions we go through much better. If you’re a bit of a Pinterest addict like me you might have heard some of these before, but hopefully some are new!

The unusual travel words you need to know:

Resfeber  (n)

Origin – Swedish

The tangled feelings of fear and excitement before a journey begins.

We’ve all felt this. That jolt in your heart when you book your flights, when you tell your family and friends what you’re about to do, and now that feeling has a name. This feeling is for new travellers and old alike. I still feel it when I embark on new journeys, especially before I moved to Spain to teach English.

resfeber travel words

Fernweh (n)

Origin: German

Farsickness. An urge to travel even stronger than wanderlust.

That feeling you get when you’ve been home too long and you ache to be out into the world again. Sometimes you don’t know where you want to be, but you know that it’s away. Sometimes you know where, and you want to get there as quickly as possible. This it that feeling. Last year I had a serious case of the post travel blues, and felt this to the extreme!

fernweh travel words

Dérive (n)

Origin: French

To drift unplanned, led only by the landscape and architecture around you. The idea that even if you drift you will end up falling into a path that is lined out for you by your surroundings. This could describe life overall, but it also describes small journeys. When you’re wandering through a new city and you just happen to wander on a path that takes you to great discoveries. This happened to me in Stockholm, when I went to the archipelago and saw absolutely nothing of the city…

dérive travel words

Numinous (adj)

Origin: Latin

Feeling both fearful and awed by what is before you.

Firstly referring to divinity, but I think it is a wonderful way to describe how you feel when you see things that are so amazing you’re not sure whether to be amazed or realise your own insignificance in the world.  It’s the magical feeling when you see something truly awe-inspiring, be it the scenery before you, or just something amazing falls into place when you’re travelling. Visiting the rice terraces of China was that moment for me.

numinous travel words

Schwellenangst (n)

Origin: German

Fear of crossing a threshold to embark on something new.

Maybe referring literally to a door, but a great way to explain that feeling you might have before deciding to set out on a new journey. Did you make the right decision? Those questioning feelings now have a name. I thought I might have made a mistake in moving to Spain but really, it was just this feeling of fearing something new.

schwellenangst travel words

Strikhedonia (n)

Origin: Greek

The joy of being able to say “to hell with it”.

What you can do when you decide to quit everything, stop making excuses, and explore the world. When you book your flights or you decide to do something on your journey that you wouldn’t normally do. You’re travelling, who cares right?!

strikhedonia travel words

Vagary (v)

Origin: Latin

A wandering or roaming journey.

An unpredictable idea, desire or action. Travelling without knowing the destination, and it doesn’t matter. I got completely lost with friends in the Alpujarras in southern Spain, and it didn’t matter one bit.

vagary travel words

Sehnsucht (n)

Origin: German

A wistful longing and yearning in the heart for travels that have been and travels to come.

When you’re not travelling this can be an overwhelming feeling, or when you think about the travel you’ve done and you wish you could relive it all over again. This feeling is why you need to make the most of every moment! It’s why the more you travel, the harder it gets.

sehnsucht travel words

Eleutheromania (n)

Origin: Greek

The intense desire for freedom.

People often say that travelling makes them feel free, and eleutheromania is the desire for this feeling. We seem to find freedom in other cultures, or just in being outside the norm, and when you stop travelling, you crave it again. I think this is what led me to make the crazy decision to move abroad for the first time at 16!

eleutheromania travel words

Livsnjutare (n)

Origin: Swedish

Someone who loves life deeply and lives it to the extreme.

Someone I try to be. Take chances, take risks, and always choose the adventure.

livsnjutare travel words

Sturmfrei (adj)

Origin: German

The freedom of being alone and having the ability to do what you want.

Travelling solo can be especially rewarding because it’s all up to you. You can make your travel journey exactly how you want it to be. No compromises, no one else to please. Just you and the road. You might meet amazing people when you travel, but being on your own is real freedom.

sturmfrei travel words

Solivagant (adj)

Origin: Latin

Wandering alone.

A kind of traveller many of us are. Solo travel has exploded so much and is no longer out of the ordinary. As most solo travellers know, you’re not alone for long as you make your friends on the road. But sometimes, it’s the wandering journey you take alone that is the most rewarding.

solivagant travel words

Saudade (n)

Origin: Portuguese

Nostalgia and the love that remains. A desire to be near to something or someone distant.

After your journey ends and you just want to be back where you were, or with the people you met on the way. It’s the feeling that’s left after it all ends. It’s what makes you want to return to your favourite place, even if you know it might not be the same.

saudade travel words

Yūgen (n)

Origin: Japanese

An awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and mysterious for words.

That feeling when it’s dark and you look at the stars and your wonder for all the things in the world wells up inside of you.

yūgen travel words

Acatalepsy (n)

Origin: Greek

The idea that it is impossible to truly comprehend anything.

Can you truly understand your travels, the things you see, and how they affect you? Sometimes it takes time to process how travel might have changed your life, and sometimes, it’s better to realise we never truly know why we take the journeys we do and what they’ll mean for us. We can reflect on amazing travel moments, but never fully know their impact.

acatalepsy travel words

Sonder (v)

Origin: In doubt

The realisation every person is living their own vivid life.

I stumbled across this word and fell in love with the meaning, as it’s something I sometimes think about. How each person’s life is as full of different connections, memories and possibilities as my own. Although the internet tells me this may not be a real word, the concept is beautiful.

sonder travel words

Trouvaille (n)

Origin: French

Something lovely found by chance.

A street, cafe, an experience stumbled upon by luck. I love when this happens in my travels. A moment drinking coffee under a lemon tree in the south of Spain, a garden or a lake or a swimming hole discovered with no one else around.

trouvaille travel words

Hygge (n)

Origin: Danish

The cosy feeling you get while you’re enjoying the good things in life with friends.

When you’re out for a meal with people you met during your travels, and you feel content and right. That feeling that you’re right where you’re meant to be.

hygge travel words

Onism (n)

Origin: The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows – John Koenig

Awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience.

When you’re staring at the departures board and wishing you could go to all of those places at once. It’s possible that the more you travel the harder it gets, and this is one of the reasons why. You can live abroad to try and travel more, but there’s still only so much to be seen.

onism travel words

Novaturient (adj)

Origin: Latin

A desire to change and alter your life.

The feeling that pushes you to travel. When you know you’re not living the life you could be and there must be more out there for you. It’s time to go and find it.

novaturient travel words

Yoko meshi (n)

Origin: Japanese

The stress of speaking a foreign language.

Literally translates to, “a meal eaten sideways”, and how I feel about speaking Spanish right now! When people tell me to “just start speaking” and it’s really not that easy. Can you really learn a language just by moving abroad? Maybe not, but you can try.

yoko meshi travel words

Selcouth (adj)

Origin: Old English

Strange and uncommon, the way you see things when you travel. Everything seems different and foreign, and it’s a good thing. We travel to seek out the things we don’t have at home.

selcouth travel words

Eudaimonia (n)

Origin: Greek

The contented happy state.

That bursting feeling in your chest when you travel. When it all feels right. The constant change in travel often puts our senses in overdrive and the highs are higher than ever. Learning to dive on the Great Barrier Reef was one of the best experiences of my life, and I won’t soon forget this feeling.

eudaimonia travel words

Coddiwomple (v)

Origin: English slang

To travel purposefully towards a vague destination.

When you have an idea of where you’re going, but it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there. The road doesn’t have to be a straight one. In fact, sometimes it’s better when it’s not.

coddiwomple travel words

Looking for some more inspirational travel words? Check out 18 More Unusual Travel Words You Should Know!

Have you heard of these travel words and would you use them? Do you think they explain things better than we normally can?

If you liked them, pin them!

24 Unusual Travel Words You Should Know

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25 Comments

  • Reply Sneha March 7, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Amazing list! Looking to impress a number of my fellow travelers with this list now!

    • Reply Migrating Miss March 7, 2016 at 10:46 pm

      I swear some of them can be worked in to normal conversation! Others may be a little different but it’s so nice to have words that describe those travel feelings.

  • Reply Monika March 7, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    Sonja, that’s a great one!! Sharing it all over now:) love all the words and the idea of such a post:)

    • Reply Migrating Miss March 7, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      Thanks so much Monika! I have been sitting on all of these for a long time. They are saved all over my phone and written in personal journals, so I thought it was time to share!

  • Reply Monika March 7, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    I’d add: ecdemomania <3

    • Reply Migrating Miss March 7, 2016 at 10:48 pm

      That’s a good one I didn’t have! I’ll have to add it to the next list 🙂

  • Reply Bethany Clochard March 7, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I absolutely love these! I so often find myself having a hard time describing my deep seeded need to get away, always be moving, or travel solo. The long pause and struggle I have to express the answer to “why” when asked about my journeys can feel very awkwardly isolating, and not in the good way of standing alone on a mountain top or wandering an empty desert. I like to feel all alone in the world sometimes but other times, I want to be a part of something, a community, and understood. Seeing words like you have dug up to share in this post do just that. The fact that there are words in so many languages to describe exactly how I feel, means that I am not really alone, even when I have been on a road with no signs of humans for days!

    • Reply Migrating Miss March 7, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks Bethany! You are definitely not alone! I too loved discovering that there are words that actually describe how I feel when I can’t even really describe it myself. It means that there are other’s that have felt like this, and so much so that whole words have been created for it. I hope you find a way to explain how you feel and why you want travel and movement in your life. All the best x

  • Reply Katie Featherstone April 6, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Wow, I love these, thank-you!

    • Reply Migrating Miss April 6, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks! I’ve been collecting them for awhile, I love finding out about different words that we can use to explain our feelings, not that I would end up actually saying most of these!

  • Reply Josi June 20, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Your list of words is awesome!
    But Germans actually don’t use “sturmfrei” in the context of traveling.
    It’s being said when your parents have left home for one or more nights so you can invite friends and party. 😉 it’s not a description about how we feel, it’s more a description of the situation itself.
    I definitely like your interpretation – hopefully it’ll become a part of travelers diaries.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 20, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      Thanks Josi! It’s good to know the real meaning behind the word. I like the idea of trying to adapt it as a travel word too, so fingers crossed others see it like you too! 🙂

  • Reply Michelle July 2, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Thank you Sonja,
    This was a fun list. I doubt I will be able to work them into my vocabulary. I don’t think I can even pronounce most of them. Perhaps it would be fun to have a follow up post that included the pronunciation of each. You clearly have comfort with many languages. I envy that.
    Happy Trails to You,
    Michelle

    • Reply Migrating Miss July 4, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Haha no they are not exactly everyday words! I think a few may be easier than others, but anyone actually understanding them is the problem! I love the idea that sometimes other languages can explain things better than English though, and I do find it fascinating in learning Spanish that things are not always a direct translation. The use of words can be so different! Happy travels to you too!

  • Reply Sandra Redlinger August 3, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    I loved reading these words! Thanks for finding them and creating the pin for them! What an excellent way to express our traveling emotions!

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 3, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      Thanks so much! You’re most welcome :). I have to admit I don’t use them a whole lot in my blog writing, but I just love them!

  • Reply sheri king August 5, 2016 at 3:26 am

    I love your words. Thank you.

  • Reply Ida September 9, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    This is a great list, I enjoyed it! Thanks.
    However, I just want to correct a minor detail. While I was reading along, I got surprised by the word “onism” as I am Danish and has never in my life heard of this word before, whereas “hygge”, the other Danish word on your list, is very commonly used. I looked up “onism” on the internet and found that it comes from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows which is a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. I suppose it is made as a combination between the words “monism” (Greek?) and “onanism” (English?), so there is nothing Danish about its origin (at least not that I could find) x

    • Reply Migrating Miss September 9, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks Ida! I tried to research everything as much as I could (hours in fact haha) and I’m not sure how I ended up with that one! I’ll take another look but I suspect I’ll find the same as you and change it! Thanks again 🙂 x

  • Reply Sheena November 1, 2016 at 7:51 am

    I loved reading this post and found myself relating to almost every one! 😄 Thought the accompanying photos were perfect too. It’s given me inspiration for a new travel/art journal …

    • Reply Migrating Miss November 2, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks so much! It makes me really happy to hear I’ve given someone else inspiration 🙂 🙂

  • Reply Hardik January 5, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Wow !! Love them.. I was actually looking for a new word which would describe my travel agency. I think I should be able to come up with something using the list of words, u’ve mentioned in this post.

    • Reply Migrating Miss January 8, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      That’s great I’m glad they’re able to help you! Best of luck.

  • Reply Simran Chauhan April 9, 2017 at 5:39 am

    Thnx a lot for giving this sort of knowledge about the words who r completely new to me. Keep posting these words along with their meaning it helps a lot.

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