Saturday, 10 October 2015

Fernweh by Natasha Ragsdale

There was something primal about the way I passed through the security at the airport. Something that has become a part of me, an innate sense of self that quietly simmers beneath the surface, causing me more anxiety and grandiose dreams than any sane person should endeavor to contain in their innards. I didn't want to leave my husband behind in Japan. It felt lonely and sad as I hiked up my backpack and slipped slowly through the metal detectors, tearily waving him goodbye. But then he was gone and I was on my own and something inside me clicked back into place.

It was Fernweh, an ache for distant places and yearn for travel. I can't recall a time in my life when I wasn't afflicted with it. Even as a young kid I remember getting into serious trouble because I just couldn't stop exploring places I hadn't been. Once, while camping with my father and his friends in Grand Teton, I decided their son Aaron ( a few years my junior) and I were going to play pirates on Jenny Lake. We then, naturally, commandeered a row boat and headed out to a little island I spied across the waters. Suffice to say that as we were doing our best Tom and Huck on the Mississippi, our fathers had notified the park rangers who eventually located us, harshly reprimanded us, and I think Aaron even got spanked. I, myself, didn't see anything wrong with our little adventure. We said we were gonna go play in the lake, I was a fantastic swimmer, and I KNEW where I was. I wasn't lost. My father, in a valiant attempt to be patient, tried to explain it to me. I suppose it never stuck.

And today I was traveling to Africa for the first time in my life. I was flying solo, stopping in Dubai, a 26 hour journey to meet a kindred spirit, former colleague, and dear friend I had never met past the Skype sessions and daily texts we shared for the past 4 years. We had cut ties with a publication on which we were staff for the same reasons. Mainly we found that it had morphed into an angry, negative, and offensive place. There was too much of that in the world already. And as little as we two were in this vast planet, we could not spend our lives conceiving, gestating and giving birth to hate and rage. We decided to come together and create a home for cultural relativity, education, adventure, love, friendship, and understanding. And so after years of talking and sharing and plotting and laughing we had to get serious, so one night, after far too many glasses of wine, I booked a ticket to Kenya.
Of course the next morning I yawned, poured some coffee and it slowly dawned on me. What the flaming fuck? I am going to fucking AFRICA!

As I negotiated the various terminals; Naha to Tokyo, Tokyo to Dubai, Dubai to Kenya, there was the gnawing fear that I had once again stolen a boat, was rowing out to unknown waters. That perhaps I was being naive with more Fernweh than common sense. "But I am an expert traveler. I love this! This IS me!" I mentally mantra-ed the hell out of my brain whilst grabbing the most expensive glass of wine of my life and prepared to meet my friend.

In these days of "catfish" and "African prince scams" being blasted on all the media possible and along with the nay-saying conglomeration of friends and family, I was braced to be severely disappointed at best or kidnapped, raped and murdered at worst. And then this lanky, handsome, poshly dressed man comes at me grinning from ear to ear! We embrace as if we were long lost family, As we ride in the back of his uncle's car along dusty, teeth-jarring, bladder screaming dirt roads to his village I watch from the window as zebras, monkeys, and all sorts of creatures whirl by. Owen and I jump straight into the kind of conversation you get from the sort of friend you make only a few times in a lifetime, if you are lucky, I know I am where I am meant to be.

The road slowly gets dusky and illuminated, the sun sets over the vasty, hills and valleys of the Rift Valley and I settle comfortably, sleepily into the kind of certainty that great things are in store and they are just around the arenaceous, rugged, village street corner...


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! Glad the first one is out there! <3

  2. Is Fernweh the same as wanderlust? If so, I can totally relate, and I love having the new word in my vocabulary.

    1. It is! It is a German word! I love love love this word.