We need a new word for adventure

(written for the Teva ember blog: full post here)

“Are those the freakin Northern Lights!?,” Joe screamed into the windshield, pulling into Canada’s Banff National Park at midnight.

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The flickering in the sky grew into eruptions of green and purple as we drove into the hills to get away from the glow of the city. This magnificent display of light in the heavens is something we’d hear about and seen photos of, but there’s no way to understand this multidimensional experience other than by experiencing it for yourself.

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As we gazed up from the roof of our rental car, our eyes looking into the sky over Lake Minnewanka, we realized that we were lost for words altogether as we experienced the biggest magnetic storm in years. Sitting cozily with close friends, Aurora Borealis overhead, you could say that this was a great adventure, but what does that word even mean anymore?

The overwhelming lack of synonyms for important English words is astounding. Take the word “love” — it’s a word that describes one of the deepest and most powerful feelings imaginable, yet it has so few descriptive equivalents.

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I have this love-hate relationship with the word “adventure” because of how overused, vague, and watered down it’s become, yet there aren’t many great synonyms. So, to satisfy my internal longing for better descriptors, I set out to learn a few new phrases to use that more accurately describe these kind of feelings you get while traveling.

Here are a few favorites that you can use to describe these ‘adventure feelings’ we all know so well, but can hardly describe. Enjoy this international word-smithing journey into a couple foreign dictionaries.

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Yūgen

(Japanese origin)

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

Fernweh

(German origin)

A craving for travel; being homesick for a place you’ve never been and an ache for distant places. Literally “farsickness,” or “longing for far-off places,” as contrasted with heimweh: “homesickness,” longing for home.”

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Trouvaille

(French origin)

Something lovely discovered by chance; a windfall.

Dérive

(Latin/French origin)

Lit. “drift”; a spontaneous journey where the traveler leaves their life behind for a time to let the spirit of the landscape and architecture attract and move them.

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Numinous

(Latin origin)

Describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted — the powerful, personal feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired.

Strikhedonia

(Greek origin)

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

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Resfeber

(Swedish origin)

The restless race of the traveler’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together in “travel fever.”

Saudade (Portuguese origin)

A nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and then lost; “the love that remains.”

Eudaimonia

(Greek origin)

Lit. “human flourishing”; a contented state of being happy, healthy and prosperous.

Novaturient

(Latin origin)

Desiring or seeking powerful change in one’s life, behavior, or situation.

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Eleutheromania

 (Greek origin)

An intense and irresistible desire for freedom.

Livsnjutare (Swedish origin)

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

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Selcouth

(English)

Unfamiliar, rare, strange, and yet marvelous.

Commuovere

(Italian origin)

To stir, to touch, to move to tears.

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When I think about the best “adventure” moments I’ve experienced, they all boil down to the same thing: it’s really not about the places, but the people I’m with. Whether it’s summiting a high-altitude peak or jumping off a dock into a glacial lake in your sandals,  these memories always flood back into my mind with the human connection at the forefront. Strap into freedom, friends #Fernweh.