There is a magical little website called The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows in which a man named John Koenig has, for years, made up words for some of life’s most intangible phenomena. One such word is sonder.
Though I never had a name for it, this sentiment has been a limb of the tireless wanderlust I’ve felt for as long as I can remember. I wish there was a better word for “wanderlust” that didn’t make the user sound like a 19 year-old creative writing student; but it does sum up the feeling well. It is a lust; a vociferous, all-encompassing need to have more, see more, taste more, know more. Wander everywhere. Or as we say at Nav.it, be borderless.
Through my initial forays out of the U.S. into Western Europe, in trips to Mexico and Central America, through the streets of Caracas, Venezuela and the jungles of Northern Thailand, winding my way across Bohemia, getting lost in Lithuanian forests and witnessing stampedes of Wildebeests in Mjejane, South Africa (Lion King style)…I often stop in amazement at the most obviousand provincial of realizations — that there are people everywhere; that the moments I find myself in awe, absorbing the customs, culture and history of a new place is an insignificant hour in someone else’s day. A woman wakes up and goes to work in a neighboring town she has always known, where my “new”is her status quo. We cross paths, for the first and last time in our lives, but for a moment as we set eyes on each other…
Women see women. In a room, on a train, in precarious situations, in spectacular environments. We see each other, if only briefly. And the feminine spirit is comforting in its familiarity. For where one woman thrives, her happiness stretches out like a hand, waiting to extend the same potential to another; it whispers, “Life is nourishing here.”
When we travel, even if it is to “get away,” we search for connections with each other. We explore parts unknown, to learn and grow, but find kernels of sameness that help keep our feet on the ground.
When we travel, when we experience different cultures, often times it is the female experiencein the societies in which we find ourselves that help us understand the fundamental differences. Walk through the colorful streets of Denmark, and then the bustling markets of Morocco and you will pass by women who are powerful and brave — and face distinct challenges. A woman boards a bus in Japan with a freer mind than she does in India. And yet, we’ve all got somewhere to be.
And still, the world is ours. Women of the world. We fight, at different levels, for justice, for equality, for respect. For meaning.
We elevate our lives through travel. And not just luxurious, frolicking through flower fields travel (though who among us doesn’t love a good flower field?) But leaving comfort zones, travel; conceptualizing home as something outside the lines of the piece of land you “belong” to; to a nationaity you were told you are. You change the narrative. You Nav.it. You become a citizen of the world, a woman who explores its many crevices. You assimilate into the air, onto the ground and within the many bodies of water on this planet. And you do so knowing you are in a state of perpetual ignorance. Every person on the street is a window into a life you will most likely never know.
Sonder is real, and beautiful, and perhaps necessary to understand the scope of our existence. It is both tiny and magnanimous. You are both the center of your universe, and a dot on the ground as another woman’s flight takes off, propelling her on an adventure you may never understand, but are a small part of nonetheless.
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