Home » 29 travel words that describe travel better than you ever thought possible

29 travel words that describe travel better than you ever thought possible

written by Intrepid Travel September 25, 2018
Travellers in Bolivia

We love travelling and we love words, so imagine our surprise when we came across a massive treasure trove of travel words that describe how we feel before, during and after we travel better than anything we’ve ever seen, ever. In the history of everything.

These literary gems make ‘wanderlust’ look like an overrated show pony. Which it is. Travel brochures of the future will be littered with the likes of resfeber, eudaimonia and fernweh. At least, they will if we have anything to do with it.


1. Trouvaille (n.)

Origin: French

Something lovely discovered by chance, like stumbling on a waterfall in Costa Rica.

2. Dérive (n.)

Origin: Latin/French

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

Girl on the Quarry Trail in Peru

Dériving along the Quarry Trail. Photo by Stephen Parry.


3. Numinous (adj.)

Origin: Latin

Describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted; the powerful, personal feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired. For example, you may have a numinous experience at Yosemite National Park, gazing up in wonder at El Capitan, or at a towering black bear.

4. Cockaigne (n.)

Origin: French, medieval trope

An imaginary land of luxury and idleness. Think House Tyrell of Highgarden, minus the poisoning.

5. Schwellenangst (n.)

Origin: German

Fear of embarking on something new; fear of crossing a threshold. But you know what? You should totally just go with it, and cross that threshold.

A man backflips off a sand dune

Getting all Strikhedonia in Jordan. Photo by tegan & nathan.

6. Strikhedonia (n.)

Origin: Greek

The pleasure of being able to say “to hell with it”. Try it now. Head to our North America page and shriek ‘Strikhedonia’ immediately before booking a trip.

7. Resfeber (n.)

Origin: Swedish

The restless race of the traveller’s heart before the journey begins when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together; a ‘travel fever’ that can manifest as an illness. The only cure is another grand adventure.

8. Vagary (n.)

Origin: Latin

An unpredictable instance, a wandering journey; a whimsical, wild or unusual idea, desire, or action.


Girl walks through shrine in Japan.

Embracing eudaimonia in Japan. Photo by Stephen Parry.

9. Eudaimonia (n.)

Origin: Greek

Lit. “human flourishing”; a contented state of being happy, healthy and prosperous. For example, you are pretty much guaranteed to experience eudaimonia as you watch the sun rise above the ocean in Playa del Carmen.

10. Quaquaversal (adj.)

Origin: Latin

Moving or happening in every direction instantaneously. It’s a little like when you think your passport’s in your sock drawer but it’s not and your flight’s leaving in three hours.

11. Novaturient (adj.)

Origin: Latin

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

Young travellers in the jungle.

Happily quaquaversal in Guatemala. Photo by Nathan Landers.

12. Sehnsucht (n.)

Origin: German

“The inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know now what”; a yearning for a far, familiar, non-earthly land one can identify as one’s home.

13. Ecophobia (n.)

Origin: English

A fear or dislike of one’s home.

14. Eleutheromania (n.)

Origin: Greek

An intense and irresistible desire for freedom. Pretty much describes every picture of the Greek Islands we’ve ever seen.

Trevi Fountain

Livsnjutare in Italy. Photo by The Common Wanderer

15. Livsnjutare (n.)

Origin: Swedish

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

16. Solivagant (adj.)

Origin: Latin

Wandering alone. Although we think it’s better when you’re solivagant with a small group of other solivagant types.

17. Saudade (n.)

Origin: Portuguese

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”. For example, I have a nostalgic longing for Turkish Delight right now.

Girl at night market

Having eunoia in Vietnam. Photo by Damien Raggatt.

18. Eunoia (n.)

Origin: Greek

Beautiful thinking; a good mind. My love of Turkish Delight proves I have eunoia (or does it?).

19. Sturmfrei (adj.)

Origin: Germany

Lit. “stormfree”; the freedom of not being watched by a parent or superior; being alone at a place and having the ability to do what you want. Like eating 18 waffles in a day in Belgium.

20. Yoko meshi (n.)

Origin: Japan

The peculiar stress of speaking a foreign language (literally means ‘a meal eaten sideways’). If you’ve ever tried to order ramen in one of Tokyo’s laneway bars, you’ll know exactly what this means.

Two people in bright clothes

Selcouth outfits in the Sacred Valley. Photo by Stephen Parry.

21. Selcouth (adj.)

Origin: English

Unfamiliar, rare, strange, and yet marvellous, like adding cheese to your coffee in Colombia.

22. Fernweh (n.)

Origin: German

An ache for distance places; the craving for travel; the opposite of homesickness. Also one of Instagram’s most popular hashtags.

23. Yūgen (n.)

Origin: Japan

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

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

It’s hard not to feel yūgen in a place like this. Photo by Damien Raggatt.

24. Commuovere (v.)

Origin: Italy

Only in Italy would you find such a sensual word meaning to stir, to touch, to move to tears. Possibly while eating a giant slice of thin-crust pizza.


25. Peregrinate (v.)

Origin: Latin

To wander from place to place. AKA travel. It’s the very definition. Think of a falcon and BE THE FALCON by embracing its love of flying immediately.

26. Nemophilist (n.)

Origin: English

One who is fond of forests; a haunter of the woods. Not like a spooky ghost; more like a guy with a top-knot who enjoys spending his weekends writing poetry under an old oak tree and drinking black coffee from a vintage thermos.

Girl standing on a rock

Peripatetic over a rock. photo by Phoebe Escott-Kenny.

27. Peripatetic (n.)

Origin: Greek

A person who spends his or her time wandering. There’s nothing pathetic about being peripatetic – we embrace the wanderers wholeheartedly.


28. Hireath (n.)

Origin: Welsh

A homesickness for a home that you can’t return to, a home that perhaps never was. Which is kind of a downer, but a good excuse to keep travelling.

29. Gadabout (n.)

Origin: English

A person who travels often, and for pleasure. Something we should all aspire to, right? Be professional gadabouters? Update your LinkedIn profiles now, gang.

Now you’ve got the lingo, USE IT! Impress your friends with your newfound vocabulary on a small group adventure with Intrepid.

Feeling inspired?

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Victoria November 25, 2019 - 1:56 pm

What a great post! Just the sound of these words are evocative – and poetic

On a slightly different tack, can I suggest adding ‘tågskryt’ – bragging about your train travel

and ‘flygskam’ – shame of flying!

Holly April 5, 2019 - 5:40 am

This is gold! It’s so hard to describe the experience of travelling, but this totally did it 🙂
Also I really like this blog! So inspiring as I am working on creating my travel blog as well!

Keep it up 🙂


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