50 Unusual Travel Words with Interesting and Inspiring Meanings

by Quotes43 comments

Have you ever tried to explain a travel experience or feeling and you found yourself at a loss for words? (Unusual travel words).

Well much like you, there are events and moments wherein I feel like I couldn’t fully express myself — which is probably why I’ve turned to other languages and unusual travel words to help expand my vocabulary… and yes, to satisfy that gnawing feeling.

The more I started researching and looking up these unique words, the more I fell in love with them because somehow, they could perfectly convey certain feelings and emotions where the English language just doesn’t cut it. Inspired by the success of my popular best travel quotes article, here is my top list of the most unusual words with cool and beautiful meanings!

100 Best Travel Quotes & Captions

Check out these best travel quotes that will help inspire you to travel!

.Best Unusual Travel Words

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Unusual Travel Words: Exulansis

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1. Exulansis

The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows / exu·lan·sis)

“…whether through envy or pity or simple foreignness, which allows it to drift away from the rest of your life story, until the memory itself feels out of place, almost mythical, wandering restlessly in the fog, no longer even looking for a place to land.”

FYI: In case you don’t know, the ‘Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows’ is written by John Koenig and it has become so famous that he even went on to do a TED show. Basically, the dictionary presents neologisms (up and coming words) for powerful feelings that you likely don’t have a proper term for, and indeed ‘exulansis’ is one of the beautiful unusual travel words that you must know!

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Morii

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2. Morii

The desire to capture a fleeting moment

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows / mo·rii)

With every click of the shutter, you’re trying to press pause on your life. If only so you can feel a little more comfortable moving on living in a world stuck on play.”

I’m sure that we all have felt this, not only when we’re traveling but in all the meaningful moments of our lives! We all have this kind of desire given the fact that cameras together with social media will — and always — be on the rise. After all, we simply don’t want to miss a thing. We just want to capture moments before they slip through our fingers so that we can hopefully relive and relish on it later on. But then again.. it is a constant struggle of balance between ‘capturing’ and being there and savoring those moments.

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Unusual Travel Words: Onism

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3. Onism

The awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows / o·ni·sm)

“The frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time, which is like standing in front of the departures screen at an airport, flickering over with strange city names like other people’s passwords, each representing one more thing you’ll never get to see before you die.”

ETYMOLOGY: Portmanteau of monism (the philosophical view that a variety of things can be explained in terms of a single reality) + onanism (alternative word for self-pleasure).

Raise your hand if you’ve ever encountered this thought — yep, I knew it, you’ve felt this too! This sentiment is often the reason why I like the idea of immortality… because yes, I am selfish: I would really like to see and experience EVERYTHING. But as it is, I’ll make most of my time — and you should too!

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Photophile

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4. Photophile

A person who loves photography

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows / pho·to·phile)

This is an obscure word but supposedly, this came about after deriving it off from the word “photophilic” which is an organism that loves or seeks light — which is related in a way to how cameras function.

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Unusual Travel Words: Sonder

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5. Sonder

The realization that each random passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows / son·der)

“The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness.”

ETYMOLOGY: Related to the German word ‘sonder’ (special) and French ‘sonder’ (to probe). If you ask me, this is one of my favorites on all of these unusual travel words especially because I personally love people-watching when I travel abroad. It’s just simply the kind of realization you gain as you witness more of the world.

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Ruckkehrunruhe

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6. Rückkehrunruhe

The feeling of returning home after a trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows / rück·keh·run·ru·he)

This is exactly why I learned how to create a travel blog as well as build a travel vlog. Both of them help me record the fleeting memories that I’ve had for as much as I could!

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Unusual Travel Words: Vemödalen

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7. Vemödalen

The frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows / ve·mö·da·len)

“The frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist — the same sunset, the same waterfall — which can turn a unique subject into something hollow and pulpy and cheap.”

ETYMOLOGY: From the Swedish word vemod which means “tender sadness, pensive melancholy” and then combined with Vemdalen, the name of a Swedish town. Swedish place names are the source of IKEA’s product names — the original metaphor for this idea was that these clichéd photos are a kind of prefabricated furniture that you happen to have built yourself.

So, I never actually felt this… because though there are tons of ‘duplicates’, I still like to make my own and say that “Ah, I shot this!”. BUT of course, I have a lot of friends — most especially the avid photographers — who go through vemodalen! Let me know if you also have the same sentiments.

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Absquatulate

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8. Absquatulate

To flee or leave abruptly without saying goodbye

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows / ve·mö·da·len)

I once reached a point where I just wanted to leave everything and go. I can still vividly recall that memory because it’s how my travel lifestyle started!

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Cockaigne

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9. Cockaigne

An imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease

(Noun / Origin: English / cock·aigne)

This is one of the many uncommon English words and this term is derived from the Middle French phrase pais de cocaigne, which literally means “the land of plenty.”

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Coddiwomple

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10. Coddiwomple

To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination

(Verb / Origin: English / cod·di·wom·ple)

I gotta admit, the first time I saw this word (which was when I was around 15), I honestly thought that it meant cuddling or something of that sort. It’s just such a unique word! When I finally saw the correct definition, I was floored at how deep it was so I just had to put it up in this list of unusual travel words.

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Ecophobia

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11. Ecophobia

A fear or dislike of one’s home

(Noun / Origin: English / e·co·pho·bia)

— and so you leave, to find where home is for you. *wink*

This word is based from Ancient Greek in whick ‘eco’ is derived from oîkos or “house”, and then of course ‘phobia’ from phóbos or “fear”.

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Gadabout

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12. Gadabout

A person who travels often or to many different places, especially for pleasure

(Noun / Origin: English / gad·about)

Tracing back to the Middle English verb ‘gadden’ which means ‘to wander without a specific aim or purpose’. Speaking of, I’m definitely a gadabout as I find pleasure in going on adventures all over the world!

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Nemophilist

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13. Nemophilist

A person who is fond of forests or forest scenery

(Noun / Origin: English / ne·mo·phi·list)

As far as unusual travel words go, I have added yet another term on my arsenal to describe not only my friends but myself as well!

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Numinous : Unusual Travel Words

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14. Numinous

Feeling both fearful and awed by what is before you.

(Adjective / Origin: Latin / nu·​mi·​nous)

This word can mean a lot of things and it especially leans more towards depicting something supernatural or mysterious that is almost as if it’s by some divine power.

You can take this word the way you want it, but the way I see it, this perfectly describes several travel experiences that I have had.

I’m not exactly a spiritual person but I recognize some strong connection to nature and you bet that I felt a numinous presence in amazing places like Antarctica and Iceland. You just gotta be there to experience the emotion yourself!

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Selcouth

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15. Selcouth

Something unfamiliar, unusual or wondrous

(Adjective / Origin: Old English / sel·couth)

This is the perfect adjective to use when defining a place you have traveled to that just feels foreign or novel — which is in itself a good thing and an inevitability.

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Serendipity

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16. Serendipity

The natural ability of making desirable discoveries by accident

(Noun / Origin: English / ser·en·dip·i·ty)

A term in the 1750s to describe those who ‘were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of’. This usually happens to me in moments where I least expect it and it’s such a wonderful thing!

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Wayfarer

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17. Wayfarer

A person who travels on foot

(Noun / Origin: English / way·far·er)

This is from the Middle English word weyfarere which is equivalent to way +‎ farer (‘to journey).

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Dérive

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18. Dérive

Spontaneous journey, led only by the spirit of the landscape

(Noun / Origin: French / de·ʁiv)

This is a French word that originally refers to a strategy whereing participants “drop their everyday relations and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there”.

In this list of unusual travel words, don’t you think that this perfectly describes a lot of traveling and digital nomads today?

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Flaneur

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19. Flâneur

A person of leisure who strolls aimlessly, observing life and society

(Noun / Origin: French / flâ·neur)

The flâneur was, in some way, essential to any picture of the streets of Paris. The word carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.

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Depaysement

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20. Dépaysement

The good or bad feeling that comes from being in a foreign country

(Noun / Origin: French / de·pɛ·iz·mɑ̃)

This word could literally mean something like: ‘to be uncountried’ and it could either be due to disorientation or gladness — depends on you, and you bet that I’ll be using this word from now on!

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Trouvaille

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21. Trouvaille

A lucky find

(Noun / Origin: French / trü·ˈvī’)

There’s something about the French language that is romantic and melodic, and this has got to be one of my favorite unusual travel words!

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Unusual Travel Words:  Acatalepsy

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22. Acatalepsy

The impossibility to truly comprehend anything find

(Noun / Origin: Greek / acat·​a·​lep·​sy)

This is clearly an overwhelming feeling, but don’t you think that it humbles us in some way? The more I travel, the more I feel a sense of acatalepsy and though it might seem daunting at first, I think that’s just what makes our world and life itself an incredibly beautiful thing.

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Novaturient

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23. Novaturient

A desire for powerful change in one’s life or situation

(Adjective / Origin: Latin / nO·va·’tUr·E·ent)

ETYMOLOGY: The word “nova” originates from the Latin novus meaning ‘new’.

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Peregrinate

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24. Peregrinate

To travel or wander around from place to place

(Adjective / Origin: Latin / per·​e·​gri·​nate·​e·​gri·​nate)

ETYMOLOGY: The word “nova” originates from the Latin novus meaning ‘new’.

The best way to plan for such an adventure? By checking out these top travel resources and planning tips!

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Unusual Travel Words: Solivagant

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25. Solivagant

A solitary wanderer

(Noun / Origin: Latin / so·liv·a·gant)

ETYMOLOGY: Latin word of solivagus meaning wandering alone + English –ant

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Eleutheromania

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26. Eleutheromania

An irresistible yearning for freedom

(Noun / Greek / el·u·ther·o·man·ea)

ETYMOLOGY: From Ancient Greek ἐλευθερία (eleuthería, ‘freedom’) +‎ -mania.

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Hodophile

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27. Hodophile

One who loves to travel

(Noun / Origin: Greek / hodo·phile)

ETYMOLOGY: From Ancient Greek ὁδός (hodós) which means travel.

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Meraki

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28. Meraki

Putting a part of yourself into what you’re doing

(Noun / Origin: Greek / me·ra·ki)

This is a modern Greek word that’s often used to describe the instance wherein you leave a part of yourself (your soul, creativity, or love) in your work — so it’s like when you intensely love to do something or just about anything that you put something of yourself into it.

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Unusual Travel Words:  Peripatetic

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29. Peripatetic

A person who travels from place to place

(Noun / Origin: Greek / peri·pa·tet·ic)

We can trace back the origin of this word to Aristotle and his followers. They often walked around peripatos (covered walk in the Lyceum) while Aristotle does his lectures, given that the former loves walking. As such, the Greek word peripatētikos (from peripatein, meaning “to walk up and down”) came about because of them.

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Eudaimonia

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30. Eudaimonia

A contented state of being happy, healthy and prosperous

(Adjective / Origin: Greek / U·de·‘mOn·E·a)

Leave a comment below if you’ve felt eudaimonia while traveling!

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Unusual Travel Words: Fernweh

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31. Fernweh

Wanderlust; an ache for distant places or a strong desire to travel

(Noun / Origin: German / feirn·veyh)

ETYMOLOGY: From the word fern (“far”) and weh (“pain”). It can be literally translated as farsickness or longing for far-off places.

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Unusual Travel Words: Heimweh

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32. Heimweh

A longing for home

(Noun / Origin: German / heim·veyh)

As contrasted with Fernweh, this is a German word for homesickness.

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Kopfkino

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33. Kopfkino

The act of playing out an entire scenario in your mind

(Noun / Origin: German / kopf·ki·no)

Hard translation is “head cinema” and as the definition goes, these are for those times where you start daydreaming or imagining scenarios about how a situation will unravel.

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Schwellenangst

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34. Schwellenangst

Fear of crossing a threshold to embark on something new

(Noun / Origin: German / shwel·en·ahngst)

ETYMOLOGY: From the German words Schwelle (threshold) + Angst (anxiety).

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Sehnsucht

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35. Sehnsucht

An intense yearning for something far-off and indefinable

(Noun / German / zEn·‘zUkt)

ETYMOLOGY: From German words sehnen (to long) and Sucht (anxiety; sickness; addiction).

The origin of the word doesn’t sound too good but as a whole it simply means that it’s an indescribable yearning for far off places and indescribable goals.

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Sprachgefühl

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36. Sprachgefühl

A person who has the feel for a language

(Noun / Origin: German / shpräḵ-gə-ˌfᵫl)

This literally translates as ‘language feeling’ from compound nouns combining Sprache (language) and Gefühl (feeling). Basically, this does not only refer to a person who has a good understanding of foreign languages but also to a person who has intuitiveness for what is linguistically appropriate.

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Sturmfrei

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37. Sturmfrei

The freedom of being alone

(Noun / Origin: German / shtUrm·frI)

A German word that translates literally to “storm free” — but the real meaning has nothing to do with the weather. As a slang, it means having the house or place to one’s self; but if we put a romantic twist to it then it’s about having the freedom or of having some alone time.

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Unusual Travel Words: Vorfreude

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38. Vorfreude

The joyful anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures

(Noun / Origin: German / FOR·frI)

ETYMOLOGY: Combination of German words vor (pre) and Freude (happiness). This is one of the rare words that I’ve come to love!

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Waldeinsamkeit

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39. Waldeinsamkeit

The feeling of solitude in the woods

(Adjective / Origin: German / vahyd-ahyn-zahm-kahyt)

ETYMOLOGY: Combination of Wald (forest) and Einsamkeit (loneliness)

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Livsnjutare

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40. Livsnjutare

A person who loves life deeply and lives it to the extreme

(Adjective / Origin: Swedish / lives·noo·tuhreh)

Yet another word discovery that I loved since it’s something that I want to refer to myself as!

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Unusual Travel Words: Mangata

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41. Mångata

The reflection of the moon on the water

(Noun / Origin: Swedish / mo-an-gaa-tah)

ETYMOLOGY: Combination of Swedish words måne (moon) and‎ gata (street, road). If you ask me, this is one of the best aesthetic words!

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Resfeber

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42. Resfeber

The tangled feelings of fear and excitement before a journey begins

(Noun / Origin: Swedish / reece·FEE·ber)

I always experience this, especially when I’m about to board a flight — and it’s not just because I have a fear of flying, but it’s simply because there are just far too many mixed emotions swirling inside me (which is a great and surreal thing!)

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Smultronställe

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43. Smultronställe

A special place discovered for solace and relaxation

(Noun / Origin: Swedish / smUl·tron·’stel·e)

This Swedish word literally translates to “place of wild strawberries” and it’s a place where you feel most at home that’s away from any stress or sadness.

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Komorebi

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44. Komorebi

The sunlight that filters though the trees

(Noun / Origin: Japanese / 木漏れ日 ko·mo·RE·bee)

The Japanese truly have a way of coming up with the most interesting words and this is such a poetic addition to this list of unusual travel words!

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Unusual Travel Words: Natsukashii

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45. Natsukashii

A happy recollection of an event or memory in the past

(Adjective / Origin: Japan / 懐かしい nat·su·ka·shii)

The adjective originally described wanting to keep something close or wanting to express fondness for something. Over time, this term was used more to describe happy reminiscences, leading to the modern meaning. Take note that this is different from a nostalgic longing, but more of joyous remembrance of a past memory.

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Shinrin-yoku

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46. Shinrin-yoku

Forest bath; a visit to the forest to take in it’s atmosphere

(Noun / Origin: Japan / 森林浴 shin·rin·yo·ku)

This is actually a form of nature therapy that is practiced in Japan ever since the 80s.

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Ukiyo

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47. Ukiyo

“The floating world” — living in the moment, detached from the bothers of life

(Noun / Origin: Japan / 浮世 ooh-ki-yo)

A hard translation of this word dates back to Japan’s Edo-period as it describes the urban lifestyle, and a famous related word is ukiyo-e or Japanese art paintings of the ‘Floating World’ or of our fleeting life and transient world.

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Yoko Meshi

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48. Yoko Meshi

The stress caused by speaking a foreign language

(Noun / Origin: Japan / 横飯 yo·ko·me·shi)

Its hard translation is ‘boiled rice’ (meshi) and ‘horizontal (yoko) which will sort of mean as ‘a meal that’s eaten sideways’ — this metaphor actually refers to the fact that the Japanese write vertically instead of horizontally. Hence, the word yoko-meshi has a nice spin to it, doesn’t it?

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Unusual Travel Words: Yugen

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49. Yūgen

A profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe that triggers a deep emotional response

(Noun / Origin: Japan / 幽玄 yu·gen)

TRIVIA: Yugen is an important concept in the study of traditional Japanese aesthetics.

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Wabi-sabi

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50. Wabi-sabi

The discovery of beauty within the imperfections of life

(Noun / Origin: Japan / 侘寂 wabe·sabe)

This yet another Japanese aesthetic that has a very deep meaning in which life and art are viewed as beautiful not because they are perfect and eternal but because they are imperfect and fleeting. Isn’t this truly one of the best unusual travel words with a beautiful meaning?

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.Bonus Unusual Words

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Unusual Travel Words: Ballagàrraidh

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Ballagàrraidh

The awareness that you are not at home in the wilderneess

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows / bal·la·ga·rye)

ETYMOLOGY: From Gaelic balla gàrraidh, “garden wall”

This is a word with a very deep meaning — so don’t let that simple definition fool you. To better understand it, I implore you to watch this video.

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In fact, I gotta say that this is one of the unusual travel words that I often always feel most especially when I’m doing nature trips. Of course, there have been times when I’ve felt the opposite, but it’s more common to feel and be aware of how highly domesticated we all are. It’s not an entirely bad thing because advancement is a blessing; however, sometimes, it just makes you think how the olden times were truly far simpler and pristine. *sigh* I can’t really put it into words well, but let me know your thoughts once you get to watch the video above!

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Des Vu

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Dès Vu

The awareness that this will become a memory

(Noun / Origin: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)

ETYMOLOGY: From the French word dès vu, “seen as soon as” or “seen from this point forward”

Once in a while you look up, and watch as the present turns into a memory, as if some future you is already looking back on it.

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Unusual Travel Words: Hygge

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Hygge

A feeling of warmth and cosiness as you enjoy life’s simple pleasures

(Noun / Origin: Danish / hoo·gah)

This is a well-loved word in Denmark with Norwegian origins and you can even basically call it a way of life and it’s basically all about creating a warm atmosphere with other people.

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Commuovere

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Commuovere

To stir, to touch, to move to tears

(Verb / Origin: Italian / ko’mːwɔvere)

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Hiraeth

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Hiraeth

A homesickness for a place which you can’t return to or never was

(Noun / Origin: Welsh / HEER-eyeth)

This is a Welsh concept of longing for home — but more than just missing something, it implies the meaning of having a bittersweet memory of missing a time, era or person.

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Thalassophile

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Thalassophile

Someone who loves the sea

(Adjective / Origin: Greek / THəˈlasəˌfīl)

From the Greek words θάλασσα / thalasso- (sea) and -phile.

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• • •

Top Unusual Travel Words

Overall

I hope you enjoyed discovering these unusual travel words — as much as I had a lot of fun discovering them too!

I’m sure there are still a lot of other unique words out there that could perfectly capture an emotion that we can’t easily express with our own language; so if you have something in mind that’s not already listed here, do let me know in the comments section below!

• • •

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Solo Female Travel Blogger: Aileen Adalid

Hey there! I am Aileen Adalid.
At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to pursue my dreams. Today, I am a successful digital nomad (online entrepreneur, travel writer, & vlogger) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.

My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel no matter the odds — and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel hacks, guides, resources, tips, and MORE!

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43 Comments

  1. ricci

    This is a great list of words that I’ve never heard of. It reminds me of when I was a kid I used to make lists of my favorite words so I could use them in a book I was going to write one day. LOL!

    Reply
    • Aileen Adalid

      Haha, omg we were the same! I loved doing that too!

      Reply
  2. Heather

    Wow, what a great post! I just learned a ton of new travel words thanks to you! How fun is that?!!

    Reply
    • Aileen Adalid

      Yay, I’m happy to hear this!

      Reply
  3. Dennis Littley

    This is quite a list! What a way to boost the travel vocabulary. Thanks for sharing these with us so we could learn some new things about these travel words.

    Reply
    • Aileen Adalid

      I’m glad you enjoyed this as much as I did! :D

      Reply
  4. Alexandra Pilo-Torrijos

    How cool are these word discoveries. I like the idea of some of these.

    Reply
    • Aileen Adalid

      I’m happy to hear that! :D

      Reply
  5. Fatima Torres

    these words are interesting. thanks for putting us on to them. Didn’t know half of these existe.

    Reply
    • Aileen Adalid

      Awesome!

      Reply

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