Are you in the midst of a transition? Perhaps you are about to relocate, start a new job, or even explore a new opportunity. Many transitions include an assessment of place, location, and home. One type of transition encountered during the pandemic is the transition of Hiraeth.
What is Hiraeth? It is a Welsh word that is “somewhat difficult to describe in English, for the reason that there is no single English word that expresses all that it does. Some words often used to try to explain it are homesickness, yearning, and longing.”
Yet, “there is more depth to hiraeth than in any of those words on their own. It is a rather multi-layered word…This kind of homesickness is a combination of homesickness, longing, nostalgia, and yearning, for a home that you cannot return to, no longer exists, or maybe never was.”
Are you yearning for the place where your family gathers? Or, you are longing for a neighborhood or workplace where your friends met for casual conversations? For some Hiraeth is a familiar forest, landscape, architecture, or people and culture.
In a recent article in the New York Times, journalist Nellie Bowles shared her research on the great exodus of the Tech Workers in San Francisco. Her article “They Can’t Leave the Bay Area Fast Enough“, explores the trend of people leaving the Bay area to return closer to family, more affordable cities, new opportunities and even Nookleo, tiny-home communities for remote workers.
These little Nookleo communities cost between $30,000 and 40,000 to join. Each compound has four to six homes, a small organic farm, a yoga deck, a swimming pool and a kitchen clubhouse. Two clusters are already underway in Costa Rica, with Mexico and Portugal next. Sounds like Hiraeth to me.
There is Hiraeth embedded in transitions at all chapters of life:
- A couple moves to Portland,OR to be closer to their adult children and grandchildren.
- A family moves back to Wisconsin where they grew up to care for their aging parents.
- A woman who grew up in northern climate moves back to a four season climate after living in a one season climate.
- A couple who moved to a senior only community travels to a favorite trail near their old family home to reconnect with that place.
- A college student selects a campus near the ocean because she grew up by the sea.
Are you or a family member experiencing Hiraeth? How might you navigate this transition? Consider a few questions to begin to clarify your longings.
- Are you longing for people or place or both?
- What specific elements do you find yourself missing the most?
- What would the tradeoffs be for transitioning to a new place?
- Who do you know who has made a similar transition that could give you tips on how to explore making transitions of Hiraeth.
Last fall, I experienced Hiraeth. I longed to be on the shores of Lake Superior where I had vacationed as a child. I yearned to escape the peak fall fire season in California. I longed for the green, the waterfalls, the “big lake”, rain and autumn colors. As I arrived in Minnesota, I fell into the arms of this landscape as if it was my home. What I learned was that Hiraeth can be a part of my life, I can go back to Lake Superior yet I don’t need to move there. The big lake is still part of me. Now when I stand under a big tree or walk by a waterfall in California I can transport to Lake Superior. My Hirareth is partially satisfied until I return to the North Shore of Minnesota.
When you think about your Hirareth, where is it? Are there ways you can meet your Hirareth longings close to where you live right now? Sometimes responding to a longing is a small step instead of a big bold relocation step.
Enjoy thinking and talking about your Hirareth. If you’d like to explore this type of transition in more depth, please contact me. I’m happy to think with you about options going forward.