"...for we know not what."

Sarajevo Olympic Bobsled Remains

Sitting on a balcony in Sarajevo, delighting in the embrace of the calm, warm summer air, my Bosnian host described with animation his ultimate dream trip to Iceland. His eyes lit up as he spoke of shimming glaciers and steaming hot springs. He spoke with great fondness of the few Icelandic guests he’d come to meet and got “goose spots” when we started thinking about finally seeing the northern lights. 

“In German, there is a word. This word is Sehnsucht. You know it?”, he asked, with the charming poignancy of a Slavic-speaker.

No, I shook my head.

“There is no real translation for this word. It is something like... a longing. A very deep longing for something. Even if you do not what this something’s to be.”

An unfamiliar word, but all too familiar meaning. 



Two days later in Mostar, I lay by the teal, meandering water of the river Hdslakdj, reveling in the kisses of the sun’s rays and taking in views of the fairytale landscape before me. I opened my copy of “Levels Of Life” by Julian Barnes and continued to read, when I reached the following passage:

“There is a German word, Sehnucht. The word has no English equivalent, but is generally described as a longing for something.  C.S. Lewis once defined the word as ‘an inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what.”

I re-read it a few times to ensure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, then slowly put the book aside.

Then, I laughed.

Out loud.

To myself.

to the universe.

Mostar - A Pilot's Daughter

I know these little (or sometimes, not so little) signs now. I stumble into them often in the most unexpected corners of my journey.

I could describe them as a series of road signs, perhaps. They're the not-so-coincidental coincidences that either lovingly affirm the direction I’m moving in, or gently scream for me to take a quick, hard left and re-route.

Sometimes the "sign" speaks with humour or uses lots of symbolism. other times, it's message is loud and clear.

one things for sure; knowing that sometimes these signs will show up has me more often looking for them. especially since they're never wrong. 

Sometimes they show up seemingly just to to comfort or encourage me. other times theirs a scolding involved. but one i needed.

It seems now, looking back, that the times i've felt most "off course" are the moments I guilelessly decided to ignore these signs completely.

these are the moments where i come the strange conclusion That the universe must not know what it’s talking about.

That “serendipity” or “coincidence” are just random events to be tossed aside carelessly, without any consideration.

big mistake. 

truth is, I’ve never been much of a fan of logic when it comes to reasoning your way through life. If I personally allowed logic to make all my decisions, I would most be coming home from a dead-end job right now to an even deader relationship, trying to decide which 9-5 I would be least miserable at. 



Instead, I’m currently cruising at 30,000 feet, leaving behind one of the most fulfilling destinations I’ve reached yet.

my heart and my SD card are full of the most breathtaking memories and Logic would have never, in eight dynasties, let me do it. 

logic said maybe you should go Bosnia where every is telling you NOT to go. 

But something else did.

My gut? maybe.

Random intuition glitch? Doubtful. 

I listened.

I’ve learned to listen.

Of course, it’s inevitable that my cynical friends who've never been to europe let alone bosnia are going to advise me to stay home out of their own love and Fear and lack of knowledge.

my own fears and doubts will of course creep and have to shout their two cents into the ring. But for lack of a better expression, b*tches be b*tches. What did those two ever do for me anyways?  

So Bosnia it was. 

With a little healthy precaution, I finalized my decision and left Berlin behind. 

Sometimes you arrive in a new place and it’s a slow burn; you’re not sure what to think and it takes a little time to develop a good sense of your feelings there.  

but Within approximately four minutes of being in Bosnia, I was pretty certain I was falling in love.

Ass over tea kettle kind of falling. 

Now to be fair, I have a tendency to be a bit fiery and fickle with matters of the heart... but nevertheless, the heart spoke.

Which brings me back to listening. 

This, my friends, is the key to actually living the adventures you’ve always dreamed of. 

Being out in the world with nothing but a backpack, a limited credit card, and an undetermined intinerary, I’m essentially forced to listen.

I could google most beautiful cities in Europe, stick to my lonely planet recommendations, or tag along to wherever the person sleeping in the other hostel bunk is headed. I'm sure it would still be a nice trip.

But if you’re searching for something more - something that runs a bit deeper - only you can write the map.

Mosque at Dusk - A Pilot's Daughter

The night before arriving in Sarajevo, I was sipping a beer, staring aimlessly at the flights departing the next day - doubting the little voice inside my heart pushing for Bosnia.

One of the guys working at the hostel came over and asked me where I had decided to head to next.

“I have no idea…. Well, I dunno, maybe… I mean...I think I actually want to go to Bosnia.”

“Bosnia?!! Why in god’s name would you want to go to Bosnia?!”

“Uhh… Well, I mean, it looks gorgeous.. and it’s off the beaten track, ya know?”

“Right, but what about, ya know, like the million war crimes and all that sh*t?”

“…. Um. Ya, the war’s over. Been over a while now…”

Now, no offense to what I’m sure was a well meaning, maybe even concerned guy, but come on.

That’s what happens when you travel with your heart closed and your fears open. You can check off an olympic sized list of destinations and not learn a single thing about the world outside frommer's guide.

or about the world inside you.

You can never know a place until you’re there.

Only when you breathe the air and look it's people in the eye can you feel the truth of a place.

You can't know it from afar.

But you can long for it…


As I watched a my new Bosnian friend’s eyes lacquer with teary wonder, speaking of one day touching down in his dreamy Iceland, I knew how possible it is to deeply long for something.

Even when you have no idea what it is yet. 


In Germany, I found my Sehnsucht.

 and in Bosnia, I found out what for. 


h. x

Helen HaydenComment