There are some words that are simply impossible to explain. Saudade, which kind of means ‘missingness’ in Portuguese, is one of these words. You could relate it to feelings of melancholy, romanticism, spleen, … It’s a feeling of missing something or someone and (subconsciously) knowing you can’t experience it or see him/her again.

Salvador Dali – Girl at the window

It’s one of my favourite feelings. It’s what I often experience when I’m abroad. It’s a sweet mixture of emotions and pain, and it strangely makes me feel alive. I know, that’s probably not very normal. But it’s a feeling full of reflections, memories, daydreams and late night ponderings. There’s a beautiful sonnet (27) by Shakespeare I once received as a love letter that describes it well.

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
   Lo, thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
   For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.

For thee, and for myself, no quiet find, Shakespeare almost sings. It’s that feeling of restlessness I’m quite sure every traveler experiences at least once. Missing someone. Knowing you’ll never experience such beauty again. Saying goodbye to dear friends. Not knowing what to do with your life. Being lost somewhere in the big world and strangely enjoying it. Here’s a beautiful song by the Portuguese Cesaria Evora called saudade. That’s probably the best way to describe it.

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