n. neologism.

“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—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”

The green fields rolled by, but the cows and horses didn’t mind the shifting ground. I was on a bus from Colonia to Montevideo. The bus trudged along through the countryside, and with heavy eyelids, I stared at the blurs of green, brown, and blue outside my window. I saw a young man pushing a wheelbarrow by the side of the road. I yawned, and he was gone. Maybe it was because we were about the same age. Maybe it was my lack of sleep. I’m not really sure why I kept thinking about him. We didn’t meet, nor did the bus stop for him. He just wasn’t another blur. I thought about how our lives must be so different. I was a tourist passing by, and he was… he was… well I don’t know. What do I really know about life in Uruguay? Or wheelbarrows and cows? We could have been surprisingly alike. I’d never know. To him, I was another charter bus passing by. I was the blur.


We sat next to each other on a train ride from Bonn to Cologne. Both with big brown eyes and dark curly hair. One look and we knew the other wasn’t German.

She was Colombian and excited to speak Spanish again. She missed the sound of rolling R’s, the nice five vowel system, the dental stops, and of course, palatal nasals. Okay, probably not; that’s what I, the amateur linguist, like about Spanish. She most likely missed the sweet familiarity of Spanish, the feeling of speaking one’s native tongue.

We talked like old friends, except we had just met, so we had a lot to catch up on. She told me her life story. She talked about life in Colombia, the struggles of moving to Germany, missing home, falling in love, meeting Christ, her hopes and fears–in short, she told me about a life I never knew existed. She told her story like she was presenting me with a gift, and indeed, she was.


Buenos Aires gave me a beautiful farewell; my last night in the city was one I won’t forget. We came from all over the Americas: Chicago to Bogota, Peru to Brazil, and of course, Argentina. We were from everywhere, but we shared the same sense of humor and passion for Rapa Nui. We stayed up the whole night talking, laughing, and eating a lot of ice cream. This was the last time we would all be together, so we made the most of it. When we finally walked home, the newspaper guys were setting up shop, and the sky had changed from dark blue to lilac and orange. With the sunrise, came the time for goodbyes…

I was the first one to leave Buenos Aires, but after that night, we all started new adventures, in new places, with new people. It’s hard to keep track where everyone is.  


Days became weeks, weeks became months, and I randomly came across a BuzzFeed article on obscure words.

“Sonder. Huh, so there’s a word for that.”

5 thoughts on “Sonder

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  3. Wow, there’s a word for that!
    This is a feeling that I’ve experienced tangibly all my life, especially while traveling.. how all those random faces and figured that dot my journey have a story I’d never know. Pretty amazing when you think about it. I could really relate to your post.

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