Living abroad or long term travel brings with it some very real – mental challenges! I looked at Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock; and in this article I want to address what it is to be Homesick and how to deal with it.
Firstly, what is it to be homesick?
According to Wikipedia: “Homesickness is the distress caused by being away from home”. In other words, homesickness is the restless feeling you experience when you’re away from home – this especially happens with young adults and adults who have moved away from home or those who travel for long periods of time.
The unfamiliarity of a place, the attitude and personalities of people and other outside factors can act as a trigger of homesickness. Your personal experience, as well as the support of your family or lack thereof can also be a possible cause of being homesick.
10 ways to Cope with being Homesick:
- Make friends – this is a big one, and I feel is the most important as these friends will become your new family! So, choose wisely! It may be hard at first, trying to connect with people, it may seem like you’re not interesting enough for people to get to know but merely starting a conversation with a stranger can lead to a lifelong friendship. Plan stuff with your new friend/friends – make a standing outing: Friday night drinks at your favourite bar or movies on a Sunday followed by ice-cream. This soon becomes a tradition that you will find familiarity with. If your friend also happens to be a newbie (to your new town/city) then you can lean on each other for support, advice, tips, suggestions and downright weird conversations!
- Lessen communication with home – Another thing that I found to be quiet important was lessening my communication with my immediate family and those I was close to back home. I found that talking to my sister every day and knowing about every single thing going on back home made me miss home more. So I would message here every day (general messages) but leave our catch up conversations for the weekend. With other family members as well as friends, I would Skype occasionally just to check in and say hi. This also helped me focus on doing more things in my new location.
- List places you want to see/things you want to do – I love making lists! The process of making a list of places you want to see and things you want to do in your new town/city involves research therefore you are able to occupy yourself with thoughts of engaging in exciting adventures instead of dwelling on thoughts of home. Plan your lists month by month so you can pace yourself. Add 2-3 places to see, 1-2 things to do and maybe 3-4 places you want to eat at for a month. Change things up every month for variety!
- Do 2-3 things that you did back home – keep some familiarity from home, like follow a TV series you started watching at home or visiting the library, volunteering at a homeless/animal shelter. It can be anything really, but pick 2-3, if you pick more, it’ll feel too much like home and you will end up feeling homesick; if you do any fewer, it won’t feel like you’re finding your footing while still doing the things you love.
- Take up a new hobby – when you find yourself with some free time, take up a new hobby, something you would not do back home. It could be a dance class, joining a foodie group, painting, photography (again, anything!); find some creative outlet and you are sure to enjoy dedicating some time to it. This can help in making new friends, as well as getting you out of your comfort zone!
- Follow a routine – once you settle down in your new surroundings, get into a routine. It does not have to be mundane – include your new friends; add your places to see, things to do lists; your new hobby should be in it. Don’t let it be repetitive, make it fun and exciting for you. Once you have a routine in place, things will slowly start to become familiar.
- Connect with expats near you – connecting with expats near you will help you cope with being homesick. They will more often than not, act as a support system as they have been through the process with being homesick. You will also get to see first hand how they’ve adapted to their new home. If there aren’t any expats nearby, find some online and start a conversation, there are many forums, groups and platforms where you can seek out advice and assistance from them.
- Talk about your feelings – this is important as it will validate how you feel, it won’t just be thoughts in your head. Be it with a new friend or a family member back home; find a way to bring it up in a manner that is comfortable for you to talk about. Venting, ranting, raving and even shedding a few tears can make you feel a lot better, even if it’s for a little while.
- Take some time out for yourself – all in moderation, it can be as simple as buying your favourite meal, getting a mani/ pedi, treating yourself to a new camera or massage, or even engaging in exercise and meditate. Find the time in your routine to take some time and focus on yourself. You’ve been through a big change, a life-changing event; you deserve a pat on the back and a genuine treat!
- Share what you love about your new home with others – I find power in this as it made me more confident in myself. I would post pictures weekly on social media. My snaps would include something new and exciting that I’ve just seen or experienced and also, something humdrum and boring. I had family and friends back home that would get excited and proud of my exciting pictures but also those who would relate to my boring pictures and both made me feel pretty normal. So often we’re only exposed to the rose-tinted side of things but it definitely helped me when people would start a conversation on how the boring stuff was just as important.
There’s so much more thoughts and feelings when dealing with homesickness that I am unable to put into words. In some severe cases, depression and anxiety and insomnia can occur. You know yourself best, don’t let your homesickness get to a point were it does not allow you to function in your day-to-day activities. If none of the above helps and you feel yourself heading into the downward spiral of darkness, seek professional help.
If you have experienced or have any stories of your own homesickness while living abroad or when travelling – share it in the comment section below!