How I Dealt with Being Homesick
January 22, 2020
Before we left for our open-ended adventure, everyone kept asking me how I would be able to do it. How would I actually leave my family, pets, and everything I’ve ever known and loved behind? Hearing it enough times, I began questioning it myself. I’m extremely close with my family and spend a lot of time with them. I’ve lived in the same city my whole life and hadn’t been gone for more than two weeks while on vacation. Could I genuinely live abroad and not get utterly homesick? I really began to question it.
During my TEFL training, there was a week-long lesson discussing the transition period from leaving home to living abroad. There was an entire section about the typical flow of anticipation, excitement, homesickness, depression, and hopeful return to normalcy. It got me thinking, what if I do get so homesick that I no longer enjoy traveling abroad?
Lucky for me, I was bringing a huge piece of home with me. I was doing this all with Tim by my side. Without him to lean on, I have no doubt I would have been taken over by being homesick at one point. Although I had rushes of being homesick and at times lost in the transition, I found ways to help.
We stayed in our first city, Berlin, for an entire month. This gave us the time to truly transition into our new reality. We were living in a country not knowing the language and only brought what we could carry on our back. It sinks in hard when you exit the train station and no longer can read the signs to figure out where you’re going. We had to figure out our new routine, adjust to our new work schedules, and learn a new language quickly. We knew it would take time but also felt overwhelming at first. I had to constantly remind myself to be patient with myself. It would all be ok and this was part of the experience of living abroad.
Being patient also means allowing yourself to feel what you’re actually feeling, not what others expect you to feel while traveling or living abroad. I had a couple of days in Berlin in which I didn’t want to leave the house, let alone bed. Whether overwhelmed, exhausted, homesick, or a little bit of everything, I simply didn’t want to leave the house. We had a couple of lazy days at our apartment full of reading, binge-watching Netflix, and eating everything comforting. I even made soup using farmers market finds which was the perfect comforting meal (click here for the recipe). I not only accepted this feeling but embraced it. After a couple of days of allowing myself to genuinely feel this, I got out of bed feeling rejuvenated and more myself.
This was extremely important for me. The smallest comfort from home can go a long way when you’re missing it. I brought a couple of things that helped. For one, I brought and burned my ‘Homesick California’ candle pretty much every day while we were in Berlin. The candle smells of jasmine, which fills my backyard and blooms each summer. Each time the smell of the jasmine filled the apartment, I could feel a part of being home. I also brought my planner, which my brother had randomly written little notes throughout to make me laugh. The notes were nice surprises from home. I also had a small book that my mom had put together with encouraging and love-filled quotes.
Comforts from home don’t need to be notes or sense-triggering items though. It could be your coziest sweatshirt, a picture you keep in your wallet, your favorite jeans, a special gift you’ve been given; anything! As long as it’s something you equate to home or a coziness you get from being home, it works!
A morning routine, one that gets you moving and ready for the day ahead, is always a good idea. In fact, many studies show that a morning routine can boost our energy levels and overall attitude. But I found this to be even more beneficial while traveling and living abroad. My routine meant waking up early, getting some quiet alone time reading or simply thinking before the sun came up, making coffee for us, then eating breakfast. Some days I would cook breakfast and others he would and I would do yoga. Some days it was making coffee at our apartment while others it was taking a walk to a cafe. But it typically looked the same each day, allowing me to take my routine with me no matter what country we were in. It created a level of security and consistency when my world was in constant transition. I felt more awake, clear-minded, and happier one days I stuck with my routine.
Another routine of mine was calling home at least once a week. Although I would text with my family and closest friends, I scheduled weekly video calls with my family. These weekly calls were a welcomed piece of home. They usually lasted around an hour as I showed them around where we were, chatted about silly things, and laughed. And yes, I would also video chat with the dogs. But this time was precious to me during our long time away. These video calls allowed me to see their faces and experience part of my travels with them. They caught me up on what was going on back home and felt more comfortable seeing how happy I was.
It’s always nice stumbling across something that reminds you of home, especially when you’re missing home. When I go somewhere new, I always try to find a little slice of something similar to ease in the transition. For me, that meant going to Stone Brewing and Mikkeller, two breweries in San Diego, while in Berlin. It meant going to the farmers market every week for groceries, a typical Saturday morning for Tim and I when we lived downtown. It meant visiting a huge library in Budapest, reminiscing of library trips with my mom and brother as a little girl. It meant finding a coffee roaster on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand to remind me of weekend mornings back home. These little reminders and slices of home helped me adjust while still bringing happy memories from home.
In the end, I had done it. I had gone through the emotions of being gone for so long. I had moments of being homesick but created a home in myself and a stronger sense of home in my relationship. Yes, there were times I cried and missed home, but the experiences of traveling and living abroad were priceless. Although everyone questioned me about it, I got through my moments of utter homesickness. And when I returned home, I appreciated it more. Being homesick reminded me of what I truly love about home.