If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s over thinking things. Preparing myself to live abroad for a year was really no exception to that. I had constant Skype meetings with my family and friends from back home, I had a little box full of things from home, and a whole pile of strategies sorted out for every occasion I could plan for. Thankfully, for the most part, that helped. Despite a few bad nights, most of my time away from home was fairly successful and not as miserable as I had been anticipating it to be.
It’s inevitable. No matter how long you’re away for, how much fun you’re having, or how much better you think your life is now than before, you’re going to get homesick. It’s something you should not only prepare for, but something you should count on.
All that being said, it’s important to face the matter head on. Like all things in life, denial and avoidance aren’t going to get you anywhere. I’ve compiled a list of things that I found particularly helpful for me on my down days, so hopefully they give you some ideas as to what might help you!
Make sure you always feel good about yourself. The biggest thing to feeling homesick, at least in my opinion, is how disorientating everything is. No matter how confident in myself I was, there was always something that came along that would throw me off. In that case, I did what I could to feel in control of myself and my environment, and if I had nothing else, at least I could feel secure in myself. So I would dress up and wear clothes that made me feel confident. I would take time for myself to develop hobbies so I would have something that was just mine. I kept objects around that reminded me of some of the incredible things I had already done, as a reminder to myself of how capable I actually was. So in the end, maybe I didn’t know what I was doing. Maybe I didn’t know what anything was or where to go, but at least I knew I could be secure within myself, and that was an excellent gateway into allowing myself to take more risks and therefore, experience more things.
Focus on the present. Although there’s only so long you can distract yourself for, distract yourself! Get out of the house, explore somewhere new. Focus your energy on appreciating the exciting new things you’re enjoying instead of missing the old things you used to enjoy. The more you can stay out, the more trips you can take or the things you can do, the less homesick you’re going to be getting. And sometimes, all it takes is getting out for an afternoon and sitting in a coffee shop for a few hours.
Find someone to talk to. Spending time having internet dates with friends and family back home is important, yes, but it’s just as important – if not more so – to have people physically around you to spend time with as well. Not only does this help you adjust to life in a new environment, but it gives you an opportunity to step further away from the world you left behind, and start to create a new identity and life for yourself away from what you’ve always known. The comfort of having people around you, as well, is invaluable.
Have enough scheduled down time, and continue with your own hobbies. Although keeping busy constantly is a great way to distract yourself into feeling better, you want to avoid burnout at all costs. Being overly physically or emotionally exhausted will do nothing but put you in a more vulnerable state, and you’ll find yourself struggling to be so far away from home. Instead of letting yourself reach this point, take time to relax and enjoy the things you did when you were at home. Play a familiar video game, read books, take baths, etc etc. Not only will this bring you a much needed sense of familiarity and comfort, but it’ll prevent you from pushing yourself over the edge as well.
Eat something familiar to you. Often times, the things I found myself missing the most was food. Honestly, I missed food more than I missed my family. When I was having a day when I felt particularly homesick, I would take a trip down to the store. Although I couldn’t make things exactly how they were back home, I’d find snacks that were familiar to me, or if not that, then prepare a meal for myself that’s something I used to eat a lot of. It was fun to play around with the different ingredients that were available in a different part of the world, and it was a good way to connect with people who had never heard of that particular meal before.
Schedule regular meetings with friends and family. By this, I don’t mean talking to them every single day. Sometimes the best strategy for dealing with loved ones far away is ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ The more you talk to someone, the more you’ll miss them. However, a healthy balance is key. Having a chance to keep your family and friends updated on your life and travels, and just honestly having a chance to talk to someone, is a good way to keep the homesickness at bay. Create a balance that works for you.
Bring comfort items. Before you leave on your trip, bring a few of your favorite things with you! I had brought some of my favorite teas, a few pillowcases I particularly loved, letters from my friends, and lots of stuffed animals. Not only did it give me a sense of home, but on those nights when I felt homesick and no one was around to distract me, I had something to fall back on.
Also, this is my obligatory first of the month post just letting you guys know that I’ve got a bunch of new and exciting content up. Check out the resource page for links to my first ever ebook, and the second magazine issue. In the magazine you’ll find a list of blog updates and streaming times if you’re interested in joining me to play some games.
You can also find my Patreon account here, and I’d love it if you guys could take a moment to check it out!