I’m gonna get real with you guys today. This summer I was terribly homesick. This was the first time I had left home for an extended period of time (more than 2 weeks) since I started living in DC. Things were going pretty great at home before I left. Kurt and I were living together, we were in a great routine, I had great friends and we had just kicked off the blog. And then I left…for two months. On top of that, I didn’t just go to a different city in the States. I uprooted and went to the opposite side of the world. The time difference of 11 hours was brutal and the only way I could communicate with people is in the morning or the evening.
All of that being said, I still enjoyed myself. At least sort of.
How is that possible, Shannon? You can’t do both!
-People who haven’t read this post yet
Homesickness and enjoying your trip are not mutually exclusive feelings. In fact, I believe that they are often found in conjunction with each other. I don’t know what it is, but there is a crazy amount of stigma related to being homesick when you travel. Whenever someone finds out that you’re homesick, you get the same reaction you would if you were gravely ill. “Ohhhhh I’m so sorry” or “Things will get better!” It is as if it is the end of the world that you’re missing home or that you’re not enjoying yourself 100% of the time.
Personally, I can’t name a single trip I have ever taken in my life where I’ve been completely happy the entire time. Every trip has bumps. You get tired. You get hungry and can’t find food. You’re lost. You don’t like the people you’re traveling with. You eat pizza and it doesn’t stack up to your favorite place at home. Or maybe you just have a headache. There are a million reasons why you might be unhappy on a trip.
And yet there is this expectation that because you’re not at home, the things that would make you unhappy normally won’t bother you while you’re on your trip. But being in a new place, familiar or not, puts more stress on you thus making small problems seem bigger.
So how did I do it?
The most important thing to acknowledge is that you can enjoy your time AND miss home. Once you have come to terms with that, it will be so much easier to move forward on your trip. It took me about 2 weeks of being in Indonesia for the homesickness to latch on and become a part of my daily life. But I didn’t let it control me. I learned to listen to my body, physically and emotionally. Traveling is exhausting, so I gave myself permission to stay in and binge watch Netflix. I never felt bad about saying ‘no’ to an experience because at the end of the day, I knew I needed to look out for myself. If homesickness wasn’t going to control me, I needed to acknowledge it, try and mitigate it and power through.
If you can, doing something that you normally do at home can help make you feel a bit better. It was nearly impossible for me to do that this summer because Jakarta was so different from DC. However, in many places in Europe, this is doable. This could be something as little as making a point to go to Starbucks and getting your usual order. It could be following a similar gym routine or a similar beauty routine that you used at home to pamper yourself. The key to this is familiarity. If you make your destination feel even a tiny bit more like home, you’ll find the homesick wanes a bit.
I also tried to make sure I had FaceTime dates set up on days when I knew I’d really feel lonely. For example, I missed my mom’s birthday. I made a point to call her and catch up, even though she was galavanting around Ireland at the time. Don’t let FaceTime dates get in the way of you experiencing new things, but don’t be ashamed to seek out and schedule that slice of home.
If you find a place in your temporary home that really calms you or makes you feel great, go there. When homesickness gets you down, don’t be afraid to wallow in it for a few moments. But then do everything in your power to move through it. Buy yourself a nice meal at your new favorite restaurant and think “wow, I’m really going to miss this when I get home.”
The good news is that at the end of the day, your trip likely has an end date. You’ll get to head home and reunite with all the things you missed. If your trip doesn’t have an end date, then slowly your new destination will begin to feel like home. Enjoy the journey, including all the ups and the downs.