Moving abroad – whether for travel, study or work – brings with it lots of challenges, but when homesickness hits it can be really tempting to book the first flight home. Especially if this is your first time away from your home country, dealing with homesickness and missing your family and friends can be really hard. However, it’s important that you don’t let this feeling overshadow everything that a new place has to offer; more often than not this has a lot to do with your attitude and mindset towards missing home.
For example, I was lying on a sleeper bus seven days into a ten-day tour when the feeling of wanting to go home overwhelmed me, despite never having felt homesick even once during the year I spent abroad. I used lots of techniques to change my mindset to a more proactive and positive one. On the contrary, my friend and fellow traveler suffered from snow blindness and moped around pining for home whilst recovering which had a negative impact on her travel experiences.
What is homesickness?
Even though homesickness can leave you feeling unwell, homesickness is not considered an ailment. According to a paper published in Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ journal, “homesickness is the distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents.” It’s not just a matter of missing loved ones, it can also be missing food that is available only back home or the particular arrangement of your bed in relation to the side table. Home for us represents love, protection, and security. It’s natural that we miss it when those elements are missing, or when we are in uncomfortable situations.
How to cope with homesickness
Homesickness is likely to affect the majority of travelers or overseas workers and students at some point – whether they admit it or not! We don’t want homesickness to taint what should otherwise be an exciting and valuable experience, so we’ve put together our advice to help you cope next time the pangs of homesickness set in.
Entertain yourself – You are in a new country and there are a lot of new things to discover and enjoy. There’s always something you can do which is productive and this doesn’t include pining over your pictures of your friend’s social activities on Facebook. Take up a hobby, get outside, visit tourist attractions and you’ll find that getting into the routine of doing this will help you to make friends along the way. Not only will you meet new people, but getting into a routine is important in order for you to settle down into a new environment.
Keep lines of communications open – In this era of social media, you can’t really make the excuse that you won’t be able to talk to the loved ones you left back home. Video calling isn’t as expensive or clunky as it was five years ago.
Be realistic – Conversely, don’t take contacting your loved ones too far – you don’t need to call home ten times a day and this certainly won’t help you to miss home any less. Remember that the idea of home you miss is the most utopian version and there was a reason you chose to travel to a new country. Put your phone down and embrace your adventure…then send lots of pictures to your family and friends who will feel like they are part of your journey!
Put down roots – The best way to combat homesickness is to make this new space your home. You most likely will work with other migrant workers, reach out to them and bond over your common diaspora. It’s better to cope with homesickness if you’re with friends and can encourage each other along the way.
Don’t think about it – Of course, this is easier said than done. However, when I was in that sleeper bus feeling melancholic about not being back home, I reined my thoughts back in. And then I thought about how lucky I was to tour Cambodia and channel my inner Lara Croft. I refused to think about home because I knew that I wanted to be on that bus going to Siem Reap. Think about why you want to be abroad and how you are now living your dream.
Think positive – It’s all about the attitude. As Lady Gaga said, there can be 100 people in the room and only one believed in you, that can make all the difference in the world. Be that person. Believe in yourself. Furthermore, believe that you can get over your homesickness. And finally, believe that you will come to love this new country.
Do you need help getting abroad? Visit the Member’s area of our website to find out how we can help!