For months you can feel fine, then bam! You see a photo on Facebook of your family at Christmas and it hits you like a ton of bricks. Homesickness when travelling is going to happen. It’s kind of like getting the runs: you can’t avoid it no matter how many margherita pizzas you eat. Since I know quite a few of us in this community are away at this time of year, I thought I’d share my best ways to deal with homesickness when travelling.
The first thing to say is that homesickness when travelling is completely normal. It doesn’t mean you need to or necessarily want to go home. In many cases, it’s triggered by an event. It may be Christmas (like now) or you could be 14 hours into a 20 hour bus journey and feeling sorry for yourself. Know that it’s normal and it’s your natural response to miss home when you get strong negative feelings on a trip. There are certain realities of travelling you will face that will naturally illicit this response.
Once you’ve acknowledged these feelings, the next thing you need to do is talk to someone – ideally (but not necessarily) someone in the same situation as you. If you have a travelling companion, chances are you’ve had a few deep meaningful conversations already. One more about homesickness when travelling isn’t going to make you a weirdo. Everyone that’s travelling, especially around Christmas time, is feeling the same way.
Talk about what you miss at home. The people, the places, the things and especially that Domino’s Pizza you just can’t get in rural Cambodia. When you feel like you’re not the only one, suddenly a large part of that burden feels shared.
This is my favourite way to deal with homesickness when travelling. Stay in one place for at least 10 days. Find a nice, clean place – ideally an actual home; look on AirBnB. Go a little nicer than you usually would – try to negotiate based on your length of stay.
This is the most important part. Unpack your stuff. Put your clothes in a wardrobe. Make it feel like you have an actual base where you’re happy to spend some time. Get a little routine going. Make your own breakfast every morning. Read a book before you go to bed at your assigned bedtime every night.
I know it sounds silly, but routine and a little consistency will help alleviate homesickness when travelling.
The biggest cause of homesickness when travelling is often loneliness. If you’ve got no one to talk to or interact with, you’re naturally going to miss your family and friends. You’ll call home more because you’ll be desperate for human interaction.
Check into a lively, party hostel for a few days. Even if you’re not the party type, do it anyway and try and meet a few people. It’s incredible how one meaningful conversation with a stranger can pick you right up.
In many hostels and homestays, you’re treated with an almost family-like environment. Take advantage of that when you need it most. I know the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re feeling down in the dumps is go and meet new people, but hey, it’s just another challenge that comes with travelling.
Another option is to volunteer somewhere that really needs you for a while. There’s really no better way to integrate yourself into a culture. You’ll be forced into scenarios where you’ll meet dozens of new people who are excited to see you every day. Wrap yourself up in work for a few days – staying busy can help.
The truth is, you can’t avoid homesickness when travelling. The best you can do is try to deal with it. You can go months without giving it a second thought, but when it catches up with you it’s a real kick in the goodies.
I’ll end by saying that if you’re not feeling homesick right now, spare a thought for others that are. Be a sound board, lend an ear and listen.
We’ve all been there and as a traveller, you can and should deploy empathy into homesickness like few others.