I am incredibly independent. I haven’t lived with my parents since I was 15 years old, and took off to the other side of the country. I have always been one to be as far away from my family as possible. Why? They drive me mental. I love them, but seriously. I go mental.
When I was last in Africa, I was severely depressed. Surrounded by my favorite place in the world should have been enough to kick me out of the black cloud I was under, but it wasn’t until I realized I was homesick that I managed to pull myself out of it. I now look back on that time in Kenya, and wish I had gotten more involved. I did a lot of sitting back and listening to conversations between other travelers, and not initiating enough of my own. This feeling surprised me, since I really have a nomadic heart.
I have traveler friends who tell me they never get homesick. If you’ve never experienced it, it feels like every dark thought you’ve ever had in your life, but all at once. You’re far from home, from the people who love you, you’re outside your comfort zone, you’re tired because constantly moving long distances in overland travel just gets tiring after a few weeks, you’re surrounded by people that are pretty cool, but they’re not your people. It’s especially bad if you’re traveling by yourself. Solo travel is the worst for homesickness.
I’ve asked everyone I can think of, some who are currently traveling and some who have travelled for years, for their tips on battling homesickness. Here they are:
1. STAY CONNECTED: Technology is great these days, there really isn’t any reason to be disconnected from home. It’s a matter of making time though. When you’re traveling for a long period of time, you really need to make an effort. There have been times I’ve been away, and it will dawn on me that my family haven’t heard from me in weeks. That’s usually when I pull into a cafe or restaurant with wifi and shoot of a bunch of emails, or jump on Facebook and let everyone know I’m still alive. For many people, this isn’t enough. Set a time before you leave home, and make that time the same every week. Everyone jumps online (on Skype or Facebook) and has a big chat. You may not even want to do this every week, it could be as little as once a fortnight, or once a month.
I also take photos of my family with me when I travel. It helps to start conversations with locals about them, and this will either remind you that you’re traveling for a reason, or remind you why you left – depending on what your family is like!!
2. EYES ON THE PRIZE: You sacrificed a LOT to travel. You saved, you missed out on concerts, weekends away, movies, theatre, dinners out, shows, wine, chocolate, beer – whatever it was that you had to cut down on in order to save for your big trip, you did it. Now keep your eyes on that prize, because you’re living it daily. Yes you miss home, yes you’re missing out on things by being on the road. But what are you gaining instead? Think about all the things you have done, seen and accomplished while you have been away and how you would feel if you had missed out on those experiences.
3. BE CURIOUS: Try one new thing every day. Explore something new, take a long train ride that takes you off the pages of your Lonely Planet guide, converse in another language. Bungee jump. Sky dive. Be adventurous, and pretty soon you’ll stop wishing you were home. Life is an adventure, and you’re living the best one of all – because it’s YOURS.
4. HOBBIES ON THE ROAD: For a lot of people, part of their homesickness is the missing of part of their routine. Ensure you have at least one hobby you can keep with you. I am a huge nerd, so mine is reading. With the invention of the iPad I can take an entire library with me when I’m travelling. I travelled with a girl who took her cross stitch to China. Many people pick up new hobbies, like photography. Food is a great on-the-road hobby, because each country has such a different take on it, you can literally eat your way around the world. Music is another one, every city has some amazing local band. Go find out who they are!
5. GET OUT! Get out of your room! Go explore. Walk. Run. Bicycle. Whatever it takes, if you stay cooped up then you will make the homesickness worse. Promise.
What other ways can you battle homesickness?