5 ways to beat being homesick

Homesickness while on long-term travel is nearly unavoidable.

Just three months after my 18th birthday I moved to Voronezh, Russia for half-a-year to teach English. This was, without a doubt, one of the very best things I ever did for myself. But, on the flip side, it was also one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

In retrospect I was young, but at the time I didn’t realize how young I really was – I became more homesick than I’d ever expected. Thankfully, I learned a few tricks to bring the familiar to the foreign.

Goodies from home inside!

Ask for the comforts from home

Receiving packages isn’t just about pieces of home coming to you; packages are also a way for you to share pieces of your home with others. As I found myself wishing I had this or that, I would add them to my ongoing list of what I’d like to receive in a package. The list usually included items like Oreos, Peanut Butter Cups, lemonade mix, Butterfingers, microwave popcorn and card games like Uno, Skip-Bo and Phase 10. I had more fun getting to share and talk with others about what I got rather than sitting in a corner stuffing processed chocolates in my mouth.

The family I lived with was totally amazed that we could have popcorn at home rather than having to go to the movies, although it took some convincing and a promise that if I broke their microwave I would replace it with a new one. I’m pretty sure they were hoping for a new microwave to be the outcome rather than microwaveable popcorn, but the experience turned out to be one of my favorite stories to share.

 

Those golden arches need no translation!

Find your nearest McD’s or other fast food outlet

I know it seems a little sacrilegious to eat at McDonalds while surrounded by a foreign culture but sometimes you just need that fix of home. McDonalds can be more than mainstream greasy food. They almost always have better bathrooms than other restaurants. Culture and the country isn’t lost — many McDonalds adds cultural twists like spices, sauces, meats, style and booze. Yes, booze.

Going to McDonalds has become a favorite tradition of mine. I’ve been to several international McDonalds outlets including enjoying little pieces of home in Lithuania, United States, Mexico, Israel, Russia, London and France.  It’s fun to compare similarities and differences in cultures and countries.

Carve out some time to write.

Stay in touch via the (gasp) postal system

I love to send postcards when I travel, probably because I love getting postcards when my friends travel. Who doesn’t love getting something in the mail? The further into the twenty-first century we get, the more of a novelty it is! Sending postcards worked well for me because it’s something I could do whenever I wanted … like when the craving for home hit, or trying to fall asleep after a long day, riding on a bus or even in between teaching classes. It was my way of letting my mind wander and allow myself to think about the people and things I missed from home while being productive, rather than missing home and letting myself get depressed.

Friends help cure homesickness.

Get out and meet people

Traveling to Russia with seven fellow English teachers helped make the transition smoother for my stay in a foreign country. We became a great support system for each other, even though we all lived with separate local families. Having a host family was amazing – I wouldn’t do it any other way. They were a sweet, understanding family who included me in as many family outings as I wanted to attend.

The longer you’re abroad the easier it is to approach locals and other travelers. Take advantage of sites like Couchsurfing.  Although I didn’t know about it when I was in Russia, I have since used it to find people in the area I was visiting for a cup of coffee, tips and ideas and even had a few people offer to show me around. I’ve never had a negative experience with Couchsurfing, but always remember to be safe and smart about meeting places.

There are other ways to meet people, too. Do a search on Facebook to see if there are any groups in the town you are living in. Enroll in a language course. Take a cooking class. Get out there and meet people with similar interests.

Subtitles rock!

Find music and movies to remind you of home

I moved to Russia before iPods or digital music and movies were common, so I was stuck with the dozens of CD’s I brought with me. Luckily, buying American movies made illegally were easy to find and fairly cheap. However, finding movies in English that hadn’t been dubbed over was a little bit trickier and more expensive. Needless to say, when I found them, I bought them. I came home with “Hitch,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Peter Pan” and “13 Going On 30.” Sure, none of them are my favorites, but it was nice to have 90 minutes of English and not have to make conversation.

What do you do when you get homesick? Do you have any surefire ways to kick it to the curb?

About the Author: Heather is passionate about three thing: 1) traveling; 2)humanity; and  3) education. In 2012, upon earning her Integrated Studies degree in History & Political Science, she is leaving her life in Salt Lake City, Utah to live the life of an expat. With only the intention to travel, she is leaving the planning and itinerary to where the trade winds of the universe send her. Follow Heather’s journey on her blog, HeathersHarmony, on Twitter and Facebook.

Guest Posts

RTW Travel: A Blessing and a Curse

Being stationary is a weird feeling. Even now, after being stationary for seven months, I still can’t quite get used to it.

I didn’t think returning from long-term travel would be this difficult for me.

Since I’ve been home I have gone through various stages of long-term-travel-decompression.

First, it was that stifling feeling of not being able to breathe. Walking through customs, passport colored with stamps in different languages, alphabets, visa stickers and stamps … handing it over for inspection.

Then, it was the overwhelm. Being in a car, stuck in traffic on a six-lane highway, wrapping around Washington, DC. Getting behind the wheel of a car. Driving.

Even the little things I didn’t think would bother me made my shoulders tense: walking into Target for the first time; wheeling a shopping cart through a super-sized grocery store.

Were stores always this massive? Did people always rush around like that? Have there always been 500 varieties of corn pops?

There were days that would go by where I would do nothing but sit silently with all of this excess energy, unsure of what to do with all of the stimuli surrounding me.

After the overwhelm came frustration.

I had just returned from an experience I could never sufficiently sum up in a conversation over coffee, over a long, drawn out meal.

Over anything.

And yet, for some reason, all I could think about was my journey. How I wanted to tell people, but had not a clue where to even begin.

With the return home also came another frustration: what the hell was I going to do now?

For seven months, I had grown accustomed to not having a routine. To waking up every morning and relishing the fact that this beautiful world was my oyster.

And post-travel? Shit. No job, no belongings, no money … it felt like the future I was searching for just dripped through my fingers.

To fight the sinking, I decided to search out my next adventure. My next high.

Las Vegas.

Yes, the city I had loathed once upon a time was suddenly my knight in shining armour … the copper of Wynn and Encore twinkling in front of snow-capped mountains, beckoning to give the town one more try.

So, I did.

Because, after frustration comes desperation. Desparation to figure out what the hell to do next. Desperation to get situated. Desperation to get a routine.

Then comes satisfaction.

After I got a job and moved my life, I felt satisfaction. Relief.

I did it.

There I was, waking up in a place where red mountains, blue skies and fat palm trees make everything just a little prettier. I felt great. The pride I felt in my job, the comfort I felt in continuing my story from a fixed address.

Traveling long-term helped put everything into perspective once I got back to Las Vegas.

I didn’t care what parties I got invited to.

I didn’t care what celeb was where.

I didn’t care that my backpacking wardrobe didn’t translate into Las Vegas Cool Wardrobe.

But, I did care that I wasn’t traveling.

And, that’s the problem with long-term travel: it’s like a drug. Once you’ve gone and experienced something like that, you just don’t feel right until you are doing it again.

I needed that high.

I catch myself all of the time.

I’m in the moment, and then suddenly, I am wistfully brought into my old life … recalling moments in time, images I chose to stand out in my internal photo album, friends whose faces I yearned to see.

Lately, as I grow more accustomed to the routine of life I am now living — waking up, making breakfast, driving to work, working, going to the gym, coming home, making dinner, wash, rinse, repeat — I grow hungrier for the what I used to have.

Don’t get me wrong — I am here. I am happy. But, there’s this big chunk of my heart that craves my drug of choice. And all of its glorious paraphernalia.

So, I’ve done what any Travel Junkie would do after returning home from long-term travel: I’ve gone and booked another trip.

No, it isn’t another doozy of an adventure. Its more tame. And certainly shorter.

I’m headed to Thailand and the Elephant Nature Park for two weeks this autumn.

And, I’ve started saving my pennies (hello, advertisers!) so I can put it into my Travel Funds (Virtual) Jar.

I guess I won’t know the long-term effects of returning home from a RTW yet.

Or hopefully ever.


30 Life Crisis Americas Nevada Travel