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Dealing with Homesickness for Travellers and Expats

Photo credit: Alex Dram (flickr)

Photo credit: Alex Dram (flickr)

No matter how happy you were to escape from your own country and how content you are travelling or living as an expat in another country, the chances are that homesickness will hit at some point sooner or later. It may be triggered by something as small as an email from home or seeing someone wearing a football shirt from your home team and before you know it you’re sobbing about how much you miss your mother’s cooking, reliable public transportation and tap water you can drink.

Some degree of homesickness is probably inevitable for most of us. There’s not a lot you can do to stop it from happening entirely. But there are a few little things you can do to ease the pain when you get those little pangs of memories of home to avoid you booking the next plane back to where you came from.

Stay in touch

Travelling can be a lot of fun but at times it can also be very lonely. It really pays to make the effort to stay in contact with your friends and family back home through email, blogging, social networks and preferably, the odd phone call every now and then.

Talking with your friends regularly will stop you from feeling like you’re missing out on so much back home and you’ll have the opportunity to update them on all your adventures. Whenever I’m feeling a little miserable out here, I give my mum a call. Just having a little catch up and a rant about whatever is driving me crazy this week does me the world of good and I’m back to normal by the time I hang up the phone.

Indulge in guilty pleasures

Photo credit: Pierre Mallien (flickr)

Photo credit: Pierre Mallien (flickr)

I had nasty habit of frequenting Starbucks branches when I was travelling. Yes I know, they’re evil corporate clones but there’s a comforting familiarity about being able to get the same cup of coffee and sit in the same armchair surrounded by beige and brown décor, wherever you are in the world. I’d give myself a little treat every once in a while and pop in for a coffee and to indulge in the air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. I remember one Starbucks in Malaysia where my single coffee cost more than the guesthouse I was staying in that night. As I said, guilty pleasures…

Eat what you miss

In my experience, food is one of those things that can really have an effect on your mood. One of the fun parts of travelling is trying out all the new tastes of foreign cuisine but there comes a point when you just can’t face another plate of rice.

Don’t feel bad about popping into a western style café for a sandwich or McDonalds for some fries (see above – guilty pleasures) or even cook yourself up some steak and mashed potatoes or whatever else it is you miss. This is especially important around Thanksgiving, Christmas and other food-based holidays. Don’t be a martyr! Go have that nice restaurant turkey dinner or you’ll be feeling sorry for yourself later!

Get out, explore, make new friends

Photo credit: Tom Cramond (flickr)

Photo credit: Tom Cramond (flickr)

If you’re feeling lonely and isolated wherever you’re staying then no wonder homesickness is starting to hit. Making new friends is not something that comes easily to all of us but it is so important if you want to be happy. All of us like to be alone at times and solo travel is a wonderful experience but extended periods with nobody but yourself for company can be very lonely.

If you’re travelling, try staying in backpackers’ hostels and cheaper accommodation where you’re more likely to meet other travellers. Bars and cafes can also be a great place to meet people. The Internet can also be a great way to find people in the same place as you and arrange a meet up.

It’s easy to become a little jaded with everything when you’ve been travelling for a long time. If you start to feel travel-weary, it’s a good sign to slow down, stop trying to tick everything off your list and just settle wherever you are for now. Go for walks and explore wherever your feet take you – leave your guidebook at home and ignore the tourist attractions. Do whatever you enjoy at home – browsing in bookstores, lingering over a coffee in a café, people watching in the park. Take the time to stop and really get to know the place where you are before you get itchy feet again.

Go back for a visit

Particularly in the case of expats who have been away for several years, you may find the only cure for your homesickness is to take a trip back to your home country.

After a couple of years in Bali, the novelty was wearing off and I was getting increasingly frustrated with everything. I went back to the UK for a month and, while I had fun and it was great seeing my family and friends, I really missed Bali – ‘home’ by the end of the trip. You tend to romanticise certain aspects of your previous life when you’re away from it but after being back for a few weeks you’ll probably start remembering why you left in the first place.

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