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Defeating Homesickness

©istockphoto/michaeljung

©istockphoto/michaeljung

Any traveler has had that one singular moment. Maybe it comes when they check their social media feeds, maybe it’s when they’re sick and longing for comfort, or maybe it’s when they eat something that’s close to but just not close enough for home. Homesickness is the longing feeling for the companionship of friends and family, a freshly cooked meal, and the unmistakable feeling of one’s own bed. It can add a humble and sobering moment to any great adventure, hanging a miserable cloud when in a dire moment. Homesickness is an uncomfortable reality of great adventure, but it doesn’t have to ruin the trip. There are ways to overcome longing and revel in the experience.

No Shame in it
There is no shame in feeling homesick. Traveling abroad for an extended period of time in a strange and foreign country of new smells, foods, and experiences can be initially tense. It’s normal to crave familiarity, whether it’s going looking for the closest McDonalds, or finding the bar where all the ex-pats hang out. For those who are dealing with longing, look for places or experiences that will temporarily provide good feelings of home. Don’t give in to calls from others to “just enjoy being here” or to “get it together.” Others, who are there to provide comfort, should give a person a shoulder to lean on, kind words, and the assurance that everything will be okay.

It Hits at the Most Inopportune Times
Homesickness strikes at it’s hardest in a dire situation, like being lost in a city with a foreign language, being robbed, or getting unrelentingly sick. Stay in touch with home, through an Internet café, calls, or writing letters and be honest about what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to admit that things aren’t going as well as hoped and that a moment to clear the mind is needed. Hiding sentiment in the hope to appear strong is transparent, especially when there’s something that really needs to be said. Have a list of friends and family that you can call at any time, and realize that even though home may seem far, it’s still home, and it’ll still be there.

Keep Busy
The best way to deal with homesickness is to stay active and involved. When the mind is focused on what’s not there, it’s easy to forget about what is. Even if it involves going to find something familiar, stay out and about, visit friends, exercise to feel healthy and happy and participate in activities that make the time feel worth it. In the end, there won’t be memories about having been longing, but there will be the memories about what was eaten, what was done, and what was experienced. Grand adventures will always be remembered for the moments when they were at their most fulfilling.

Take Home With You
Bring mementoes of home to share with others like photos, small personal objects, favorite foods, and objects of significance. It helps to bridge the gap between cultures, provide memories of family and friends, and encourage understanding. Everybody in the world shares one familiar trait: that home, friends, and family is where the heart is.

Long-term travel is a grand adventure, and looking back on the experience, it’s going to have been worth every moment, both the good and the bad. Learn to accept that it’s okay to feel homesick, and anybody would feel the same way given the situation. Take a moment to acknowledge it, but remember that once getting there, the stories that are brought back are going to make everyone else envious.

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