Homesickness Happens to Everyone. Don’t Let it Ruin Your Life Abroad

Pen and Ink by churl on FlickrIt’s hard to describe the feeling in your chest when you’re longing for something that is too far away to be attained. You’re missing the comfort of what is familiar. You’re missing your friends and family. You’re missing whatever you’re missing, and it’s powerful enough to cause physical pain. And if you’re living abroad, it’s inevitable.

 “…every life form that exists gives out a tiny subliminal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth. On Earth it is never possible to be farther than sixteen thousand miles from his birthplace, which really isn’t very far, so such signals are too minute to be noticed.” (Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

Homesickness is something that happens to everybody at some point in their lives, and it is especially going to happen to anyone who up and leaves their entire everything behind and moves across the globe. The good news is that homesickness is a sickness that can be treated and cured as long as you’re willing to work to cure it. It’s not difficult; it just requires proper knowledge and an open mind. If you’re feeling desolate, alone and miserable away from your home, try reading over these suggestions to begin curing your homesickness and truly get the full experience out of your time abroad.

Allow yourself to be sad.

This step is really important for anyone who is going through any kind of emotional trauma. It isn’t possible to allow yourself to move forward without allowing yourself the time to accept the pain you’re going through. And even if you’re beyond stoked to be abroad, something is going to trigger some kind of homesickness in you, so the best thing to do is to let it happen. The first time I truly understood what it felt like to be homesick, I was sitting in China reading an email about my dog (who was not a family dog, but my own animal I had to leave behind), and I realized that no matter what, there was nothing I could do to be with her—probably for a very long time. This didn’t just mildly upset me. I sat in my room and sobbed until I was unable to produce tears. I crawled out of my window on to a laundry rack 6 stories above the ground and stared out at the city lights of Xi’an just hating everyone sleeping in their bed with their dogs. I was heartbroken. And I allowed myself to be heartbroken.

Once you can allow the pain to happen, it is easier to let it go.

Get out of your house

This seems really simple, but a lot of times when you’re homesick, you don’t want to do much other than sit at home. This doesn’t really do much for you other than make your new home a prison, and no one likes prison. You won’t feel comfortable in your new place if you trap yourself there, and you’ll never be able to start accepting your new home without going out to see it. When I’m in a new place, I make it a point to get out and walk the streets of my new city as much as possible. You never know what you will stumble upon while exploring on your own. You could accidentally find something to completely occupy your time and interest while you’re living there. And at the very least, if you do this regularly enough, you can make a routine for yourself. Exploring can become part of your daily life until you begin to feel comfortable where you are, and routines are an easy way to start feeling comfortable.

Meet people

You’re not alone! You’re not alone in your city, and you’re not the only person who has ever been homesick. Finding someone who you can relate to and spend time with is incredibly easy. There are forums online for foreigners abroad. There are forums online for local English speakers. And there are enough bars around the world that we should all own one by now (seriously. Why don’t I own a bar?). You can either find a way to get in touch with people online or take the risk, show up in a public place and start talking to people. Either option will work, and both are incredibly simple (if you really want to take steps to making a home while you’re away, though, go be brave and visit that bar. You’re brave enough to be abroad, be brave enough to meet people).

Begin to love your situation

It will take less time than you would imagine if you allow it. The things you have allowed to become your daily routine will start to shape your life, and you’ll begin to create and experience things that aren’t forced. You’ll accidentally stumble upon a Zumba dance session in a park and join the class. Through that class, you’ll meet 15 new people who you hang out with every week. Through those people, you’ll meet even more people, and so on and so forth. You’ll stumble into a flower market one day and find that you have a passion for gardening you never knew existed, and your rooftop will soon be the envy of your neighbors.

My point is life is going to happen to you. It just carries on every single day, and if you want, you can ride it until you can call it your own.

Make a change if necessary

Sometimes, things just are not going to get better. There are places in the world that are not for everybody, and I can tell you first hand that I know this. I lived in China for long enough that I knew I needed to get out. I moved to Taipei, and I have never looked back. It may not be homesickness, but if you’re in a place that isn’t right for you (with no chance of being so), do not torture yourself. Don’t try and be strong just to be strong. Make the change.

Once you find somewhere where you’re comfortable, you’ll be able to have your own life. You’ll be able to identify with the country and city you live in, and you’re going to surprise yourself when it isn’t the home you grew up in. And what will be really strange and wonderful will be when you go back to that home country and realize that you’re homesick for life abroad.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: SAM SIMILEwoman balancing

Website: http://reachtoteachrecruiting.com
Samantha is our General Travel Expert Sam is a writer, teacher, acrobat, fire-breather, stilt walker, athlete, coach, explorer, (sometimes) crazy person from America. She has and continues to work in everything from teaching to show business, and has lived and worked in both China and Taiwan. In her free time, Sam listens to The Beatles and just follows wherever life decides to take her.

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