What happens when you get homesick on your gap year? When your amazing adventures are interrupted by feelings of loneliness? It is very common and happens to many travellers abroad. The good news is there are many ways that you can deal with it and combat homesickness on your travels.
Travelling the world is an amazing adventure, one that so many people work hard to save and plan for, so it is strange to think that when it happens some people start to miss home. So what do you do when the excitement wears off and you start to get homesick?
It does happen. It may be a few days, weeks, months even, but eventually the majority of backpackers are hit with the travel blues and things start to get a little overwhelming, especially if they have already experienced a good amount of culture shock, and that is when they start to get homesick.
I’m not completely immune to this myself. I’ve been travelling the world for the past 15 years now and the absolute majority of the time I feel at home in whatever place I find myself in. It feels like that old saying ‘your home is wherever you hang your hat’ was written for me, except in my case you can replace hat for backpack! So homesickness is not something that tends to bother me much, but every now and then – on very rare occasions – I do miss my loved ones when I am away and that can lead to some small tiny pangs of homesickness.
Homesickness is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just human nature. As much as many of us crave excitement and adventure there is also an innate need for the comfortable, the familiar, to be with our loved ones and family. It’s natural, and it’s understandable.
It is important to remember though that feeling homesick isn’t permanent. It really is transitory, and there are ways you can deal with it. Here are the best ways I have found to help combat those overwhelming feelings of homesickness.
It really is that simple. Modern technology and social media have made it almost impossible not to be connected to home almost constantly, so it is infinitely easy just to find a wifi signal and skype home, not to mention the constant texts and social media updates.
I’m a firm believer in limiting your time doing this on your travels so you can truly enjoy living in the moment in the new countries you are exploring, but when the feelings of homesickness hit you and you need that sense of familiarity and comfort they can be valuable tools to reconnect with family and friends back home and give you that boost you need to carry on with your journey.
Why not arrange to have a meal in a restaurant at the same time as your family back home, so you can skype each other on your tablet and share the dining experience? You may get a few funny looks but who cares, chatting over a meal with your family can really help.
Eating familiar food.
One of the absolute joys of travel is exploring new cuisines, but every so often it can be a good idea to find a restaurant that serves good, familiar food. Obviously what is familiar to you will be different to the next person, but it isn’t difficult to find somewhere in Asia that serves good Italian or Western food for example, or somewhere in Europe that serves dishes from – well, pretty much anywhere. So indulge in local cuisine as much as you like, but there is no shame in mixing it up once in a while and grabbing a good juicy burger or a plate of pasta too. That variety in your diet will not only be good for your digestive system, it will fill you with feelings of familiarity and comfort too which will help with the homesickness.
Have a night in.
Yes you are travelling through some of the most amazing places on the planet, yes you want to get out and experience as much of it as you can while you can, I get that. But trust me, every once in a while it can do you some real good to get yourself a private room, get a hot shower, sit around in your pants and settle down with a good book or a new movie and some comfort food. One night once in a while on an extended trip won’t do you any harm, but it will help you feel more comfortable in your surroundings, give you that all important you time and take your mind off feeling homesick.
Bring something that reminds you of home.
It doesn’t matter what it is, it can be anything from a photograph to a small stuffed toy to a daft little trinket. It really doesn’t matter as long as it means something to you. For me personally I always carry two photographs tucked into the back of my notepad. These small totems serve as a connection to home, and can really help remind you that it is still there, waiting for you when you decide to return.
Remember that these feelings WILL pass.
It’s true. Homesickness may feel a little bit overwhelming at first as many strong emotions do, but like all emotions it too is transitory and it will pass. Acknowledge the fact that this is how you are feeling now, deal with it and let it pass.
Remember where you are and why you are there.
Home will always be there for you when you decide to return. That’s pretty much a given. So with that in mind just take a moment to look around at your surroundings, revel in the fact that you are on a tropical beach or a sprawling cosmopolitan city, or staring at an ancient temple or grand monument. Remember that you dreamed of this moment for months, if not years, and worked damn hard to get here. This is the life you dreamed of, that many people dream of but never achieve, and you are living it, right here, right now. Home is still there, that won’t change, but the moment you are living right now will never be there again. Enjoy your travels while they last, celebrate the fact that you are living a dream life and enjoy the adventure.
Living your life to the full first makes coming home meaningful.
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