I’ve always found there to be this shame associated with homesickness. It starts when we’re young; no one wants to be that camper, the one crying themselves to sleep because they miss the familiar comforts of home, the one judged by fellow campers or pitied by their counselors. I, for one, was never a homesick camper. I embraced the unknown and lived for the unfamiliar. And I knew I would never be someone to experience homesickness while traveling.
I guess you could say I was just a late bloomer, because at 23 I only recently experienced homesickness, and, as I’m sure many can relate, it’s a terrible feeling. It shouldn’t be a shameful feeling though. Homesickness is hard to talk about because we aren’t taught that it’s actually okay to be homesick.
What I’ve come to understand however, is being homesick doesn’t mean you’re not adventurous or a confident traveler. And it isn’t a sign of weakness or dependency either. It can actually be a place for gratitude and strength. So if you’re out and about and feeling lonely, consider these 3 reasons to embrace being homesick.
Whether you’re at home or traveling, you’re still human – you still experience the same breadth of human emotion
Here’s a bit of a confession (though I’m sure many others have done the same thing): when I first started traveling, I expected to be happy all time. Living in a foreign place, beautiful scenery and new experiences all around me – no way I was ever going to experience an unpleasant emotion. I’d go the entire trip without being unhappy, angry, disappointed or sad. Because that’s what happens when you travel, right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Wherever you are in the world, it’s still natural to feel all of the many human emotions you’d feel at home. And loneliness isn’t an exception! Loneliness takes on all shapes and forms and I promise you every single person has experienced loneliness, whether they’ve chosen to talk about it or not. But it can be a catalyst for action – use it as an excuse to get in touch with friends and family and strengthen your connection with them. Tell your parents and your siblings or friends that you miss them, you’re excited to eventually come home and see them!
Let homesickness bring you gratitude – you have something wonderful back home that is worth missing
Missing something shows that you have something great in life worth missing. As with the last reason, take this feeling and use it reach out to someone back home. I was recently traveling in a tour group that had a mother-daughter pair in it. Watching them made me really miss my mom, and actually inspired me to message her to see if we could plan a little weekend trip together when I’m home.
Traveling means being away from friends and family during major life events – it’d be crazy is you didn’t miss them
Maybe your sister has just had a baby, or your parents are getting a divorce. For me it was losing my grandpa, someone who has been an extremely important person in my life. The rest of the world doesn’t stop because you start traveling. Being away from friends and family during these times will naturally make you feel lonely – and there’s nothing wrong with that. When we remove shame from homesickness, we can better reach out to those loved ones and overcome difficult feelings with their support.
It’d actually be much more surprising if you didn’t feel a bit homesick when these events and moments came up!
To leave, or to not leave – that is the question!
When you feel homesick while traveling, one of the most difficult decisions is when to go home. This decision is a personal one, unique to you and your circumstances. Three months before I planned to come home, my parents told me in a tearful FaceTime that my cat Smokey had a tumor and would not be here when I got home. I still had a month of exams left, and I was 14,000 kms away with round trip flights exceeding $2000. Deciding not to go home was a really difficult decision I had to make with my family, and I still don’t know if I made the right one.
One month later they told me he’d been put down; he was coughing blood and hiding under the bed, unable to eat or sleep. He was in too much pain so my family gathered together and said goodbye to the cutest member of our family. Travel changed for me after that. Suddenly every mountain, beach or hiking trail was the same as the one before. I didn’t want to meet new people at hostels, I just wanted to be home. As I’d already booked non-refundable flights for the Australia leg of my trip, I had another difficult decision to make: fulfill my travel plans or forfeit plane tickets. This time, however, I decided to leave. I couldn’t do it immediately, so as I write this post I’m doing my best to enjoy my last few days in Tasmania.
However you’re feeling on your journey, I hope you can see some sort of positive in it, whether that be gratitude, inspiration or something else. It is difficult though (I’m currently struggling to see the benefit in this persistent feeling).
What are your thoughts? Do you have strategies for overcoming homesickness while traveling? Have you experienced something similar? I’d love to hear – leave a comment or get in touch.