On Being Homesick

I think it is that I time to call it like it is. Homesickness happens, whether people who are traveling admit it or not. And the whole idea around being homesick has a very negative connotation. You feel weak if you admit it to yourself or others. People think that you don’t enjoy what you are doing and where you are. It’s just all around bad. However, I refuse to accept this stigma because it does not accurately encompass the feelings that homesickness brings. Homesickness is simply a longing for home when you’ve been away for awhile. It does not signify weakness in my eyes. I think it’s time to stop shying away from this topic and discuss it without judgement or shame because it is normal. It is human. It happens. So let’s talk about it.

There are many factors that go into feeling homesick and it is different for everyone. It could be triggered by seeing your friends post on social media at an event together or after having a conversation with your dad about a weekend camping trip your family went on. For me, it happens most often when I am bored and my traveling has slowed down for a while and new experiences are happening less frequently. For others, the feelings might begin when new experiences take place that push them out of their comfort zones. Each scenario is normal and shouldn’t be looked down upon. The initial feeling of longing for home and missing friends and family will happen. However, I believe it’s how you choose to deal with these feelings that truly matters.

So let’s get personal. I have been homesick a few times on this trip. Shocker right? It looks like I’m having so much fun on all my blog posts, Snapchats, and Instagram pictures. None of that is a lie. I am having a great time! But not every second is the most spectacular moment of my life. It can’t be. Life would be too crazy if that were the case and my brain might explode from overstimulation. There is downtime with traveling. A LOT of it. And the downtime is when I feel homesick the most. For the past month we have been in Costa Rica working at a hostel and a preschool (I will be talking more in depth about this experience in a later post). After looking over our budget for the remainder of our trip we decided to lay low during our off time from work as we try to save as much as possible for our last few months. This means I have a considerable amount of time on my hands. In combination with this, coming home to Portland is becoming more of a reality. Our plane tickets have been purchased (January 21st for those who didn’t know!), we are trying to find a place to live, and have started looking into potential jobs as well. We are aware that there is still a lot of time left for our adventure, but we love to over plan everything. We decided to start the process now because we have so much extra time on our hands and it will hopefully alleviate some stress later (my future self better thank me for this). Due to all of these factors, my mind is not in the same place it was when we were in Europe. Reality is setting in more and more each day and I have a lot of time to think about all of the variables this entails. In turn, I have felt an even greater longing for my home, my friends, and my family.

This is when the homesickness begins to set in. The feelings begin with an onset of sadness for what seems to me at first as having no cause. Then as I begin to further analyze my thoughts I realize what is going on. Usually after this I begin to obsess over thinking about home. I will think about all of the people I am missing, the foods I have been craving, and the routine of life that has always been so appealing to my Type A personality. To be specific, the images that cross my mind most often are these: Driving in my car listening to the radio singing loudly with no one else around. Eating peanut butter by the spoonful while watching a movie in my living room. Laughing with my friends while drinking a glass of wine and talking about life. And eating Red Robin French fries with way too much ranch and campfire sauce. These images bring me back to the good things about being home and make me excited about returning. However, once the images continue to circle my mind it becomes less of a happy image and more of a sense of longing. I begin to look at my calendar counting down the days until I will be returning home. I will reach out to friends and family and tell them how much I miss them. And I will OBSESS over social media and planning as much as I can for my return. It’s a feeling that I can only describe as annoying and, for lack of a better word, shitty. I can’t play out those images that circle my mind for X amount of days and in that moment I can’t bring myself to want anything else. Sometimes in these moments I feel like I have failed as a traveler because I’m longing for home and I can’t just enjoy the now while I am living it. But I know this isn’t true. In reality, being homesick isn’t the be-all-end-all of my positive experiences during my travels. I don’t see it as a weakness (which is why I am writing about it so honestly) or as something I need to hide. I think the most important parts of this is understanding why I am feeling this way and how I can get over it in a healthy way.

In all honesty, I feel fortunate to have the feeling of homesickness from time to time because it means I have something wonderful to miss. I have family and friends who make me feel loved and accepted. My home state and city are some of the most beautiful places in the world that makes coming back so exciting to think about. I have opportunities that are available to me for work, volunteering, and all around finding my identity as a real life adult that are ready for me to pursue as soon as I touch down on the infamous PDX carpet once again. I am lucky and being away for so long has taught me to never take any of this for granted.

However, just because being homesick is normal doesn’t mean it’s fun or something that I want to experience. It sucks and leaves me feeling unmotivated. So there are a few things that I make myself do in order to help ease the feelings. Reaching out to friends and seeing their responses makes me feel that I haven’t been forgotten (it feels stupid to actually acknowledge this as a thought that crosses my mind but when you’ve been gone for so long sometimes it’s not a far off idea to have), keeping busy by working, going on walks, writing blogs, etc. and finally, talking about it. Hiding my feelings just makes them worse. Luckily I have someone traveling with me who is required to listen to me all the time (he signed up for it by being my boyfriend so I don’t feel bad at all). Being able to not only acknowledge the feelings that you are having, but also expressing them to someone else feels like a weight leaving your chest. If you are traveling and feeling homesick but don’t have a travel partner, then I suggest reaching out to a friend or family member who you are close with and have kept in contact with throughout your journey. Once again, it is NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF and I would find it so incredibly strong if someone were to confess these feelings to me.

In short, being homesick happens. It’s normal, it’s human, and you are not a bad traveler if you have those feelings at any point in your travel adventures. It doesn’t discredit all of the experiences you have had and everything you have learned. It doesn’t mean that you are having a horrible time abroad and actually want to come home (if you do then there’s probably something more serious going on besides homesickness). What truly defines your strength and character is how you are able to handle the feelings. Talk it out. Vent all of your frustrations to whoever you trust. It will help. Get away from Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat for a little while and make your own memories without an audience. Buy yourself the jar of Jif Peanut Butter you saw at the store even if it costs $7. That small piece of familiarity could make a load of difference. Lastly, I don’t want this post to sound like this feeling is tearing my life apart. It’s really not. The world isn’t ending, the sky isn’t falling. I just really want Red Robin french fries.

-Lizz

2 thoughts on “On Being Homesick

  1. Dear Elizabeth – your thoughtful post shows so much truth. You are quite honest to admit what you’re dealing with from time to time. You know the reasons for your homesickness and yet also know that it doesn’t mean you aren’t happy to be where you are now in Costa Rica. I remember one time in the deep of winter in Budapest that we students bought peanuts and ground them up to make peanut butter — back in those days you couldn’t buy it there, and we wanted it badly for so many of the same reasons you crave it. We miss you very, very much but have similar paradoxical feelings because we don’t want you to cut your trip short just to be here at the holidays… Know you are so loved and that we are so proud of you! Truly, Cynthia

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