When you’re booking a trip, looking through guidebooks and Instagram photos of beautiful and remote places, nothing feels more exciting than the idea of leaving everything familiar behind for something completely new. Most of the time travel feels like a great adventure, especially if you’ve got a flexible schedule that allows you to go slowly. But sometimes there are just those travel days that don’t line up with the perfect experience you’ve imagined. You’ve missed the train, lost your ATM card, don’t speak the language, and it turns out that someone in the shared room you’ve booked snores all night long. During days like this, it’s easy to become sentimental and start to miss friends and family at home.
The truth is, homesickness happens. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you start to miss everything comfortable and familiar. After all, you’ve made an effort to leave home. You’ve planned out a trip, saved money, and scheduled time away from work. Shouldn’t you push through and attempt to enjoy every minute? While yes, you should try to embrace your new locations and start checking off those items on your bucket list, it’s ok if you sometimes long for your own bed and a night out with your friends at home.
While it’s a comforting thought that those people will still be there when you return — and you can always return whenever you want to — you can, in fact, climb out of the homesick hole with a few useful strategies. Here are 8 tips for combating homesickness when you’re abroad without throwing in the towel and returning home.
1. Find a self-care activity that reminds you of home.
At home, how do you relieve stress? Do you go for a run? Meet a friend out for a massage or a pedicure? Chances are, those options are available to you in your new spot as well. Engaging in a familiar self-care routine can help you relax and slow down for a moment.
2. Stay in and watch Netflix.
When you’re traveling, some days can best be described as “one of those days.” It’s easy to recreate a lazy day at home by setting aside a few (or many) hours to binge watch your favorite shows. Don’t obsess over all that you could be cramming into your trip — that’s an easy way to burn out. There’s nothing wrong with taking time out from your travels to reconnect with something familiar. A friend recently admitted to me that she watched an entire season of The Office in two days when she was in Paris. There was something so comforting about connecting with those characters even though she was so far away. Maybe all you really wanted to do to recharge is eat Ben & Jerry’s and watch TV. Don’t let anyone judge you.
3. Write a postcard or a letter home.
When you’re writing a postcard, you’re sending a tangible piece of the place you are in to the place you’re missing. It’s fun to imagine the person on the other end receiving it in the mail and sharing a little moment of your travels with you. This small connection is a reminder that there are people at home who are excited to hear all of your stories, even the difficult ones, upon your return.
4. Call your family.
Let’s admit it, your family members are probably going to be the most understanding people to talk to when you’re feeling a bit homesick. After all, they will have seen you at your best and worst. A sympathetic listener is the best medicine. That said, make sure you have a strong WIFI connection. There is nothing worse than the line cutting or getting feedback. Having a poor line can make you feel more disconnected, and if your family is not that tech savvy, this can cause them frustration. Hold off on calling until you can guarantee a good connection and no distractions, so you can really touch base properly.
5. Go see live music.
This might seem like an unusual suggestion, but live music translates regardless of a common language. Going to see a live musician perform is an easy way to escape and enjoy yourself for a night. A few months ago, I found out that one of my favorite bands, The National, was playing in Mexico City. Not only did it feel like a total novelty and treat to see them play live in a different county, but it was an immediate reminder that people all over the world are connected by the music they enjoy.
6. Eat something familiar.
Some people never get sick of eating Thai noodles for every meal. But for the rest of us, at some point on the journey, all you want is a piece of pizza or a familiar grilled cheese. Certain foods are associated with comfort. Find a meal that reminds you of home to forge that connection to the place you’re missing. Just don’t go eating McDonald’s for every single meal.
7. Set up a Facetime happy hour with friends at home.
FOMO is a real thing and when you’re two thousand miles away from your friends, it can be tough to imagine them all hanging out, planning fun events, and creating new memories in your absence. A virtual happy hour solves this problem. Send out a calendar invite to five of your friends and set up a time to do a Facetime happy hour. This will give you an excuse to catch up on all the gossip you’ve missed.
8. Plan your next destination.
If you can’t get over it, try getting on board. There’s a natural arc that occurs after several weeks of travel. You’ve planned this trip with the intention of getting far away from everything that feels routine, but the reality is that travel can be exhausting. You’re constantly working to figure out new directions, decipher new languages, and engage with new people. It’s thrilling, but it can be overwhelming at times. When that feeling catches up with you, take a moment to relax and remember why you do this, even when every second of the day isn’t perfect. You’re brave for setting out away from the comforts of home to adventure, and if you did it once, you can do it again. So get out the guidebook and start plotting out your next move.
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