Home sickness is that nasty, nostalgic feeling that you get when you’re far away from home, in an unfamiliar place and all you want to do is go home to your family and friends. The negativity can sometimes overwhelm you and for some it may last a couple of hours while for others it lasts a few months or even years. Home sickness isn’t just for newbie travellers either, a lot of well-seasoned travellers experience these emotions too and it’s quite normal, especially if you’re moving away from a comfortable and settled life into the unknown where you will encounter a new culture, new people, new job, a whole new way of life.
Many people have written on this topic in the past – psychologists, journalists and travellers themselves and through all my research on the matter, the following key tips have consistently been mentioned…
1) Think Positive
Home sickness stems from a build up of emotions – emotions that you may ignore to start with because you’re having too much fun, you’re still in the honey-moon phase or you’re just too busy to stop and think about the gravity of what you’re doing. Once you do settle in a little, life starts to calm down, the adrenalin slows down, all it may take is a fall down a stair or a spilt carton of milk to trigger an emotional home-sickness meltdown. You have to keep positive and surround yourself with things that you love, whether it be your favourite chocolate, fresh tulips or a new CD by your favourite band. When you are positive then positive things happen around you and it has the ability to completely change your perspective.
2) Talk about it
Wherever you are, you can be sure that there will always be other people who are in a similar situation to you. London is such a big city and there are tens of thousands of Australian’s there every year who are probably going through the exact same emotional roller coaster as you are. Confide in someone who has been through a similar situation, and even if they can’t offer words of advice, it will make you feel better just getting your emotions out in the open and having someone listen to you.
3) Get Involved & keep busy
Sitting around at home and moping about how much you hate your new life isn’t going to make it get any better. You need to get outside, get out into public, organise dates with your friends or new acquaintances, spend some time enjoying your new city and everything that it has to offer. Keeping busy makes all the difference and spending a day out walking or shopping or meeting new people will give you a natural high and make you feel better almost instantaneously.
4) Write about it
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions, I often find it very useful to just write it all down. You don’t have to start a whole journal (although they can be helpful too), but the second you put a pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) and let all your emotions out, you will find it very hard to stop. Reading over your notes will help you gain some more perspective on the matter and you can find some clarity with your emotions.
5) Explore your new city
We generally get home sick because we’re in unfamiliar territory. You can’t just pop into your local hardware store to pick up some nails if you don’t know where the local hardware store is. Shops are foreign, people are foreign, the food is foreign – the best way to get over this speed hump is to really get to know your new city, inside out. When you have you favourite Indian takeaway restaurant, your regular coffee shop, a membership card at your local library or video store and you know which aisle the ketchup is stocked in at your closest supermarket, you will feel comfortable and more at home. This lessens the feeling of uneasiness and makes you feel like you really belong and you can really start to call this city your new home.
6) Keep in touch
Most importantly, keep in touch with your family and friends from back home. Stay up to date with what everyone is doing, get the local gossip, stay in touch on Facebook and update everyone back home on how you’re going. You will feel much more included and everyone from home will appreciate hearing from you too and finding out what exciting things you’re up to (and when they can come visit).
7) Make a List
OK I haven’t come across this tip whilst researching online, so this is one straight from the horse’s mouth.
In true ‘me’ fashion, my first answer to every one of life’s problems seems to be ‘make a list’. It doesn’t have to be a long essay, no negative vs. positive points, just a simple, old-fashioned list of reasons why you decided to come to your new city in the first place.
If you haven’t left home yet, make a list before you go. If you have already moved then be sure to pick a really positive day to make this list, when your mood is lifted and you love your new city. The more passion you have in your list the better – pour your heart out on paper and go into as much detail as possible, no matter how silly it may sound. This will be a good list to refer back to when you’re feeling down and having those negative thoughts in your head of ‘why did I ever move here?’ or ‘life was so much better back home’. It will also help you keep on track to achieve whatever goals you set out for yourself.
Leaving home can be like ending a relationship – after you break up, you only remember the good times and seem to always forget the bad, and this situation is no different. When you’re feeling down then you will only remember the good times back home and forget the real reasons why you decided to move in the first place.
If you came with a purpose such as travel, ensure that you always have something in the pipeline so that you don’t feel as though you’re not achieving anything. If you want to further your career, ensure that you’re constantly applying yourself at work and sign up for extra activities, go above and beyond your role and get as much experience as possible. If you want to extend your network of friends, make sure you get out and keep social – don’t spend weekends sitting home on the couch watching DVD’s and hibernating with your flatmates cat.
Keep doing what you came to achieve, and if you feel like you’re not achieving it, make a (another) list and work your way through ticking it off. It will motivate you to keep going!