Do you get homesick when traveling? Especially frequent travelers tend to have a tried-and-tested routine of dealing with sudden onsets of missing a certain place or person when on the road.
Longing for home or family during a period of absence.
Moments of feeling down and missing the comfort of familiarity can happen anywhere and out of any reason. I had them for example when I was stuck at high altitude in Peru with a severe onset of altitude sickness. Or when people had been (not so subtly) taking pictures of me all day in India, making me feel like the most foreign person on the planet (which to them I probably was).
Travel is a great teacher and by now I know tricks on how to tackle the more somber moments on the road:
I find comfort in food. And while I usually don’t care about brands, food is the one exception. At home, comfort food means literally any chocolatey food, but on the road it refers to my favorite brand of cookies or cornflakes or even water. It’s true that food tastes slightly different from country to country in order to cater to regional preferences. But for the most part I can be sure that it’ll taste somewhat similar to what I’m familiar with.
And let’s be honest, sometimes there is nothing better than walking into a McDonald’s after weeks of nothing but rice and chicken.
Sometimes it’s good to get lost in a story, especially if you find yourself in a not so enjoyable place, for example a battered night train to Delhi, sharing space with five grumpy, middle-aged locals (true story). I have my kindle app on my phone, so I can always access my favorite books or go to the Amazon store. But usually it is more fun to explore local book stores and buy trashy romance novels or outdated science fiction stories from the “English” shelf. Plus, negotiating deals and re-selling books is great to save money and much more fun than using a 1-click button.
Earbuds in, music on, world off.
Whatever is going on in my head, music helps me to zone out and find my happy place. Songs can bring back memories of certain moments, places, people – perfect when wishing to be somewhere else.
Also, music and headphones help immensely when stuck on a bus while crossing borders in Asia – unless you fancy listening for hours to the same 20 minutes of terrible music videos over and over again (true story).
I spend a lot of time on my phone. Not to the extent where I miss out on the amazing world around me, but enough to not lose touch with what is going in the news and lives of people important to me.
And if I count celebrities as important then no one has to know. But, when feeling down, going on my phone is the wrong move for me. Instead I make sure to get out of the house (or hostel), explore my surroundings, and just generally take my mind off things.
I would only call family or friends in an emergency. Texting is fair game, though.
I never do sports. I watch sports, sure, but I’m zero active. Still, exercising – running, yoga, pilates, etc. – is the perfect distraction for a lot of people. And if you can pair up with someone else? Instant friendship.
For me, it doesn’t work. I don’t exercise at home and certainly won’t when traveling – and why would I attempt something that makes me miserable when already feeling down? I wouldn’t, is the answer. That, however, doesn’t mean I’m not genuinely envious when others talk about their morning run through the beautiful rice fields and show gorgeous photos of the sunrise.
Sometimes I think about reconsidering my no running stance but that would seriously cut into my napping time. It’s called priorities.
Sightseeing and shopping
This certainly falls under the “getting out and be distracted” umbrella. Sightseeing should be done no matter what – but there are always hidden corners, alleyways and stores you haven’t seen the first time around. Shopping is tricky though. Make sure to only buy things you can carry, that are within your budget, and that you actually like. Too often I ended up buying things just because the vendor talked me into it or because I was in a weird mood.
That not-so-pretty bracelet from Ecuador? The overly embroidered dress from India? Those snazzy shorts from Indonesia? You would think I’d learn my lesson at some point.
One of the best things about traveling is that you get to meet amazing people from all over the world, usually with a pretty similar mindset. And while they might not be able to replace family and close friends from home, newfound friends can certainly help make foreign places feel homey and turn strange or scary experiences into amazing adventures.
I, for one, was for immensely glad that I had a new-found friend with me when we got kicked out of a bus in Bangkok after missing the right stop. And while she was just as lost as I was, it would have been a very different experience if I had been by myself.
There are lots of ways to take the mind off things or make a very unfamiliar place feel more like home. In the end, everybody has to find their own way of dealing with the tougher days.
How do you deal with being homesick? Share your tips in a message or down in the comments, so I can try them out!
PS: Now I feel like McDonald’s. Or any food, really.