9 Ways to Deal With Homesickness

Traveling abroad for school, work or simply pleasure, can be thrilling, energizing and eye-opening. But it can also be emotionally and mentally draining. One of the most significant challenges that people face while traveling - especially those living abroad for extended periods of time - is homesickness. 

So, is homesickness really a thing? Well...yes!

Homesickness is characterized as an acute form of anxiety or emotional distress that results from feeling disconnected from familiar people and places and forced out of one’s regular routine. Homesickness doesn't have any one specific cause - it can arise from a number of different factors including difficulty adjusting to a new environment, feeling lonely or cut off from your regular support system, problems understanding your new environment, a perceived lack of control over what is happening around you, culture shock, and more. There are many symptoms of homesickness which manifest themselves in different ways. For example, constantly wanting to call friends or family is a pretty common sign of having the homesick blues. Or being hyper critical and comparing everything in your new environment to what’s “normal” for you, and withdrawing from or rejecting the local social life. Does any of that sound familiar?

Here are a few tips to help you stop seeing your new location through a homesick lens and start seeing it in a more positive light:

  1. Create a routine - Figure out what you might like to do everyday and stick to a plan. Setting a routine will ensure that you maintain high levels of productivity and provides you with structure that you will find comforting.

  2. Make new friends - It is important to develop a strong social network of support to reduce any current or future feelings of homesickness. If you’re traveling for work, popping into a coworking space can help you meet new people and build your network.

  3. Keep yourself entertained - Take full advantage of your environment! Do some research on where you are living and make a list of places and things you must experience and explore nearby. This will help you stay focused on your next adventure rather than on the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) of what’s happening back home.

  4. Document your memories - Consider keeping a daily travel journal to record your adventures. Focus your notes on the positive things you experienced that day and look for ways to spin any negative thoughts. Your journal will provide incontestable proof that there are positive aspects to where you live and you’ll be able to look back upon all your memories with a smile.

  5. Talk it out - Talk about your feelings with someone such as a colleague, counselor, mental health professional, parent, or close friend. Reaching out for emotional support doesn’t make you weak but instead, is an important part of self care and not something you should be embarrassed about.

  6. Turn your new home into ‘your’ home - So you can't bring your backyard or bedroom abroad with you, but it’s still important to find ways to make your new space feel like home. If you really loved the rug in your room back home because it was shabby and soft on your toes, consider purchasing a similar rug for your new space.

  7. Continue to do what you love - It’s okay to continue doing the same things you enjoyed back home, like eating foods that remind you of home or finding a place to participate in religious traditions while you’re abroad.

  8. Get those endorphins pumping - Exercise will not only help you combat homesickness by boosting your immune system and releasing lots of natural feel good chemicals, but it’ll also help maintain your health (which can be surprisingly hard to do when you’re on the road).

  9. Learn the language - Knock down the language barrier by taking some classes, chatting with the locals, or buying a language guide. You’ll feel more confident and in control when you’re able to communicate with the people around you.

Homesickness is normal but if it becomes too painful to bear, the aforementioned coping mechanism should help. And remember, there is nothing wrong with recognizing and accepting that a certain environment might just not be the best fit for you. If your happiness, health and productivity are starting to suffer, there’s no shame in moving on to somewhere that's a better fit.