There comes a point in every traveler’s life where they have to deal with homesickness – for me, this time tends to be around the holiday season. I’m crazy about Christmas, I love the quality time I get to spend with my loved ones who all head home for the celebrations, I thoroughly enjoy Christmas markets, I live for baking – and eating! – Christmas cookies, and I absolutely love picking out the perfect gifts for my family and friends. That being said, I am rarely at home when Christmas season comes around.
Actually, I am rarely at home with my family at all, so I’ve developed quite a few ways to help me get over these times of feeling too far away from my loved ones. The easiest way to do this for me is to actually make myself feel at home wherever I am at that moment – it relaxes my mind and I feel more comfortable and at ease. It can be hard to feel at home when you are in a different country, time zone, or on a different continent, especially if you keep moving all the time. These little ways to feel at home anywhere turned out to be useful no matter the circumstances, all around the year – after all, homesickness can creep up on you anytime…
Picture via Annie Spratt
Take a quiet moment to drink a cup of tea or coffee
This is my instant fix for homesickness: Sitting down with a cup of something warm and soothing in my hand, taking the time to enjoy the cup of tea, coffee, or even the smoothie I’m having, and creating a space for myself where I feel comfortable and at ease works wonders.
Picture via The 5th
Prepare food from home
I’m also a firm believer in the healing powers of food – prepare a home-cooked meal that reminds you of your family and friends and enjoy your very own taste of home. If you don’t have access to a kitchen at that moment, try to find a restaurant with your national cuisine and treat yourself to something traditional and comforting.
Follow a routine
If you’ve been feeling homesick for a little while now, it helps to create a routine even when travelling and sticking to it. At home, we are used to go about our days in much the same way day in, day out – travelling throws us off our schedule. Creating little routines might help to bring back a little bit of stability, making you feel at home anywhere in the world.
Picture via Matthew Henry
Reach out to other travellers and people
Having a net of people who care for you and are there to support you is crucial to feeling at home even when you’re ten time zones away from your family. If you’re abroad for a longer while, connect with other expats and locals, make new friends – and even if you are just travelling for a few weeks, reaching out to other travellers will give you the human contact you are probably missing.
Stay in and relax
Often, when travelling, it is hard to give yourself a rest because you don’t want to miss out on anything. Staying in and just relaxing for an afternoon or evening can be the most wonderful thing when you want a little taste of home – the sights and activities will still be there tomorrow.
Get to know your immediate surroundings
This is especially helpful if you’re living in a foreign country for a longer while. Whenever I get to a new place, even if it is just a move within the same country, I make an effort to take a lot of walks around the new neighborhood. Knowing your surroundings well gives you a real feeling of belonging and you start to feel like a local in no time.
Join a club or association
One of the things that makes our homes so special and comforting to us is the fact that we are part of a structure. When you are abroad for an extended amount of time, think about joining a club or an association – not only will you meet new people, you’ll also be part of something bigger. It might just prove comforting to have a place where you feel like you “fit”, even if everything around you is new and foreign to you at the moment.
Picture via Giulia Bertelli
Read a book, journal, meditate: Take time for yourself
Whatever it is that you usually do when you want to spend a little time by yourself: do it. Whether you journal, meditate, do yoga, take extensive baths, or read – everyone has a comfort activity that will put them at ease. When you are abroad and need to feel a little bit more like you’re at home, turn to your trusted feel-good-activities and indulge.
Make your room homey
If you are staying abroad for a longer time and you have rented a room somewhere, try to decorate it a little bit. It doesn’t have to be much – a simple pillow, fresh flowers, or pictures on the walls will make the strange room feel a little more cozy and homey. It’s pure bliss to have a warm and welcoming place to come home to after an exciting day in a foreign country.
Picture via Francesco Gallarotti
Even if I’m a very sporty and active person in what I consider my “normal” life, when I’m travelling, my workout routine tends to disappear. Sometimes it slowly falls apart, sometimes I do sports occasionally and then stop again, but I never actually keep up with my usual sport routine. If you’re feeling down and miss home, try going for a run or a long walk – it will clear out your thoughts and put things into perspective.
Learn the local language
This one requires a little bit of effort, but the effect is gigantic: If you do not speak the language of the place you are travelling to or spending some time abroad at, do try to learn it. Even if you only end up knowing the basics, speaking the same language as the people around you will make you feel so much more integrated and at home.
Picture via Tim Gouw
Find places where the WIFI connects automatically
Some things are cliche for a reason: Trying to feel more at home by finding places where your WIFI connects automatically is one of those things. I personally love being in a foreign city and walking into a coffee shop without having to figure out the password – it makes me feel like I already know the place, just like home.
When all else fails: Bring your home to you
Luckily, even being on the other side of the globe doesn’t isolate you from everything you know: use Skype, Whatsapp, and all the other messaging and video call services that are available to you to check in with your friends and family at home. It will remind you that you are never really alone – there is always someone who has your back. Home is not a place, but a state of mind – a little Skype conversation might just put you in the right place again.
How do you get adjusted to a new place, and what are the things that make you feel most at home in a foreign country? What do you do when you are abroad and you get homesick? Let me know in the comments, I’m curious to find out!
This article is part of our AT HOME series featuring stories from and about the meaning of ‘home’.