Whether you’re a teen headed off to college or an traveler wandering through Europe on your own, homesickness can strike at any time. Being homesick while traveling is not the worst “sickness” that a traveler might encounter while on the road, but it can definitely put a crimp in your plans and rob you of the joy of traveling. It’s bad enough if you’re only a few hours’ car ride from home – but becoming homesick while overseas is more challenging to deal with. In this brief post we’ll give you some tips and encouragement on how to deal with homesickness abroad.
Causes of Homesickness
Being homesick while traveling is not a new phenomenon: it’s mentioned in some of the oldest known written works that exist. The Greek physician Hippocrates also mentioned it in his writing, attributing it to an excess of “black bile” in the bloodstream. It’s mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey: Odysseus is recorded as “…longing for his wife and his homecoming…” It is also mentioned in the books of Exodus and Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible.
While “homesickness” is not defined in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) used by mental health practitioners, it is related to two known mental disorders: Adjustment Disorder and/or Acculturation Difficulty. Foreign travelers are most prone to acculturation difficulty due to the culture shock and differences in language often encountered in other countries.
Researchers define homesickness as “…the distress or impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home. Its cognitive hallmark is preoccupying thoughts of home and attachment objects.” Put a different way – it is not just a longing for the things of home, but a longing that negatively impacts a person physically or mentally.
Understanding homesickness itself is the first thing to understand if you want to know how to deal with homesickness abroad. By its nature, homesickness is temporary and transient, even though it may feel like it will never end. There are some deliberate steps and strategies you can take to get through it.
Symptoms of Being Homesick While Traveling
PsycholoGenie.com lists some of the most common symptoms that homesick travelers experience:
- Yearning to go back home
- Constant feeling of loneliness
- Sadness for no valid reason
- Strong feelings of anxiousness
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of confidence
- Depressive thoughts
- Frequent mood swings
- Sense of insecurity
- Living in isolation
You may or may not experience all of these symptoms if you’re homesick – but you will feel them, and they can be debilitating. If the mental effects of homesickness are ignored for long enough, they can turn into physical symptoms like headaches, stomach cramps, nausea and muscle cramps. Fortunately, simple strategies on how to deal with homesickness abroad are easily found, and easily implemented.
How To Deal With Homesickness Abroad
Being homesick while traveling sucks, and there’s a strong temptation to go back home. The worst thing you can do as a homesick traveler is to immediately buy a one-way ticket back to your home country. It’s expensive, and returning home will rob you of the joy of experiencing a different way of life. Here are some simple tips on how to deal with homesickness abroad:
- Stay engaged. Don’t retreat into your hotel room or your bed and pull the covers over your head. The more engaged you are, the more you will fall in love with your new location.
- Establish a personal routine. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Eat your meals at the same time every day. Structure your days in the same way – maybe morning tours and afternoons writing, organizing photos, etc. Routines hive you a sense of sameness and stability that you need whilst homesick.
- Do something to feel closer to home. Write a letter to family, look at a family photo, etc. This will evoke fond memories and will help reinforce your connection.
- Don’t call home. This may seem contrary to the previous point, but most experts recommend not calling home frequently while homesick. This can reinforce the fact that you’re far away, and voice tones or words said by your family or friends may actually make the homesickness worse.
- Talk to someone. When you feel homesick, it’s easy to believe that everyone else is doing fine and having fun. But you don’t know the internal struggles others have. Maybe someone in your group is more homesick than you – and helping that person will take your own focus off yourself and your problems.
- Keep telling yourself that homesickness is temporary. It rarely lasts more than a week or two, and is just something that nearly all travelers have to push through at one time or another.
- Make a bucket list for your new location. Figure out the things that you’ve always wanted to do or experience – the things that brought you to your current location. Write those down and start ticking things off the list!
Sooner or later, you will find that your thoughts of home become fewer and farther between and are tinged with joy rather than with sadness.
We hope that this post has provided you with some good insight on how to deal with homesickness abroad – and that if you are experiencing it, you get through it quickly!