One for when you feel a world away from home: Dealing with homesickness

27th July 2015

It’s easy to think that travelling is a world of fun, filled with adventure, new friends, unforgettable memories and life-changing experiences.

And it is filled with every one of those things. But it can also be scary, overwhelming and, at times, lonely.

 Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia 

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Whether you’re away travelling for a few weeks or a few years, whether you’re travelling solo or with a group of friends, the unwelcome demon of homesickness somehow seems to creep into your life at some point.

I have always thought homesickness is something of a taboo subject. It’s something I have previously felt ashamed of, because who in their right mind could be homesick when they are in such a beautiful country/ making so many new friends/ having so much fun?

I’ll be the first to say I can.

 On the beach in Goa, India

On the beach in Goa, India

It’s interesting to consider how social media plays a part in the way we perceive others’ lives to be. People often publish their happiest, proudest moments: the time they went skydiving, the time they visited the Great Wall of China, the time they had dinner with friends from across the globe. But they rarely publicise their negative experiences: the time they sat alone crying in a hostel room on a Saturday night, the time they fell for one of the most common scams in the book, the time one of their closest family members passed away and they couldn’t attend the funeral. Our virtual friends, our followers, will only see what we want them to see by what we choose to share or publish. Our real friends and family will only find out what we want them to know by what we choose to tell them. Just look at the photos I have used in this post – all joyful memories that I am happy to share. But behind the status updates and new photos, any individual person – be them a traveller or a colleague at your workplace – has a personal life all of their own, which, when you think about it, nobody really knows about but them.

With the other language assistants on my year abroad in Pau, France 

With the other language assistants on my year abroad in Pau, France

The point of this post is not to tell you to feel sorry for snobby travellers whinging about how difficult their lives are while they are sunning it up in Thailand or adventuring through South America. It’s not to preach that everyone on planet Earth is depressed and lonely behind their happy, make-believe lives on social media. It’s not to say that the lows of homesickness outweigh the joys of travelling, or even that it’s an inevitable part of travel.

Rather, the point of this post is to explain that feeling homesick happens, and it is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

 Moody clouds at Lake Como in Lecco, Italy 

Moody clouds at Lake Como in Lecco, Italy

I’ll openly admit that I have felt homesick a fair few times before when I’ve been living or travelling abroad.

I occasionally felt under the weather when I was working in France as an English language assistant. It mostly hit me on a Sunday during winter, when all the shops were closed and the weather was too shit to do anything.

When we arrived back at our hostel in Phnom Pehn and discovered that our passports had been stolen, I longed for nothing more than to be back in the UK, safe and sound.

Very recently, I received two blows of bad news within the space of ten days and just wanted to be at home with my family. Dealing with bad news is hard enough, but dealing with it on the other side of the world is another story.

 Lion Rock, Piha, New Zealand 

Lion Rock, Piha, New Zealand

This is what I have to say to anybody who is away from home or their family and is feeling homesick: it’s okay.

 Buddha statues at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand 

Buddha statues at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Homesickness is one of those things that is different for everyone; it hardly affects some people, while others sadly end up cutting their trip short because of it. When I feel down, I try to remember the following things:

Sometimes being in a new place is very overwhelming. Sometimes things that are out of our control go wrong. Sometimes we just feel a bit grumpy because it’s that time of the month. Humans are emotional beings and it’s normal to miss our home comforts every once in a while.

There are so many things that can help make you feel better. My routine usually goes something like this: have good hard cry, talk about it to James/my family, do something to take my mind off it (go for a walk, watch a film, read a book), and then I write about it when my head has cleared. That’s what works for me. I really do think that a problem shared is a problem halved and I realise I am lucky to have James to sob on if ever I feel under the weather.

This is also a part of my routine (usually involved in the ‘talking to someone about it’ stage), but I think it deserves a separate bullet point because it’s the most important. I always try to remind myself of my motives for doing what I’m doing, of all the things I have done so far, and of all of the achievements I have yet to complete. I also remind myself to be grateful for the opportunities I have: I am so fortunate to have the privileges of education, health and freedom that allow me to travel – many others will never get the opportunities I am blessed to have. In fact, to be completely honest, I think being grateful is the key to life’s happiness.

At the Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

At the Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

I realise that this is quite a negative, personal post, but I feel it’s a topic that needs to be talked out. Travel (especially solo travel) isn’t always sparkly unicorns and rainbows, though, for me, the few negative moments are undoubtedly worth it for the incredible memories I have. Homesickness should never be a taboo subject, and it should never be something to be ashamed of, but it shouldn’t ruin your trip either – it’s healthy to feel a little blue sometimes; it’s what makes you human!

It's a long way home - taken on Waiheke Island, New Zealand

It’s a long way home – taken on Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Do you ever get homesick when you travel? How do you deal with it?

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

Note: All of the photos used in this post are my own.

4 responses to “One for when you feel a world away from home: Dealing with homesickness”

  1. Holly says:

    Beautiful writing from a beautiful person. I hope that you and James are doing okay and had a good weekend.
    I’m a complete homebird and although I love travelling too I always struggled with feelings of homesickness, especially on year abroad (stuck in the absolute middle of nowhere in France) and even at uni sometimes! But you are so right that having someone to talk to about it always helps and makes you feel less alone – particularly when that person is YOU, Miss Bishop, who can always put a positive spin on things. I would have been lost in final year if I hadn’t been able to pop upstairs to you and Tom and have a good chat about life! Also, thank god for Skype!! Where would we be without it?!
    Stay safe and keep on enjoying yourselves as much as poss. ‘Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift – that’s why it is called the present’ 🙂 Right, must stop reading blogs instead of working!! Speak soon xxxxxx

    • Aw Hol it was so lovely to read this! Agreed – final year was hard! Especially when we were missing family/ friends / boyfriends back home. You & Tom got me through as well. And yeah we are so, so lucky to have Skype and Whatsapp etc now. Certainly makes it easier – imagine having to rely on sending letters in the mail! Thanks for your comment lovely, lots of love xxxxxx

  2. I love the different perspective. Everyone talks about how great travel is but never talks about homesickness. I definitely experienced some of that when I studied abroad, so I know what you mean. Your photos look beautiful though! We can’t wait until our foodie adventures take us to some of these places!

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I’m a travel loving sustainability advocate, on a journey to live a low-impact lifestyle alongside seeing the world. I’m obsessed with my two dogs, secondhand shopping, and growing vegetables.

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