Friday, 22 November 2013

Homesickness and how to battle it

In my opinion, travelling is one of the best things a person can do. To try something new. To experience something completely different. Trying out a new spicy dish in India, staying in a monistary in Thailand, pet a kangoroo in Australia, hiking in "Middle Earth", posing next to Big Ben and meeting new people from all over the world; that's living.

However, during long-term travel and all the highs and excitement, there is always a low. Not a low in the sense the dish you just ordered was cold or that the club you went to was crap. No it's the kind of low where you're money is running low, your back hurts, you've been bitten by so many bugs, your camera has been stolen or something similar. This is where I'm at now. Unemployed, homeless and running low on cash.

Those kinds of lows can be quite tough and might make you miss the comforts of home.
Travelling makes you appreciate what you used to take for granted back home. It could be anything from your bed and bike to running water and electricity.Travelling broadens your mind.

Homesickness is something you will most likely feel in some degree or another during your travels. The feeling of missing your best friend, your mates you go to pub with, your family, your cat or something as irrational as a teddy bear. This is where you need to remind yourself why you went travelling in the first place. You need to tell yourself it's only temporary and that all those things will be there when you come back.

Speaking from experience, I know this can be extremely difficult and sometimes you just feel like you want to run to the airport and get on the first flight. The feeling of emptiness, of heartbreak, it can be really hard. You feel like all you care about, all that is you is somewhere else and you're left standing there empty. But I promise you it gets better. You just need to take the punches. Push through.

When I was living in the UK, I never really got homesick. When I came to New Zealand it hit me like a freight train. Because I've never really had that feeling before, it was all new to me. It could be the smallest thing that set me off, a phrase, picture or person. There were days where I would wake up, considering buying a plane ticket. I was a mess, but I worked through the stages and found a way.

I think the reason why I felt it so much now, is because of the distance. When I was living in the UK, I could simply get on a cheap flight back to Norway. Now, if something happens back in Europe with friends/family, it takes me at least 35 hours to get back. I think that's what hit me, that if something happens I can't be there within a few hours. So these steps below helped minimize that feeling.

Look at it in this way; if you get through this, not only will you have gained valuable experience about the challenge itself, but also about yourself.

Six steps to minimize homesickness

1. Find your space
Travelling long term will often result in moving a lot, living out of a back pack annd being bombarded with new people and impressions every day. Then it's important to set aside some time for yourself. Tell your travel buddies you're going sightseeing one day without them. Go to the park and read a book. Have some "me-time".

2. Get into a routine
Because we humans are creatures of habit, you will probably find yourself staying in one place for a longer period of time. When you have those stops, make sure you have a routine. It could something as simple as going grocery shopping on Tuesdays. This will help you feel a sense of structure.

3. Work out
Stay active, active, active. Get outside. Go for a run or even just a walk. Physical activity will give you energy and will ensure you don't sit infront of that computer all the time. Maybe you'll come home with 10 KG less and a six pack?

4. Skype, but not too often
There's nothing like hearing a familiar voice, like your mum or dad, when you've had a really bad day or week. This will raise your spirits and instantly you feel better. Just make sure you don't spend TOO much time Skyping. It's okay to miss people, but don't put yourself in the situation where all you do is think of home.

5. Find new friends
Get out there. Meet new people. If you're travelling through a organisation like initially was it's easy, but it's not so hard if you're a solo traveler either. When you're staying in the hostel, strike up a conversation. Involve yourself. Soon enough, you'll have loads of friends. If you're staying in a place for a long period of time, join a sports team, society or volunteer for a charity. Just make sure you get out there.

6. Travel with something from home
Take something from home with you. For me it was Norwegian chocolate, a key chain jewelry I bought on a family holiday and a photo in my wallet. Though the chocolate was consumed within the first couple of weeks, the other two are still with me. They remind me of home. Also if you're lucky, whilst you'll find shops which sell stuff from your home country.

So keep your home close to your heart, but just keep calm and be a Viking.