There’s No Place Like Home…

Living overseas is certainly an adventure. There’s always a new place or go or a new thing to see, and it’s hard to get bored. But sometimes you may feel like you need a break from the constant adventure. I spent 2 years living in Russia, and most days I absolutely loved it. However, there were a lot of things I couldn’t do or see just because I was in another country. This was always when I started missing home.  Homesickness is a very normal part of the life of a traveler, and there are some simple things you can do to combat it. Here are a few things to try he next time you’re feeling down or lonely:

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It’s not always fun and games…

 

1. Share something from home with your friends

The thing I missed most while I lived overseas was American food. Doritos and orange juice especially. I was surprisingly adventurous when it came to trying Russian food, but there were some days I just wanted to have something that wasn’t covered in sour cream and dill. One evening, I was cooking an enormous pot of Cincinnati Chili (a regional favorite from Southwest Ohio), and the unique smell attracted my German roommate to the kitchen. I had more than enough to share, so I taught her how to make a proper Three-Way (spaghetti, chili, and cheddar cheese) and we ended up sharing a great meal. Having something that reminded me of home made me feel better, plus I was able to share something about my culture with someone else.

I made sure she had an American-zed portion as well.
I made sure she had an American-sized portion as well.

2. Have an expat friend

Being abroad is an amazing experience, but sometimes you need a break. There’s nothing better than having someone around who just gets it. Whether you’re tired of speaking a foreign language all day, or frustrated that no one knows how to stand in a proper line, or annoyed that your brightly-colored and oddly-shaped money doesn’t fit in your wallet, your expat friend will understand. One of my friends and I had a deal that whenever one of us was having a bad Russia day, we would meet up at Carl’s Junior (you might remember it as Hardee’s) and listen to 90’s pop music. We both needed that outlet, and we always felt much better by the time we left.

Nobody understands Team America like and American.
There are some things that only Americans understand.

3. Get outside

Even when it’s cold out — do it! Exercise and sunshine are proven mood-lifters, so when you’re feeling down go outside and get a healthy dose of both. Walking around your host city can also be a good way to rediscover what you love about it. You also never know what you’ll find when you’re just wandering. From the running of the Olympic torch to an encounter with the guitar player of one of my favorite bands, I’ve come across some pretty incredible things simply because I was in a bad mood and I decided to go outside for a walk.

Surprise flash mob next to Spas-Na-Krovi in St. Petersburg
Surprise flash mob next to my favorite cathedral

4. Do something scary every day

This one takes getting used to, but it’s the most helpful in the long run. A new place can be intimidating, and it’s easy to not leave your comfort zone. But start pushing the boundaries, even if they’re just baby steps. Pretty soon those things that worried you so much won’t seem like that big of a deal. I have very short hair, and when I moved to St. Petersburg I soon needed a haircut. At that point was Russian wasn’t great, and I was terrified of getting my hair cut in a country where I couldn’t clearly explain what I wanted. But I went to salon armed with my arsenal of Russian hair-cut vocabulary (basically the word “shorter”) and a photo of what I wanted, and the result was fantastic. In fact I still have yet to find someone who cuts my hair as well as Irina did.

Irina's handiwork circa 2011. Seriously -- what a haircut.
Irina’s handiwork circa 2011. Seriously — what a haircut.

5. When you call home, use video chat

There are few things I’m more thankful for than the ability to make video calls. Skype, Google hangouts, FaceTime — they all work. Just make sure that when you’re calling home you’re able to see who you’re talking to. When you’re able to see someone they don’t seem so far away, and there’s an immense amount of comfort in this. This also helps your parents/friends/significant other when you’re away for a long time. My dad very often told me that he felt so much better knowing that I still looked the same while I was gone.

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You can also tell if they’re paying attention to you.

 

Being homesick is unavoidable when you’re overseas, but it doesn’t have to be something that defines your experience. Do you have a sure-fire homesickness cure that you’ve used? Feel free to share in a comment!

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