On Homesickness

I could feel the lump forming in my throat and my eyes getting warm and watery. I gritted my teeth and managed to suck back the tears I could feel forming, but the lump stayed. The sudden urge to cry had come on suddenly and without warning, and I wondered if I could find an area to be alone and cry to just get it over with.

If I told you this happened in the first day of my travels, it shouldn’t come as a shock.

How about if I said this happened less than a week ago, the day I left Seoul for Jeju? Approximately 3 months into my trip?

Maybe that’s a bit more surprising. It is to me. I had just skyped my parents the same morning and had experienced a wonderful week in Seoul and my guesthouse. And maybe that’s why. Leaving a place I had felt so welcome and cared for to somewhere different, maybe it was too much of change. The night before I had enjoyed playing trivia games with several friends. The next morning, as I prepared to leave, I was all alone. Maybe it was too much and too abrupt of a change. The video call with my parents may just have reinforced that I was still going to be away from home for another 9-12 weeks.

I didn’t even feel that excited about the next leg of my journey until my plane was preparing to take off. And even then it was just a small flicker of a feeling; something that made me think “Oh I think I’m finally a little excited for Jeju.” In typical Nathalie fashion, I attempted to comfort myself by internally monologuing this blog post during the bus ride from the airport to my next hostel. Yay for moments of creativity in sad times.

On my first full day away from home, back in June, I had the same feeling. A lump in my throat, warm, wet eyes, as the fact that I’d be away from home for 6 months really sunk in. I’d been away for a bit less than half of that amount of time before, but at that time there was a set date to retun back. This time, there wasn’t. Before Christmas. That was all I had as an indication. I (foolishly, I now realize) found myself counting down the approximate weeks until I got to go home.

One day into my solo journey, in Oslo, as I ate dinner alone at my AirBNB, I let the homesickness take over. I full out bawled for a good ten minutes. Besides being homesick, I had convinced myself I was going to be miserable in my next hostel and meet nobody but creepy people. It was overwhelming. I  missed home, I was super nervous about what I was getting into…and I missed my dog (KIRA WAH I still do).

In Denmark, another bout strong enough to drive me to tears. This time, in addition to another round of homesickness, I had now convinced myself that I was going to get robbed in Thailand or at some point get on a bus and be dropped off in the middle of nowhere and not be able to find my way back.

And then in Seoul. Which took me entirely by surprise, but now seems understandable given the contrast between the night before and the morning of.

So. 4 big bouts of homesickness (plus some other factors). Some of the few times in my life I would say I felt a deep sadness and ache in my heart.

But you know what, I do miss home. I miss my family, friends, dog, the feeling of my home, and being at home. Waking up to the sound of rain in my bed and having tea with my mom and lazing on the couch watching TV.

I’m really close with my parents, and I know this isn’t the case for every traveller. In fact, so many blogs I come across discuss how the author was able to sell all their stuff and quit their job and travel indefinitely because they didn’t have a super close relationship with their family. I message my mom pretty much everyday. For a while we were skyping every week. As excited as I am to travel, I’m equally excited to return home, share stories and gifts, and be back in my house (OK my parent’s house…).

And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you find yourself homesick a lot, you’re not alone. If you’ve never felt even the slightest bit homesick, I envy you. More than once I’ve considered cutting my trip short and going home. But I pushed forward. Not out of some sort of obligation that I had to stick to my 6 month travel plan, but because I know I’ll find myself away from home again in the future, whether it be for more travel or for Mandarin immersion or for work, and I have to learn to deal with this sadness that sometimes comes upon me, often at the most inconvenient at times (or the most ironic, like during the aforementioned time in Oslo and I was having soup that I thought could use more salt, and then lo and behold TEARS).

I myself find these feelings slightly ironic because I love alone time. I love eating alone, sightseeing alone, just walking around and exploring a new place and my own pace. When arriving in a new hostel though, I can tell fairly quickly how the atmosphere will be for meeting people. And if the atmosphere is lively and social, I love meeting new people from all over. If the atmosphere is kinda blah, I make the most of it regardless.

In addition, there’s always the loneliness that I feel when I leave a place where I met so many amazing people and made fast friends. This can’t be helped. We meet people, then say goodbye, make friends, lose friends…it happens everywhere. The sadness that comes with leaving (or being left by) an amazing group of people or an amazing place…while heavy on the heart, is how I know that the city and people made their way into mine

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4 thoughts on “On Homesickness

  1. I felt that once. When I was interning in Hong Kong. I just crieddddd in the bathroom in my own apartment. Got over that. I had a routine where I will turn on the TV when I got home so the house isnt too quiet

  2. That’s a great blog. Good for you continueuing to move forward. There is so much personal growth you’re experiencing – it will make you into an even better you, and that’s always good. πŸ€—πŸ˜πŸ˜˜

  3. When I was away I used to remind myself that before I knew it I would be home and wishing I was back on the road so there was no time to be homesick! Early on I found myself counting down the days till I moved on and I realised I was going to waste my trip with that attitude. So that settled me down and I never felt homesick after that. It’s a waste of time!!

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