How to Cope with Missing Out on Life Back Home
Last week, I opened the Facebook application on my phone to the news that two of my good friends were moving to another state together. As happy as I am for them, I was surprised at the subsequent pang of homesickness that came with clicking “like.” I moved to Paris before they got together, so while I’ve been close with both of them for years, I’ve never known them as a couple, and seeing how their lives together are progressing made me think–what else is going on back home that I’m not getting to be a part of?
As we all know, travel is amazing. It opens up our minds to parts of the world we may never otherwise know existed, introduces us to all kinds of people, and is honestly a lot of fun. What isn’t fun is watching the lives of everyone at home continue without you. Engagements, weddings, birthdays, babies–while they’re all wonderful things, sometimes it’s hard to know what you’re missing.
Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to keep up with loved ones in distant countries, but easier still to watch their Facebooks and Instagrams from afar and feel like you’re “keeping up” by merely reading their posts
Off the top of my head I can think of three weddings of friends I used to be close to that I wasn’t invited to thanks to living abroad (one even told me later that he would have invited me if I had been in the country). Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to keep up with loved ones in distant countries, but easier still to watch their Facebooks and Instagrams from afar and feel like you’re “keeping up” by merely reading their posts. Not only does it serve as a near-constant reminder of what you’re missing, it’s hard to keep yourself from wondering what life would be like if you had never left, or if you had chosen not to study abroad or take a job overseas.
But fear not–even when the homesickness feels like too much to bear, there are immediate steps you can take to begin the process of reconciling yourself to your current situation and reminding yourself of the reasons behind your decision to travel.
How to Cope with Missing Out on Life Back Home
1. Talk to someone you love in your location
The easiest way to help with a bout of homesickness is to know you’re not alone in the feeling. It’s highly likely that you’ve encountered other expats and travelers, even if your stay in your foreign location is brief, who know exactly how you’re feeling. Don’t be afraid to seek out others in a similar situation; it’s entirely possible they’ve been homesick too and felt as if they had no one to talk to about it. If they’ve felt similarly in the past, they may be willing to commiserate about the weddings you weren’t invited to or the birthdays you’ve missed and have ideas about how to relieve the pains of separation. After you’ve talked, you can even take it one step further and invite them out to do something in your location. Not only will you feel better by distracting yourself, you may also make a lifelong friend.
2. Take a break from social media
Go dark–for a day, for a week, however long you feel you may need. Perhaps keep up major methods of communication–I know that if I don’t respond to my mother’s Whatsapp messages within 24 hours, she may call the French authorities–but unplug for awhile from watching other people’s lives continue at a distance. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that while it’s okay to miss your life and the people you left at home, don’t lose perspective of the life you’re currently leading. Their lives are not entirely social media–yours shouldn’t be either.
3. Step outside and take a walk
Step outside into this place, whether new or now familiar, wander down your street, watch the people you pass and remind yourself why you chose to come to this location in the first place. Whether it was to teach English in rural Thailand, scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, au pair for a family in a small French village, or enjoy the vistas while backpacking through the Andes Mountains, you decided upon your current home for a reason. Sometimes a simple walk is all it takes to clear your head and reignite your passion for discovery of things you never would have experienced if you hadn’t made the leap and left the comforts of home.
4. Find a creative outlet
Are you a writer? Photographer? Artist? Musician? Channel your creativity into something familiar and beloved in a foreign place. As a singer, finding a place where I could participate in an open mic night was a major step for me in making Paris feel more like home. Other friends of mine are artists and will take their sketchbooks to a park or museum. Still others find their outlet in writing. Anything you can do to incorporate something you love, something you’ve always loved to do, into your new environment can do wonders for making you feel a little closer to home.
5. Talk to someone you love back home
I would recommend keeping this as a last resort, but if you suffer from serious FOMO like me, it may be a necessary step to take. Messaging, calling or Skyping a friend or family member back home to have them fill you in on the happenings may be all it takes to make you feel like someone cares enough to update you, and reassure you that it’s not that people have forgotten you, it’s just that everyone gets busy with their own lives. Schedule a few catch-up sessions with close friends who have lost touch, and in no time at all you’ll remember that there will always be people who are waiting for you back home, no matter how long or how grand your adventures abroad.
How to Cope with Missing Out on Life Back Home photo credit: joe jukes