Adventuring off into the horizon for the first time can be the most exhilarating and exciting experience many of us will know, partly because of the sudden and quite daunting realisation that you are now all on your own. Especially when travelling far afield, it can be the first time of being away from home, without the security of someone else being in charge of the travel logistics and all the small details such as making sure you have your passport, have checked in for the flight, etc, etc.
For this reason, a gap year before heading to University can be truly invaluable, as it teaches us to be independent in a way that University life never quite achieves; it becomes a little more difficult to just pick up the phone and cry to your parents when on the other side of the world. There is no one else to get you out of that mess or to help you shake off the mood you woke up in, and learning how to do these things by yourself, makes the adult world a lot easier to navigate.
One of these hurdles that you will inevitably have to tackle is homesickness. Even at University this can be a huge deal for many Freshers, so these tips for dealing with homesickness will be useful for everyone. First of all, missing home is completely normal. Any sort of change can make us feel a little displaced, and after the excitement and novelty has worn off, we are left with an uneasy feeling and a deep longing for a cuddle with the cat/dog and your own bed. It’s easy to get sucked in and wallowing in self pity, but this is exactly what you shouldn’t do.
Here are my top 5 tips for combating homesickness which I have learnt over my travels – 1 gap year, 2 years at Uni and now the start of my Year Abroad.
1) Get up and get out!
Grab you camera or your phone and get out and about exploring. Distraction works a treat, and why not take advantage of your (hopefully) beautiful and unique surroundings to go and see some sights?
2) Turn off social media
Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t make yourself feel worse by scrolling through everyone else’s photos of them having a great time, which will either make you wonder why you’re not having such a good time, or will make you feel like your missing out on everything back home.
3) Don’t phone home
At least, not at first – I always find that while talking to my family seems like a great idea, it nearly always makes me feel worse when I have to hang up again. It is so great to hear their voice and just to be reassured by speaking with them, but hearing about life back home and everything that has been going on without you will probably only increase your feeling of FOMO and homesickness. Try and resist calling them, unless of course you reach that point of absolute desperation when only the soothing reassurances of your Mum can help…
4) Self care (aka. A cup of tea)
There are few things that a good cup of tea can solve – or just your favourite food/drink. It’s so important to take care of ourselves, especially our mental health. Sometimes this means taking a little time out for yourself, making up that cup of tea or hot chocolate, and just finding some space. If you’re travelling in a group (or perhaps getting a little smothered by the Freshers bubble), taking some time for yourself can be the best thing you can do for yourself.
5) Write it down, let it out
While perhaps ringing up your parents and complaining down the phone isn’t the best idea, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to someone, even if it’s just yourself! Grab a phone and text that friend that you know you can always rely on, or open up your journal and write it all down. The good thing about a journal is that there are no restraints – you can write anything and everything because it’s for your eyes only. The act of writing down these things can help you get a better perspective on it and also help you to work through your thoughts. Journaling is becoming ever more popular, and with good reason. Even if you’re not feeling homesick, I’d recommend giving it a go!
I hope these things help you conquer your homesickness, whether you are missing home as you ‘find yourself’ in Bali, or just when you are nursing that fatal Fresher’s flu in your student digs. Travelling solo isn’t always the picture perfect instagram post it seems, but the hard times make the good times even better.