I’m no stranger to being away from “home.” Home meaning Salt Lake City, Utah because that’s where I grew up and where my family lives. Since I was 18 though, I’ve basically been away from home. I went to college in Washington state, studied abroad for a semester in Beijing, studied abroad for 9 months in Asia, and upon graduation, moved to DC for a couple of years before I decided to jetset again. Now I’m living in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
People always ask if I get homesick and honestly, I don’t get homesick very often. I’ve always been a bit of a wanderer. I’m super flexible and adaptable and am pretty good about living in the present. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Still though, loneliness and homesickness does hit me every now and again so I thought I’d dedicate a post on this topic. Or at least my personal experiences with this topic.
This time of year I always find myself a bit down. The January blues I suppose. It’s also the month when my best friend committed suicide a few years ago. A defining moment in my life. One of those events that really change you as a person. Every time January rolls around, I can’t help but feel sad. I still think about my friend nearly everyday but not as much as I used to and that also makes me sad. It’s hard moving on.
The last time I was abroad, I experienced a lot. I remember it being one of the best years of my life but also one of the worst. My grandma passed away, my longterm boyfriend and I broke up, and then my best friend died. All within 3 months of each other. I was unable to attend funerals since it would be too costly and complicated to fly back and forth from the states back to Asia so I grieved alone away from family and close friends. And as far as break ups go? They’re never fun, especially when it’s over a crappy Skype connection.
I thought I was fine. I was living life. Enjoying my travels. And then it hit me. I was depressed. Everyone grieves in different ways. I’m not an overtly emotional person by nature and have a really hard time expressing myself. So when things were bothering me or when I was really sad, I kind of just ignored it and tried to act like everything was okay. It finally caught up to me. I luckily was abroad with one of my best friends who was going through the exact same thing I was and that helped immensely. Still though, I had to learn how to cope on my own.
Here are some things that help me when things get rough:
- Experience things. While wallowing can be good, wallowing too much is not. Making myself leave my room, making plans with people, or just taking a walk outside does wonders. Take Nike’s advice and just go “Do Something.”
- Talk. Talking helps and you don’t have to talk about what’s bothering you but sometimes it’s nice to converse with someone. When I feel like I can’t talk to anyone around me, I call up my sister or one of my friends back home. Technology is amazing these days that it’s easy to stay connected to your loved ones miles away from each other. I’ve been really good at staying in touch with people while I’ve been in Vietnam probably because technology has made it easier. I love WhatsApp for messaging my friends and family back home and Google Hangouts is great for video chatting. At the same time, keep a good balance. If you’re spending all of your free time video chatting with people at home, this will not help your homesickness. So like I said, experience things in the place that you’re at will help. I swear.
- Watch the Princess Bride. The Princess Bride is my all time favorite movie in the world. I’ve seen this movie a kajillion times and it still makes me happy every time I watch it.
- Exercise. Because endorphins. Plus, when I’m having a hard time with those annoying things called emotions, sometimes exercise is the only thing that will help me. I don’t have access to a gym so I like going on bike rides here in Vietnam.
- Dance it out. Turn on some music and just dance like a crazy person. Dance makes everything better. Normally after a hard day’s work, I would take a dance class and it would always be cathartic. I don’t have the option here to take class, but I can still dance. All you need is some space and good music.
- Treat yourself. Whether it be going to the movies, eating three deserts in one sitting, getting pedicures, or doing some retail therapy, sometimes it’s nice to do something nice for yourself.
- Write. Writing helps me sift through my head. Writing has always been a good way for me to get things out and try to make sense of things without having to share. Just the act of putting things on paper makes me feel lighter.
- Find the perfect soundtrack. When my friend died, I had a hard time sleeping so I listened to music to pass the night away. I found songs that helped me feel better or conveyed the way I was feeling but couldn’t express. Music has always been a big part of my life and sometimes all you need is the right song to make you feel better.
- Tea time. A comforting cup of tea (or hot beverage of your choice) is great under any circumstance. Tea time with good company is even better but I know that’s not always possible. So instead, get a beverage, grab a book, and try and enjoy wherever you are.
- Establish a routine. When you feel like things are out of control in your life sometimes being able to control what little you can will help. Even doing something as small as setting meal times can really help. Or setting time aside everyday to exercise, read a book, or watch an episode of something. Try to find some spots that you like eating at, getting coffee, or going to so you can establish some sort of familiarity in your life. I love being able to go to my favorite noodle place when I’m in a funk because people already know what I’m going to order so I don’t have to go through the hassle of fumbling with my Vietnamese skills or feeling confused and lost.
- Consult Mindy Kaling. This is kind of a joke but not really. I feel like Mindy Kaling has a funny anecdote for just about anything. If you haven’t seen the Mindy Project, you should. It’s hilarious.
Now that I’m reading back on my list, I realize none of the things above are really about dealing with homesickness so much as it is about dealing with tough things in life. Either way, we all need help through the tough things in life whether you’re feeling homesick, are grieving the loss of a loved one, or just having one of those crappy days when nothing seems to go right.