While you can’t entirely avoid or prevent homesickness, there are a number of ways that you can deal with it.
I have felt homesick many times in my life. Some of the most difficult homesickness bouts I’ve had were when I moved away to Massachusetts for college, studying abroad in Jordan, and moving to Ireland in 2020. In all cases, I had moments where I almost desperately wanted to go home because I was sad, lonely, scared, and missing home.
If you feel homesick, it’s OK. World Travelers feel homesick some times. The thing that differentiates us? We know that growth is the goal. We take stock of our feelings, manage ourselves, accept the things that we can’t change, and work to change the things that we can.
If you’re currently abroad and feeling homesick, this post is for you. Don’t pull the plug on your trip just yet, see if these tips help. Give it a real, solid effort before you give up. Travel and living abroad have both taught me valuable life lessons (you can read them here). I want the same for you. Read on, and contact me if there’s anything I can do to support you.
- 1. Soothe Yourself
- 2. Get Brave
- 3. Reach out
- 4. Practice Self Care
- Final Thoughts: How to Deal with Homesickness
Related Post: 5 Things I Miss Most About America After Moving Abroad
1. Soothe Yourself
Homesickness is a really heavy feeling, so take some time to soothe it. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to push homesickness away or drown it out or beat it into submission, so instead choose to be kind to yourself. Let yourself feel your feelings, and be kind to the person who decided to take the risk in the first place (you).
Know that the feeling will pass
If you only take away one thing from this post, let it be this: homesickness is a feeling, but, like all other feelings, it will pass. You will not feel homesick forever. Even if you feel homesickness deep in your bones and it’s threatening to strangle you, there will be a time when you feel settled and happy in the future. Your mission now is to try to alleviate the feeling, but I want your brain to know that this won’t last forever.
Listen to music
Music is a powerful tool that can transport you to another place and time. Accordingly, music can soothe some feelings of homesickness and help you to cope with your new environment. The key is to listen to music for the mood that you want to be in, instead of the mood that you’re currently in. Listen to music that evokes joy, love, adventure, and/or comfort for you.
If you find a song that comforts you, listen to it as many times as you want. I have a song that I started listening to while traveling in South America that has become my unofficial travel anthem. The song is Gotta Have You by The Weepies. It is comforting, and helps me whenever I need to feel just a little bit braver. The song also makes me feel nostalgic for all of my past travel, which can help me to feel more present.
Take a day off
If you’re having a really rough time or just feel like you need a break, don’t be afraid to opt out of optional activities. Sometimes it can feel like there’s a ton of pressure to do everything, especially if you’re traveling with a group. However, if you spend a few hours recharging you’ll have a better time when you rejoin them!
If you’ve moved abroad for the foreseeable future, taking a day off might look a little different. Take a self care day and do activities that really recharge you, like taking a nap, talking to friends, or going for a long walk.
Be gentle with yourself and others. It’s very likely that you’re not the only one struggling with homesickness, so do your best to treat yourself and others with a little extra patience and kindness.
Do something that reminds you of home
When I was studying abroad in Jordan in 2012, I started feeling really homesick towards the end of my program. One thing that genuinely helped me was going to the Starbucks by my school, ordering a coffee, and then drinking it while staring at the wall.
The thing is, Starbucks look pretty much the same everywhere, and the chain of coffee shops remind me of home. The cups are the same, the wallpaper is the same, and even the smells are pretty similar. On days when I felt really, really homesick, I was glad to have a familiar place to go. One where I could do a familiar activity and feel like I knew all of the rules, if only for a few minutes.
2. Get Brave
If you’re feeling homesick, it might be a sign that you’re hanging too far back. Summon your courage, hold your head up high, listen to your favorite hype up song, and then get out there. The good news? In my experience, you’re almost always rewarded when you choose courage. The way out is through, and true growth isn’t cheap. So, get brave.
It’s a really big deal that you decided to go far from home, and I’m proud of you for taking the leap. Congratulate yourself for your accomplishments! Many people decide not to travel because it’s scary, and you did it anyway. You’ve done something courageous and brave in traveling or moving to a new place, and that’s worth celebrating.
Connect with other people
Chances are, if you’re feeling homesick you’re also probably also a bit lonely. That’s OK, loneliness can happen to any of us, but you’ll need to choose courage and vulnerability if you want to find a sense of belonging.
Dedicate some time to making new friends. It doesn’t matter if they’re people in your program or your host family or just people you meet while out and about. Go and find your people. I’ve written about how to make friends, if you need some ideas.
Related Post: Is Studying Abroad Lonely?
Try to focus on the positive
Big disclaimer here: I’m not telling you to pretend like you’re happy. Instead, I want you to try to using positive thinking as a tool. Think of 5 things you love about the place you’re visiting and 5 things you love about home, instead of 5 things you dislike about the new place. Even just framing the things you miss as positives about home instead of negatives about the new place can help you feel a little better.
Here’s an example from my move: a negative story could sound like, “Ireland is so cold all of the time and it’s always gray.” If I were to reframe this, it would sound like, “I love how mild the temperature is in Ireland, and people here are really kind. I also love how, in the US, houses have really good insulation, so you’re warmer inside with the heat on. I also love how much sunshine Colorado gets, even in the winter.” Note that even though you’re still comparing the two places, you’re focused on what you appreciate instead of what you dislike.
Replace “Scary” with “New”
I recently learned a trick from one of my incredible yoga teachers, Nancy Perry. She told me that anytime you think something is scary, try replacing “scary” with “new” in your mind. Traveling to the airport alone in a foreign country–is it really scary, or is it just new? Keep this little trick in your back pocket for times when you need a little help to feel braver.
Get out of your room
It can be really tempting to stay in your room when you’re traveling. That’s where it’s safe and quiet and you know all of the rules, but if you’re feeling homesick it’s probably a big clue that you need to get outside.
It’s perfectly fine to take a day off here and there, but all of the best stuff happens out in the world. Summon your courage and make a plan to spend a full day out and about. If that sounds really hard to do, read this first. If you just need a little inspiration, read this post.
Get a family to take you in
If you’re not staying with a homestay family, try to befriend a local who will take you in as part of their family. There are people all over the world who would love to take you to their next family gathering and have you join for their family meals. If you’re studying abroad, ask your professors if they know anyone who might have you over for dinner.
You might not be able to pull this off, but it’s certainly worth a try. If you happen to be in Cork, Ireland, reach out to me.
Try lots of local food
The quickest way to fall in love with a place, in my opinion, is to fall in love with the cuisine. Try lots of local dishes! Ask locals where to find the best food! As long as you don’t think a particular food will make you sick, commit to trying it. It’ll help you to feel more comfortable away from home, and give you a stronger connection to your new environment.
Related Post: My Top 5 Happy Hours in Denver
Vulnerability is a prerequisite for growth. If you’re feeling homesick and you want to connect with others about it, you have to be vulnerable and tell them what you’re going through. It’s OK if you don’t have it all figured out. It’s OK if you’re scared. It’s even OK if you’re doubting yourself. All of the good stuff in life starts at the edge of your comfort zone, so push yourself to be a little braver, even if your success isn’t guaranteed.
Immerse yourself in the new culture
You came all of this way, so make it your goal to really immerse yourself in your new environment. Try on the new place like you’re trying on an outfit. If you’re in Paris, try to really be Parisian for a while–sip espresso on the terrace and people watch. If you’re studying abroad in Jordan, be Jordanian while you’re there–sit with friends over black tea with sugar.
You came all this way to learn, so learn by doing! You won’t get it right all of the time, but don’t let that stop you from trying. Be gracious if/when corrected, and don’t give up.
Make a bucket list for your stay
It can be so easy to get so caught up in the day to day of being in a new place that you leave without doing everything you’d planned. Consciously make a list of everything you’d like to do and actually mark them off, that way you’ll be less likely to leave without completing them.
If something goes wrong, just roll with it
When I was studying abroad in Jordan, my computer charger broke about halfway through my trip. There weren’t any Apple stores in the country (or anywhere else in the Middle East, for that matter), so I had to make due with borrowing one from my classmates for the rest of my trip. They were so kind and generously offered to let me charge up while I was at school each day. Your trip probably won’t be perfect, so just find a way to roll with it if/when something goes wrong.
3. Reach out
If you’re feeling homesick, you’ll probably find it very helpful to reach out to the people you love. Sometimes just hearing some encouraging and kind words from someone who loves you is enough to help you push on until tomorrow. Here, I’m including a few ideas about ways to reach out–it doesn’t have to be all FaceTime calls and text messages.
Send a care package
This one might sound counter intuitive, since you’re probably the one who most needs a care package, but making others feel good helps us feel good.
Go to the post office and ask how much it would cost to mail a small box to a friend or a family member. Then, go on a mission to collect the most beautiful and lightweight things you can find. Next, write a letter to the recipient of the package. Tell them how much they mean to you. Share a funny story from your trip. Share your travel advice now that you’ve been to this new place. Describe your favorite meal since you arrived. If you can’t afford to send a package, just send the letter.
If you’re feeling lonely and homesick, go to a local shop and buy 5-10 postcards. Then, sit down and write a postcard to one person per postcard. You can say anything in these, but try to make them personal. Share a quick story. Tell the person you hope to see them soon. Tell them what you miss most about home. The act of writing and sending the post cards will help you to feel more connected to their recipient(s), and waiting for them to be delivered will give you something to look forward to.
Take a social media break
Notice how you feel after spending a little while on social media. If you’re feeling sad, discouraged, left out, or otherwise negative, try to take a little break. Set a timer on your phone.
Talk to people from home
Schedule a Zoom call with friends to catch up. Try not to just talk in passing by text, see if there’s a time when you can have a full conversation.
Another great option is Marco Polo, a messaging app that lets you communicate using low resolution videos. I use Marco Polo all of the time to keep in touch with my friends and family in the US.
4. Practice Self Care
Self care is a general term for all of the things you do for your own maintenance and well being. Here are some self care ideas that might help you to feel better if you’re experiencing homesickness.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment. A quick way to get present in the moment is to tap into your senses. Ask yourself: what are five things that you can see right now? What are five sounds you can hear right now? What are five things that you can feel right now?
If you’d like some quick ways to build a mindfulness practice into your day, check out the Mindful Enough Instagram account.
Meditation teaches you to notice your thoughts without accepting them. It’s a powerful practice. If you’ve never meditated before, start with a five minute guided meditation. Once you get the hang of it, Loving Kindness meditations can be very helpful for transforming your attitude about yourself and the world around you.
Journaling can help you to see and acknowledge unconscious patterns in your thinking. It can also be cathartic; if you’re having a really rough time, writing about it can help it feel just a little more manageable. If you’d like to learn more about reflection journaling, check out this article.
There’s a TikTok video I love that says, “If you feel like you hate everyone, eat something. If you feel like everyone hates you, go to sleep. If you feel like you hate yourself, take a shower. And, if you feel like everyone hates everyone, go outside.”
No matter how you’re feeling, spending some quality time outside will probably help. Go for a walk in the woods. Sit in a city park. Visit the ocean. Nature is healing, so go outside and soak it in for a little bit. I promise it will help.
Spend some quality time with animals
Just like nature is healing, so, too, are animals. If you’re feeling really homesick, spending some time playing with a dog, petting a cat, or brushing a horse can help you to feel more grounded. This won’t always be an option to manage your homesickness, but if you do have the opportunity to spend some quality time with a pet or livestock animal, I’d encourage you to take it. Showing kindness to other beings can help us to remember to be kind to ourselves.
Accept your reality
Try not to control your reality or force it to be something that it isn’t. If you’re feeling sad and homesick and scared, name those feelings. If you’re not having a great time, try to connect to the positive aspects, but not at the expense of acknowledging that you have negative thoughts. You are a whole person with both positive and negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and you’re allowed to have them all.
The trick is this: notice those negative thoughts, but don’t give them airtime. They don’t need a microphone, they just want to know that you know they’re there. Notice them, thank them for their input, and then let them wash on by. If that sounds impossible to do, try meditating for 5-10 minutes a day for a week, then try the exercise again.
Move your body
Exercise is lubrication for your joints, and it will help you get out of your head. While I was studying abroad, I joined a women’s gym for my final month. Being able to exercise and add a little non-school structure to my day helped me to focus on my final project while managing the stress of being abroad.
If you can’t join a gym, yoga is a great option. Grab a yoga mat, a water bottle, and a little floor space, and you’re good to go. My favorite yoga studio, BIG Power Yoga, offers live, online classes throughout the day. Yoga with Adriene is a super popular YouTube series with high quality, free classes.
Keep up with your habits
If you have habits that you know help you to feel happier and healthier, keep up with them while you’re away from home. If you want to work on your habits, check out Atomic Habits, one of the books I recently recommended.
Eat some veggies
Diet can definitely make homesickness worse, especially if you’re dealing with a host family that seems to want to feed you until you burst. While you can’t always control the food that’s offered to you, try to take an additive approach and eat more vegetables where you can. As I mentioned in tip #58, you’ll eventually start to feel crummy if you wait too long to balance your diet.
Final Thoughts: How to Deal with Homesickness
You’re not alone in your feelings of homesickness. I’ve felt homesick many times; it’s a really common experience for anyone who has boldly decided to leave home. Remember: homesickness is a feeling, and feelings aren’t permanent. Your trip isn’t over because you’re missing home right now, it’s just a sign that you might need to take a pause and take a few steps to feel better.
Try the suggestions in this post, and maybe also read a bit about culture shock. It’s possible that you’re experiencing homesickness and culture shock simultaneously, and learning about them can give you tools to address your needs.
If your feelings of homesickness are overwhelming, you might want to talk to a therapist to help you cope. For many people, though, feelings of homesickness will come and go, and you’ll be back to enjoying your new home in no time.
Do you have any tips for people experiencing homesickness? What’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments!