A few days ago while driving along the beautiful Sunshine Coast I mentioned to my partner that I was feeling a bit homesick. “That's odd,” he said. “How can you feel homesick when you don't really have a place that you call home?”
This was a good point seeing as I have not lived in my home country since the age of 13, I have lived in eight different countries over the past 28 years and I don't really have a place that I would call home in the traditional sense. So I began to ponder, what is homesickness? How does it feel? And does it serve a purpose?
What is homesickness?
Generally homesickness is thought of as a feeling of missing familiar surroundings or friends and family. I have not been in any familiar surroundings for years and I have spent most of my life moving away from family and friends so I wanted to investigate what homesickness is for me personally.
My experience of feeling homesick was a feeling of wanting to be somewhere other than where I am now, just for a little while. I wanted to feel close to my family and have fun with some old friends. My first thought was that perhaps it is familiarity that I miss or a yearning for a place to call home, and then I started to wonder if there was something uncomfortable in my life that I want to get away from. Why was it that I had been feeling perfectly happy and then I had felt homesick?
When life feels a bit uncomfortable even in a positive manner it is quite normal to want to resort to some comfort that we can recall from our past, and after a bit of consideration I realised that this was the case for me on this particular day. I have been making some changes in my life and this was causing me some unease. I wanted to seek some familiarity in the form of being with family and I was feeling some nostalgia for my teenage days in East Africa and therefore missing some of my friends whom I have not seen for many years. I realised I was dwelling on the past and fantasising about the future and as a result I was not enjoying where I am today.
Having realised this I was able to find some acceptance for the fact that on that particular day I was feeling homesick, I found a place for it knowing that the feeling would pass eventually especially if I focussed on the good things that I have in my life today.
Is feeling homesick helpful?
I personally believe the feeling of homesickness is only helpful if we use it to gain some perspective on why we are feeling homesick. In other words, do we want to escape an uncomfortable feeling? Or are we making changes in our lives which feel a bit daunting? If we dwell on the feeling of homesickness then the feeling will get worse and we will be unable to enjoy where we are today and all that this place has to offer.
So how can we cope when we feel homesick?
- Ask yourself if there is something you want to run away from and not face. If there is something try to find a solution and see if the feeling of homesickness passes.
- Don't fight the feeling; it's okay to feel this way every now and then. Find a place for it, have acceptance for it, and know that it will pass.
- Phone a family member or a friend and tell them how you feel. It may help just to hear their voice.
- Find something you appreciate about where you are. If it is a place then go for a visit. If it is a meal then treat yourself, and so on.
- Meditate and breathe.
- Gather your new friends for a fun lunch or dinner and celebrate that you have each other.
- Write your feelings in a journal or in a letter.
Remember that it is quite normal to feel this way from time to time no matter who you are and what you are used to so don't be too hard on yourself if you happen to have a homesick day.
Kama J. Frankling has been a happy migrant and expat for over 28 years. She runs a coaching company called The Happy Migrant.