When you’re missing home

Happy Halloween everybody!  In the spirit of today I wanted to talk about something that seems to make people a bit scared nervous about travelling too often: homesickness.  While travelling to new places, or revisiting old haunts, can be an incredible experience in so many ways, even the most avid travellers can feel an aching in their soul after a while.  It’s entirely possible that “home” isn’t a place, but a feeling, for some people; for others, “home” has coordinates that can be plotted and pinned on a map.  Wherever your home is, it can be tough not to miss it once you’ve been away for some time.  I adore exploring new cities and countries, but even I miss certain aspects of home in the midst of my excursions.  So, I figured I’d share some tips that help me overcome this sensation and continue enjoying my holidays!  If you find yourself feeling a little bit homesick, whether it’s during a vacation or after moving to a new city for uni or work, take a scroll through this list and see what works for you, then let me know any of your tips in the comments!

  1. Make a home playlist: No matter where I go, I have to have a source of music.  This means my phone runs incredibly slowly, but sacrifices must be made in the name of auditory satisfaction.  I’d like to think most everybody has a song (or a few!) that remind them of home; maybe there’s that one track you and your best friends sing along to every summer, or a melody that stirs up memories of family gatherings.  Start making a playlist with these songs, and add to it or edit at your will.  Keep it on your phone/iPod/MP3 (do people still use those?) or make a Spotify playlist your friends and family can listen to and possibly edit!  Then, if you’ve got a particularly long bus or train journey, or transcontinental flight, pop some headphones in and let yourself be drawn back with the music.

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  1. Pack one “comfort” piece of clothing: This is going to sound ridiculous I hope not but let’s be honest, it does but before I moved to Aberdeen, my dad gave me one of his old cotton T-shirts.  It’s something simple, and I actually use it to dry my hair (shout out to my fellow curly-headed peeps whose poor strands frizz at the sight of a towel) but in the first few months after moving, when I was stuck between finding my home here and missing the place I’d called home for decades, that T-shirt put me at ease.  Now, even though I’m much more comfortable here, I still use it and feel a sense of comfort when I see it.  Packing lightly for a backpacking trip, or simply want to avoid checking luggage?  Even small items, like a scarf you’ve had for ages or a jumper your pet constantly commandeers as a bed, can do the trick!
  2. Find a familiar smell: Maybe “home” is a flat where you wake up to the smell of coffee brewing each morning, or sprigs of lilac that grow outside your doorstep.  Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses, if not the most powerful, and it’s truly amazing how effective finding a familiar scent can be in curing some homesick blues.  When I was little and my parents would go on a holiday, or my dad was away on business, I would sneak their perfume/cologne and spray it on my stuffed teddy bear so I wouldn’t miss them as much.  With that silly secret out of the way The same trick works for me to this day: anything that smells of honeysuckle, or fresh farm air, instantly cheers me up.  Many department or cosmetic stores have perfume samples you can request at no cost; alternatively, bring a bar of soap that smells of your favourite [insert scent here].  Even a spritz of scent can work in the short-term, and you won’t add any excess weight to your baggage!  Moving somewhere new?  Plenty of shops have affordable candles and wax melts to make your house/ flat/ boathouse/ RV feel a touch more home-y.  Plus, you’ll reap some benefits of hygge, a concept the happiest people in the world live by.

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  1. Stay connected (to an extent): Technology is an amazing thing these days, and I’m going to take a wild guess and say if you’re reading this chances are you have a device that can download apps to text via data or wifi.  I used WhatsApp to talk with family and friends on my travels for a few years before moving to Scotland, which was really helpful as messages won’t send without a data or internet connection.  If I didn’t want to pay any international fees all I had to do was turn on airplane mode and switch my wifi to “on,” so I could check in every so often on a free connection.  And, funnily enough, most people abroad tend to message via WhatsApp or Facebook messenger anyway-so you’ll have an app to stay in touch with new friends! Taking a tech-free holiday?  I love hunting for unique postcards to send to family and friends, as a way to explore local shops and show my loved ones what I’m experiencing.  Whatever you decide to do, just be sure you’re also taking in your trip or new home rather than spending every waking moment on your phone.  Take in the sights, explore new places, and truly soak it in…then, when you do speak with family or friends again, you’ll have even richer stories to tell!
  2. Finally, and this one depends on your circumstances and how long you’re away from home, treat yourself to a “hometown meal”: As fun as trying local cuisine can be, sometimes you just want a taste of home!  I’d strongly encourage you to explore as many local options before resorting to this, especially if you’re on a shorter trip, but if you just can’t bear trying another pub’s haggis or eating more salted fish, find a little taste of home.  When my friend Katy visited from the States at the beginning of the year she offered to bring me some Old Bay-a spice mix from our home state and, in my humble opinion, one of the best seasonings in the world-and I nearly cried with happiness.  So now I’ve got a little yellow tin of Old Bay sitting in the cupboard and, if I need that savoury and spicy combination, I dig it out.  It’s also a fun way to introduce my new friends to something from my home; my fellow postgrad students and I held a few international dinners over the year, where everybody made a dish from their country or region and we sampled the cuisines.  I learned so much about peoples’ backgrounds from their food, it led to great storytelling, and we all had a little bit of that hometown comfort we craved.

These are the five tricks I tend to use whenever that lonely feeling starts creeping in.  But whatever you do, I believe it’s most important to gently remind yourself to be present and continue exploring.  It’s often in the most quiet moments that we feel more homesick, and a natural reaction might be to seek solitude to mull your feelings over.  This is perfectly fine in moderation, but don’t waste your entire holiday (or first months in your new city or country!) by resolutely sticking with the familiar.  The world is far too big for us to only experience the sights, sounds, and sensory occurrences of our post code.

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What do you do when you feel yourself missing home?  Let me know below!

xx

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