This has been my second holiday season away from home, and I always start to feel a little bit homesick around my third month of travel. Add a hazy Hanoi and a cold to the mix and there’s a part of me that wishes I could board a plane and head back to Montana for the Christmas season. Unfortunately, that’s not really possible (unless Santa feels like giving me a few thousand dollars to make the trip back—I haven’t been that good) so I have to settle with a cup of tea and a few Skype calls.
Being away from family for the holidays can be sad—and I’ve had my fair share of homesickness after being in a culture that is so different from my own. Here are some ways I’ve learned to cope and that I would recommend for travelers who find themselves longing for a flight back.
Get off social media
It seems counterintuitive (wouldn’t social media make you feel better by seeing recognizable faces?), but being on social media for hours when you’re abroad can actually make you feel worse about yourself. I’ve definitely been guilty of trolling Facebook much more than I ought to when feeling lonely or homesick. If anything, though, it just increases my desire to be home. Get out of your hotel or AirBnB and put yourself within your current culture. It might not be perfect, but it will at least distract you until the blue blow over.
Don’t spend it alone
My first holiday season was incredibly lonely—until I met up with who would be my current boyfriend in Prague. I was so distracted by the city (and thinking he was super cute) that I kind of forgot that I was supposed to be sad and moping. With so much to do and having people around me to make me laugh, I noticed my homesickness less and got to see a whole new part of the world. Make sure that you have plans with some of your local friends and with other expats so you can feel a little less lonely together.
Schedule time to talk to family
I try to talk to someone I love from back home at least once a day. This might mean texting, using Facebook messenger, or a phone or Skype call. This helps me to feel a little more connected to what is going on back home and so I don’t feel entirely removed from friends and family. Even if it just ends up being a five-minute chat (time difference and all), I’ve noticed that I feel less alone. Also, technology has made things so much easier now that it can feel like you’re in the same room with those you love.
Participate in a tradition you love
My mom makes some amazing chili every year on Christmas Eve, so I’m planning to try and make an equivalent (albeit with a Vietnamese flair) this year in order to remind me of home and how much I love everyone. It’s a small thing, but I think that it will help me a lot this year—especially with the weather being so dreary lately. We also have a little something planned for Daniel this year, too, since he’s Jewish. It’s often the little thing that can make the most impact when you find yourself far away from home.
It’s not my ideal situation, but being away from home doesn’t have to be horrible. In fact, it can be a lot of fun if you’re willing to think outside the box.
What do you do to keep from getting homesick on your travels?