Combating Homesickness When You’ve Got Months Left of Travel

Combating Homesickness When You’ve Got Months Left of Travel

Sunset dinner in Phu Quoc

I’ll be blunt: I’m homesick.

Don’t get me wrong – I feel very fortunate to be able to take this time to travel the world with Shawn. We’ve been traveling just over two months now. We’re at the end of our fourth country, with quite a few more months and countries to go and I am very excited about the travel ahead. In our two months of travel, I’ve at times felt small waves of homesickness, but the past few weeks have been particularly hard.

Post-election, I was very depressed. I don’t think I’ve fully come out of it, and to be honest, it feels like I’ve been just floating through our time in Vietnam. I’ve enjoyed it, yes, but it has felt a bit like I’ve been in a haze. I’m missing my friends and family. I miss my home, my own bed, a home-cooked meal that isn’t Asian food. I miss the little voices and laughing of my niece and nephews at Shabbat dinner. I miss being able to call my mom all the time. I miss crisp fall weather and gray skies (y’all know I love the cold and gray). I know all these things I miss are not going anywhere, and when I am home, I will probably have post-travel depression and wish I was traveling again. But it doesn’t mean I’m not feeling it right now.

My brother in law sent an article yesterday (thanks Kenny!) that talks about how a therapist in NYC has been helping her clients post-election, and it got me thinking a bit as it relates to my homesickness. If you don’t care to read the article, the therapist, Betty Teng, talks about three parts to handle coping: stability, safety, and strength. Stability is about calming the body and mind by focusing on the body and its existence in time and space: the feel of your lungs inhaling and exhaling or tapping into your senses. Safety is about seeking the people and places you trust so you feel safe and comforted. Strength is about self-empowerment so you can move on with your life.

Having been to a therapist post-trauma in the past, I’m especially familiar with the stabilization technique, and have been using it a lot lately to tune into my body and settle my thoughts. I definitely have plenty of time to relax and try to calm my mind, and it’s been helpful.

Safety, on the other hand, is where I’ve been struggling. While I have no problem finding the person I trust most (I basically spend 24/7 with the guy), he’s one person in a small pool of people who make me feel safe. And let’s talk about safe places for a minute. Traveling does not mesh well with going to your safe space. So what are the things that have been helping here?

Well for starters, we prioritized seeing my Aunt Merryl when she was in Saigon on a business trip. The chance to cross paths with a familiar face was a no-brainer. Two short evenings with her were so unbelievably cherished and definitely not enough. Shawn and I were practically teary-eyed when we said goodbye, but so grateful to have had a comfort from home. We got to see Stephanie and her family in Taiwan, which was very helpful in our pre-election mild homesickness. My sister has also just booked flights to meet us in New Zealand for two weeks, and believe me, the countdown has begun.

Discovering the Secret Garden with Aunt Merryl
Discovering the Secret Garden with Aunt Merryl

But how do we get to a safe space when we’re traveling all the time? Well, I don’t really have the exact answer for this, but here’s how Shawn and I have been dealing. Recently we planned for our time in Saigon to be not about the sights, but about us relaxing together, vegging out, going to the movies, making our room comfortable and cozy, and eating some western food.

Creating a comfortable and comforting environment when you are constantly moving can be challenging, but recreating some of our home comforts in our room has really helped. We have watched movies in bed, watched what we can of our favorite TV shows, and are slowly making our way through our 6-bar stash of Theo Chocolate. These are some of the things we’d do at home, and recreating them while on the road makes us feel a bit more “normal”. It’s not perfect, but it has helped.

If we’re talking about strength, I guess it will come as we continue our journey. I want to feel good and not feel homesick. I’m ready to start enjoying myself and this trip more. I’m hoping that talking about it here will help me feel a bit better and empowered so I can put the homesickness aside.

I’d also like to add one more “S” to Betty Teng’s “3 S’s of Coping”, and make it the “4 S’s”: Socialization. Because we’re traveling as a couple, it can be a bit hard to meet other people, especially since we haven’t been staying in hostels much. We were fortunate enough to meet a bunch of cool people on our Bai Tu Long Bay trip, which helped in that aspect, but lately we’ve been discussing it and have realized that as much as we love our little Shamanda Bubble, we do need to get out of it on a regular basis. At home, we’d be having a lot more social interaction with others, so going forward we’re going to make more of an effort to stay in hostels and do more social things so we can feel a bit more normal.

So, how do you deal with homesickness? Any pointers?

Thanks for hearing me out, readers. And, if you’re feeling so inclined, come meet us on the road!

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