Living abroad is a great idea. It gives you a chance to integrate with a different society and culture, to not only experience the touristy parts of a place but see how people live, eat the real local food and widen your mind in ways you never thought possible.
But it does have its downsides: one big one being dealing with homesickness.
For many, it’s about the people. Living abroad almost always means there will be loved ones left behind. But expats also miss the landscapes, the cities, and the weather of home. Whether your hometown is on coastal England, in the Canadian mountains, or in the middle of bustling Los Angeles, there’s definitely going to be something you’ll miss about it.
And eventually, this can get too much.
I’ve been living in the Cayman Islands for three years now. I moved for the weather, the relaxed way of life, and the business progression opportunities, which are all great, but I miss the mountains of my hometown Canada and the bustling cities. I used to spend a lot of time in Europe too, and I sometimes yearn for the culture and history of these countries. Living in the Caribbean is fantastic for a lot of things, but sometimes my heart aches with missing home, and not just for my loved ones.
A lot of people have a “time living abroad limit,” and it’s important to recognize when you’ve hit yours. If you haven’t hit the limit, homesickness may be just a bout that can be easily alleviated. For others, living abroad is essential for business or family reasons. And for a very unfortunate few, returning to their home country is impossible due to conflicts and other reasons.
If you want to or need to carry on living abroad, but need to find a way to combat your homesickness, here’s some top tips:
1. Tap into the beauty of where you are.
There’s nearly always going to be some sort of natural beauty and a form of culture wherever you are; in some places, it may just be harder to find it. The Cayman Islands don’t have any mountains, that’s for sure. But they do have beaches that you certainly wouldn’t find anywhere in Canada.
Let the ocean become your mountain: spend time lapping up this new beauty in any way possible (e.g. If it’s a tropical sea, learn to dive, take up water sports, or just make sure you go for a swim every day!). If it’s a cultural experience you’re after, take up a cooking course for your adopted country, or just go out of your way to meet locals. Couchsurfing meet ups are great for this!
2. Plan a vacation somewhere new.
It’s pretty much guaranteed that your new homeland will be closer to a destination that you’ve been wanting to visit than where you’re from. See if you can take advantage of cheap flights or overland transit (depending where in the world you’re based!) and go somewhere completely new.
Too often, we feel stuck somewhere, and forget that there’s a way to escape for a few days or a couple of weeks. Going for short breaks will help you realize how small and accessible the world is, and you’ll no doubt return feeling fresh and ready to consider your living situation form a different angle.
3. Find a way to intertwine your creature comforts at home.
Think about some of your favorite things at home. It might be getting into bed on a Sunday and binge-watching Netflix with a tub of Ben and Jerrys, or it could be your favourite gym class (in an ideal world, it’s a mixture of the two!).
Now see if you can replicate doing this in your new home. Investigate joining a gym. If where you’re living doesn’t sell Ben and Jerrys, find a new favorite comfort food, and if you can’t get hold of Netflix, find a different way to watch movies and TV. Many countries across the globe sell DVDs for a lot cheaper than in North America and Europe.
Adding these little rituals into your daily routine will stop you from yearning for home and remind you that happiness can be found in the littlest things.
4. Remember why you chose to move abroad in the first place.
Did you move away because of the climate? Were you sick of cities and wanting to live a relaxed pace of life in a more rural setting? Reminding yourself of this will really help you put things into perspective.
A great idea is to write things down, prompting yourself of all the allures of your new homeland that attracted you to it in the first place. Make a note of everything, and keep it somewhere where you can read it frequently; such as on the mirror you use for getting ready in the morning.
Starting your day with an optimistic mind-set will help you see where you are in a much more positive light.
5. Focus on the realistic perception of home.
Don’t go completely home-hating, or it may upset your loved ones who are still there (and make you feel sceptical about even visiting home). But try to concentrate on what living at home is really like.
When you’re feeling homesick, it’s easy to remember a few amazing days you had and remember home life to be completely like that. But try to recall days spent commuting in the rain, having to battle through winter snow, and feeling your stress levels rise as assignment after assignment piles up leaving you with little time to do anything else.
Remembering these as well as the good times will help you put everything into perspective and remind you of all the great aspects of living abroad.