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How to Reduce Homesickness While Traveling Abroad

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Nicole Adams

Homesickness is a feeling of longing or sadness that arises when someone is away from their familiar home environment when traveling, studying, or living in a new and unfamiliar place. Even seasoned travelers can still get homesick, so it’s important that you don’t let this prevent you from getting the most out of your experience, or participating in an extended travel program. While there isn’t one standard cure for, we have some ideas on how to help after 30+ years in the field.

What Causes Homesickness? 

Homesickness is a natural emotional response to change, and it’s important to recognize that it doesn’t reflect weakness or inability to adapt. It’s a common emotional response that can be triggered by being separated from your loved ones, routines, familiar surroundings, and the comfort of your own space. Luckily, it’s usually a temporary feeling that tends to diminish as you become more accustomed to your new surroundings and routines. It’s also worth noting that homesickness isn’t exclusive to those who are far from home, it can even occur moving to a new city within the same country.

Some of us may already be familiar with it, but for those new to the feeling, homesickness is essentially an acute form of anxiety or emotional distress that results from feeling disconnected from familiar people and places and out of sync with your regular routine. It can arise from a number of different factors:  difficulty adjusting to a new environment, feeling lonely or cut off from your regular support system, confusion or problems understanding a new environment/culture/language, a perceived lack of control over what’s happening around you, culture shock, and the list goes on.

Homesickness doesn’t have a precise cause, and it manifests in different ways including: constantly wanting to call friends or family, critically comparing everything in your new environment to what’s “normal” for you, withdrawing from the local social life, feeling unmotivated to do anything, etc. While it won’t go away overnight, and takes work and effort to overcome, it is possible to get through these feelings and likely well worth the trouble when you can fully enjoy your travel adventure.

group of young adults with large backpacks on holding their arms up looking down on a city below

How to Overcome Homesickness 

Coping with homesickness involves a combination of staying connected with loved ones, engaging in new experiences, creating a sense of familiarity, and adopting a positive mindset. Gradually immersing yourself in the foreign environment, building new relationships, and focusing on the opportunities for personal growth and learning can also help alleviate feelings of homesickness over time. Just be gentle and patient with yourself, the more pressure you add and the more guilty you make yourself feel, the worse it’s going to get.

Being lonely is a huge part of homesickness, but just because the people you usually rely on are no longer a short drive or walk away, doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch or create a similar support network in your new country. Use technology to your advantage and connect with loved ones through video calls and messages, and see about a homestay or opportunity to be “adopted” by a local family to help you acclimate and make new friends. As intimidating as it may be, engaging in local activities and exploring your new surroundings can help you adjust.

Humans are creatures of habit and drastic changes in our routines can be anxiety producing. Create some familiar surroundings by bringing a few comfort items from home to make your new space feel more homey. It also helps to establish a daily routine, maybe more that’s similar to your usual one- whether it’s taking a yoga class, going to a farmer’s market, having coffee on a Saturday morning, or an evening of Netflix, having a daily and weekly routine will help you create a sense of stability and structure in your new environment.

If you’re ready to explore summer and gap year programs, click here to see a list of courses. Contact us with any questions and we look forward to exploring the world with you!

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