Have you ever been homesick?
The feeling is kind of like a brutal mix of sadness and wistfulness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
In the past few years I spent three ten-month stints outside of the USA, so unfortunately I know the feeling all too well. As a long term traveler I often go significant stretches without seeing my parents, siblings, friends, and pets. I usually start to feel homesick in the middle of a trip, when I’ve been away for five or six months and still have quite a few left before I’m home again.
Luckily, I have years of practice with long term travel and I’ve learned how to manage homesickness pretty well. If you need to manage homesickness or snap out of a funk you’ve been in lately, give these tips and practices a try!
1. Cook Your Favorite Foods to Manage Homesickness During Long Term Travel
Sometimes, a big part of missing home is missing the food… at least for a foodie like me it’s definitely true.
When that’s the case, I make an evening of it. If you’re in a hostel, find the best rated restaurant serving your native cuisine, or hit up a pub owned by a local from your home country. Ask around the expat circles, and you’ll definitely be able to find something that feels like home, even if it’s just for an hour or two.
When I travel long term, I always stay in apartments with furnished kitchens so I go one step farther to manage homesickness. I scour the grocery stores and cook my closest version of a Chipotle burrito, a crunch wrap supreme from Taco Bell, or whatever random restaurant or food I’m craving that day. Check out the Top Secret Recipes website for copy cat recipes of your favorite foods.
Taste is actually a super important sense when it comes to memory and comfort, so not only does this option distract me and pass the time, it’s also always delicious and helps manage homesickness during long term travel pretty well.
2. Invest In an International Phone Plan
I’m not gonna insult you by saying you should Skype or FaceTime your family and friends to help manage homesickness during long term travel, because it’s a pretty obvious solution.
However, did you know that you can also get an international phone plan?
They’re pretty cheap if you look in the right places. The first two years I lived abroad, my phone number was always changing and my friends and family found it difficult to contact me because it was always just a hassle.
This year, I invested in an international phone plan and I’m so glad I did. With Sprint, it’s only $35 a month! I got to keep my US number, get unlimited calls and texts to anywhere in the world, 1gb of international data a month, and 2gb in the US.
This has made keeping in touch sooo much easier. Now, I can just pick up the phone and call my mom whenever I feel like it, and text my friends just like normal.
I love it, and it has helped me feel way more connected and manage homesickness during long term travel much better this past year.
3. Buy Gifts for Your Family and Friends
This has always helped me manage homesickness during long term travel.
If I’m feeling down, I’ll try to find little cheap gifts to bring home to my friends and family, like a strange local snack or small pair of earrings. It helps distract from feeling homesick and it’s just fun as well.
Plus, when it IS time to head home, I already have lots of little stuff to bring with me and gift and I don’t have to scramble last minute when I’m busy trying to pack and move. Win-win.
4. Think About It Like This…
You’re not missing out on that much.
An easy trap to fall into is to feel homesick and start thinking of family get togethers or parties with your friends, and how you’re missing out. In reality, those are usually for special occasions, and it’s more likely that even if you were home, you wouldn’t be spending time with friends and family anyway.
Plus, for me at least, all my siblings live out of state. That means they’re all missing our parents and doggo just as much as I am.
Of course, putting it into perspective and remembering that most of my family and friends are also spread around the country and world too only helps most of the time.
If you’re spending Christmas or Thanksgiving away from home (like I did two years in a row) It’ll be impossible to manage homesickness during long term travel and you’ll just have to enjoy the holidays the best you can and power through!
5. Stream Sports to Manage Homesickness During Long-Term Travel
This one is weirdly specific, but also highly effective in curing homesickness.
There are plenty of places to find your favorite team online and watch them live. Once I get the stream up on my laptop, I like to connect it to my TV as well. Something about the announcers speaking English and the sounds of the game in the background on a Sunday afternoon is comforting.
Feels just like being home to me, and always helps manage homesickness when I feel it coming on.
6. Pet Some Pups
Dogs are scientifically proven to make everyone happy, all the time (source: my own brain and many experiences.)
Find some! If you’re in a developed country, that means heading to a local dog shelter and giving the good boys some pats. I volunteered in Sofia and visited a dog shelter in Sibiu to spend a day playing with some dogs who need love and it always has a positive effect.
If you can’t make it to a shelter, I bet you can find some strays nearby instead, Bring something for them to snack on and enjoy watching them play. I promise, doing a good deed to take care of the street dogs in a small way will make you feel way better as well.
Sometimes I also look at the local shelter websites from home to see which dog I’d adopt if I had the chance, but honestly this might make the homesickness even worse…
7. Talk it Out
A big part of homesickness comes from experiencing a daily language barrier and culture shock. Head to the hostels, tourist attractions, and bars or pubs to find a friend from your home country (or that at least speaks your same language). Meetup.com is a great place to find upcoming get togethers or the local Facebook pages for expats in the city.
I found whenever we ran into Americans on our long-term travels we always loved reminiscing about what we were missing at home. Just hearing that good ‘ol American accent always makes me feel better!
8. Send Home a Surprise
I used to do this when Daniel and I were in a long distance relationship for three years.
When I really missed him and wanted to feel close to him, I would send him a surprise. Sometimes that was just making a homemade card and putting it in the mail, but sometimes it meant a little bit more.
I liked to get pizza or his favorite Indian food ordered to his house when I knew he was home. He was always surprised and super happy, and it brings a smile to my face just thinking about it 🙂 Try it out!
9. Get Out of the House
You’re homesick for a reason… because you’re far away, traveling through a new country. Well, get out and explore it. I find I usually feel the most anxious, worried, sad, or homesick when I’m cooped up in the house in front of a computer screen.
If it’s a weekday and you have to work, treat yourself to a coffee or iced tea at the local cafe while you do so. Or, go for a walk, out to eat, hit up a new bar, sign up for a fun tour, go for a hike, the list goes on.
If you’re really having trouble managing your homesickness during long term travel, just say screw it and take the day off from your responsibilities completely. Head out into the great outdoors and relax, take a moment to enjoy where you are and why you’re there.
Clear your head a little, and I’m sure you’ll manage the encroaching homesickness just fine.
Feeling homesick is just a reality of traveling full time.
However, in my past three years I’ve found plenty of small ways to help me manage it. Give these nine tips a try next time you feel homesick, and let me know if they help!
PS looking for more info about long term travel? Check out the ultimate packing list for long term travel (that fits in a carry on), read my long term travel FAQ for a digital nomad, explore the Working Abroad Series for step by step guides on making money while you travel, or browse The Truth About Traveling Full Time to learn more about what I struggle with on the road and how I overcome it.