Processing how to deal with homesickness abroad is not something you have to do alone. And homesickness occurs with all kinds of travelers. It doesn’t matter if you are moving, living, studying, or interning abroad – homesickness can affect you. Yes, even those who only travel for vacations and leisure. Culture shock is real and layered with homesickness symptoms can be a rough patch.
But that is where this post can ease that transition! You can cope and thrive abroad to enjoy your travel experience. Whether you are wondering how to overcome homesickness while studying abroad or living abroad long-term, these tips can help. Here are 15 ways to get started and on how to overcome homesickness abroad.
Do not let people frolicking on social media fool you, homesickness is common abroad! But what is homesickness exactly? Well it is caused by discomfort or distress from being away from home for an extended period of time. You feel it when you are taken out of your routine and away from your support system. If you have trouble adjusting to your new environment such as the language and culture, homesickness can occur. You can feel homesickness in your own country if you live in a different city or state too.
Many do not know how to identify homesickness. However there are two sets of symptoms to identify. The first set of symptoms for homesickness can include:
- Yearning to go back home
- Constant feelings of loneliness
- Feelings of low self-esteem and lack of confidence (i.e. insecurity)
- Trouble sleeping or restless nights
- Loss of motivation
- Extreme anxiousness
- Struggles to do simple tasks
This first set of homesickness symptoms can lead to more intense, physical issues. If these symptoms persist, a doctor and/or therapist may be necessary. They can include:
- Excessive/random crying outbursts
- Headaches and migraines
- Nausea and vomiting
- Simple tasks
- Suicidal ideation
- Diarrhea and stomach aches
The symptoms in either set will not go away on their own. You need people to support you to get through your emotions. It takes some time, lots of conversations, and even more processing of how you are feeling. But as the person experiencing homesickness, knowing what to do next is vital.
Tips on how to overcome homesickness
Believe it or not there are multiple ways and categories to address homesickness. And each set has some strategies you can choose from based on your experience and comfort. Let’s break down some practices you can use to manage your homesickness abroad.
Category 1: Getting acquainted
Make a bucket list
To avoid feeling overwhelmed when you arrive, create a bucket list of activities. Having this list will give you something to focus on upon arrival. And this list isn’t just about the tourist attractions you want to see. Include restaurants, coffee shops/cafes, community centers, movie theatres, gardens, etc. The bucket list can help you focus on the more mundane activities to have something to look forward to every day.
You can write this list down or use a digital document to make it too. However, an underrated app is Google Maps. On the app you can create lists and save places to those lists. From there you can check off each visit. The bucket list will also aid in crafting your new routine.
Indulge in the local cuisine
Trying new foods is a highlight of traveling and living abroad. But did you know it can help with your homesickness too? Using that Google Maps bucket list you can visit new restaurants to find food to enjoy. Finding cuisine that makes you happy deepens the connection to your new home. Good food makes us feel better in our mind, body, and spirit. Think of these spots as the ultimate comfort food.
I have some foodie guides for my European travel lovers if you are headed to Berlin, Amsterdam, and London! And if you happen to be headed to Big Island in Hawai’i, check out this itinerary that includes food too.
Go all in at the beginning
Treat yourself like a tourist upon arrival! Why? Well first of all you are a tourist. Secondly, hitting a bunch of the tourist attractions will help you get familiar with the destination. Hopping all over the city can increase your knowledge of your new location and galavant to process how to deal with homesickness abroad.
If anything, it is a fun way to get your bearings upon arrival and feel out your new home. Get Your Guide is a good resource to use. Your bucket list will help these adventures as well. Developing this connection in the beginning by visiting different areas can guide how you build that community support you need too.
Immerse yourself without the guilt
Between the excitement and nerves of living abroad, guilt can appear. You may think, “do I deserve this?” Or, “how can I be having so much fun when xyz is happening back at home?” And my personal favorite, “I just really want food I know, but I shouldn’t because I’m not at home, right?” Immersing yourself in your new home’s culture can feel like your own is distant.
Yet, the guilt is real and not something most expats factor into their emotions. The drive to “be local” is pushing you too soon, too fast. But in reality it’s not; you are probably avoiding your home culture when really you need both to survive. If you are a U.S American and find an “American style restaurant,” you can go to that one as much as the new local spot you found. Do not feel guilty for immersing in the newness and leaning on the familiar.
Decorate your home to make it feel homey
“You have to make this house feel like a home” is different when you are abroad. When you had to downsize to move abroad, you could not bring everything. Bringing little things to make your new location feel like home is critical to figure out how to deal with homesickness abroad.
Decorating your new apartment or living space can mean an enhanced sense of connection and comfortability. For those who love photos, research if you can print any digital ones of loved ones from social media. Set up your workspace in a way that makes you feel at peace. Reach out to your new neighbors. It is what we do in small steps that shape how we feel later.
Snap all the photos
Taking photos is another coping strategy for homesickness. It keeps you focused on the world around you and less on every thought and feeling. Observing your new community can benefit how much you understand it. You can find the beauty in the small things and appreciate what they mean to you in that moment. Capture as much as you can to share memories and stories with the friends and family you miss. They are going to want to know everything! Why not have photos to reminisce about later?
Category 2: Merging your old self with your new one
Take a social media break
A sacrifice of living abroad as an expat is that you will miss out on milestones and activities back home. Most people think the FOMO (fear of missing out) will not affect them. However, it does more than many care to admit. With social media being so prevalent in our lives, it is easy to feel sad based on what we see back home.
Focus on the life you are creating. Your friends and family may be hanging out together. But they also want to know more about what you’re doing too. Just as you are looking at their stuff, they are looking at yours. Even though no one is pressuring you to post, take a social media detox if it gets to be too much. Pausing on the scrolling may be your key to figure out how to deal with homesickness abroad.
Plan your check-ins with family and friends
When you are missing family and friends, you may have the urge to talk to them all the time. And this thought process makes sense when they are your community and you have not built one abroad. But it can also be detrimental. Constantly staying connected to your home may keep you distracted in your current present.
Scheduling check-ins with your family and friends can alleviate some of this technology dependency. Though it is great to be in a time where we can connect, we also need balance and time management. Instead of calling your loved ones about every tiny thing, plan for check-ins. Longer chats can make you feel better and take that time you would have spent to live in the moment. And all of it adds to you developing a deeper sense of belonging in your new home.
Coordinate a trip with your loved ones
If you miss someone, ask if they can come visit! Everyone loves an adventurous getaway and an excuse to use that time off from work or school. It’s a win-win for you all! Coordinating this trip will ease your mind knowing you will see someone from home soon. Knowing a family or friend is visiting can also make you more excited to explore your new location to have places to show and share. Your mind is settled and you can get back to experiencing your new surroundings.
Send postcards back home
Let your loved ones know about your life abroad by sending them a postcard. There is something nostalgic about getting a car in the mail. It takes more thought and effort than an email. Sending postcards will help you feel connected to your family and friends. Even though the digital world runs us, this is a sweet gesture. I have done it in the past and people love it! It is an emotional way of how to deal with homesickness abroad, but a good one nonetheless.
Establish a routine and adding new additions
Once the rose-colored glasses of your move fades, that is where you need to contemplate how to deal with homesickness abroad. Establishing a routine in your new home can help the transition. Despite being a mix of a tourist and an expat, you will need a symbol of normalcy. A routine can be that symbol.
Yet, think beyond drinking smoothies for breakfast or incorporating a walk mid-afternoon. Make Wednesdays your day to visit a new museum or park. Meet for karaoke or salsa night with drinks on Thursdays. You can feel more in control this way. Additionally, you make your way through that bucket list to recognize how to deal with homesickness abroad.
Find balance and creating new habits
Once you establish that routine, you have to maintain it. Finding that balance means establishing boundaries for yourself too. After going all in during the beginning of your stay, it may be less exciting as time goes on. This balance between sightseeing and adjusting to your new life can ease your homesickness.
Creating new habits does not mean ridding yourself of old ones. If you have a game night every Friday, search for an activity that is the same or similar. Participating in activities that you love at home when you are abroad can add to that normalcy. In addition to those, the new ones can help you find like-minded people to bond with too.
Category 3: Taking care of your health
Start writing in a journal
Even though some find writing tedious, it can be a self-reflective way to overcome homesickness abroad. When you are on that social media break, or between check-ins with loved ones, write. Journal what you are feeling and how you are adjusting. Later, you can read back on your progress from the culture shock and homesickness phases to the complete adjustment. A journal can also help you document the lessons you learned from living abroad too.
Stay physically active
There is more than one way to get physically active and exercise. Yet, no matter what you do, incorporating some physical activity can help reduce homesickness. Even if you are new to working out, start with a walk. This strategy can not only keep you active, but it also benefits you getting more acclimated with your new city. You can join a gym, workout at home, play for an intramural sports team, etc.
Exercising outside is even better to deal with homesickness abroad. Getting fresh air and sunlight frequently improves your mood and encourages more positivity in your life. Your body will thank you for the exercise as eating unhealthy can add to your homesickness. It is time to get those endorphins up and moving! Try out a few types of working out (biking, running, skating, walking, yoga, etc.) to figure out which one you love the most. Then add it to your routine to work out how to overcome homesickness abroad.
Write affirmations for an affirmation jar
Sometimes you need to remind yourself who you are. And with an affirmation jar you can write it all down. Choose some of your favorite statements or quotes. Then, write them on slips of paper. You can put them in a jar, but if you have a bowl or cup, that works too. Some affirmation ideas to get you started include:
- “My ability to overcome my challenges is limitless; my potential to succeed is endless.”
- “I am here to thrive, not just to survive.”
- “If you wanna fly you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” – Toni Morrison
- “I am stronger than how I feel at this moment.”
- “I was built for this.”
- “I radiate good energy and inhale positivity.”
- “What I feel is valid and who I want to be is just beginning.”
When you sense those homesickness symptoms creeping into your body, go to this affirmation jar. Pull out one of the quotes and/or statements. Read it aloud to yourself then go to the mirror and read it looking at yourself. Affirmations may not be a foolproof way on how to deal with homesickness abroad. But it can be the quick pick-me-up you need. Don’t knock it until you try it!
Take time for yourself
I don’t know about you, but I love me some me! And yes, this strategy on how to overcome homesickness abroad is solely focused on YOU. No one else. As much as having support from family and friends is important, you have to learn to be at peace with yourself too. Meditating, listening to your favorite podcast or music, cooking your favorite meal, or doing absolutely nothing are all ideas. But remember no one knows you better than you.
Also remember that no matter where you go, there you are. Love on yourself more when you are experiencing homesickness. Be gentle with yourself during this transition. You can use this “me time” to write, exercise, sleep, whatever you need to feel whole. Just make sure your practices do not compromise your health.
Do not suppress fear
Though it is easy to fill that void with simple solutions, seek out healthier ones. Numbing yourself with alcohol or other risky behavior will not help the homesickness subside any quicker. Different strategies that include excessive spending should be avoided too. If anything, these coping mechanisms will hinder your progress and cause long-term harm.
Talk to the professionals
We have to know when it is time to seek help. Go see your primary physician if your homesickness begins to affect your physical health. Use expat Facebook groups, Google, and even word of mouth to seek out therapists for your mental health struggles. In some severe cases we need to talk to the professionals to get to the root of our homesickness.
Do something you love
In the midst of creating a new routine and habits, find something you love. For example, if you are a seasoned cook, scope out a cooking class to learn the local cuisine. Do you love to hike? Volunteer to get trained to lead hikes in your destination.
Doing something you love that is familiar back home can ease some homesickness. Everything is new so it is nice to find something you recognize. Keep this in mind when you are creating that routine and figuring out what balance looks like to you.
Do something you fear
On the flip side, try something you fear! Homesickness is rooted in anxiety, lack of control, and nerves. Have you been practicing the local language using apps and not with real people? Well, now is the time to do it. Even if you are terrified, throwing yourself into a scary situation helps you realize how great it can be too. They say everything you want is on the other side of fear. Be daring and find out so you can take control.
Category 4: Building community
Put yourself out there
No one moves to another country to live within their comfort zone. Putting yourself out there can enhance who is a part of the community you build abroad. Take that dance class even though you can’t really dance. Approach someone first when you are out and want to make conversation. If you wanted to play it safe you would have stayed at home. Being bold can lead to finding the people who will embrace you back and match your energy. That is the first step to finding the support system you yearn for abroad. It is also another step in how to deal with homesickness abroad.
Befriend expats and locals
We cannot survive by living our lives alone. And when you live abroad it is critical to have a community to rely on to make your experience abroad the best. Finding that friend group is not necessarily easy and will take work. But when you do, you will be happy you did. While making friends will not be the magical cure, having support is necessary.
Be sure to build a community with expats and non-expats too! Bond through your cultural similarities and differences. You do not have to create the exact same friend group you have at home. Actually, do not attempt to do so. But finding a mix of people from different backgrounds can recreate that feeling of support and friendship you miss. And if you want to make friends abroad, check out this post here for more tips.
Lean into vulnerability with your friends
Bonding with your new community requires radical openness and honesty. People cannot support you if they do not know you. They also cannot support you if you are not honest with them. Tapping into these emotions are scary but crucial. Besides, if you cannot be vulnerable with your friends and support system, who can be vulnerable to this world?
Also, you will find that talking to someone about your homesickness abroad is therapeutic. It is more common than you think and your friends abroad may have experienced it too. Even though trauma bonding has its limitations and should not be excessive, talking to someone who can relate could be beneficial. They have been where you are and can help you through it.
How to get over homesickness abroad? Embrace it, but don’t dwell on it
Understanding how to deal with homesickness abroad is a process. It may be sprung upon you at the most unexpected time. And you may think you have it all under control when in reality you need help. Homesickness abroad as an expat or study abroad student is not something to be ashamed of at all. We all go through it in some capacity. Do not be afraid to talk to someone and use these strategies or create your own.
All of this to say, it is ok to miss home! Seriously. If you have a loving and supportive community back home of course you will miss them. However, do not get stuck with a homesick mindset. Missing people you love is natural. But you do not want to miss out on your new travel experience either. All the work you put in to get there will not be derailed indefinitely by homesickness.
So hopefully these practices can help reduce the bluntness of it all. Living abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that requires you to be fully present. A new adventure is waiting for you to embrace it! And you may even grow to love your new home more. Know the signs and strategies to strive for a life abroad that starts to feel like home. I’m sending you all the positive vibes! You can do hard things. These feelings shall pass. Good luck.
Interested in learning more about living abroad? Check out 18 reasons to move abroad.