Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thoughts on Fighting Homesickness

That's 16-year-old Mägi back in August 2007.
She's about to leave Seattle, Washington, United States for Sachseln, Obwalden, Switzerland for an entire year.

One question I got before I left was, "Won't you get homesick?" On my blog, "Ich Bin Zahnpaste" I answered that question on May 7, 3 months before departure.

Haha.. are you kidding me? Of course! Not seeing my family for so long will drive me insane. But that's part of the experience. The "game plan" is to keep myself so busy, that I won't have time to be homesick. This will included finding new activities and hobbies to occupy myself with. With no time to mope around at home, I won't have time to feel sorry for myself and start feelings homesick. And being homesick and missing everyone is quite different. I can miss you all without falling into the deep abyss of depression.

And, quite honestly, I think 16-year-old was pretty spot on with her "game plan."

I've had a good handful of friends talk to me about being homesick, lately, and I thought I'd write out a few thoughts on it.

One friend had done a good handful of homesick-style posts of Facebook. These generally consist of the person posting pictures or memories of the place they are pining for. After his third or so post, I sent him a message.

Mägi Hubert
Not sure if you're into homesick feelings. Sometimes they're fun to roll in...

However, make sure you know how to shake them off. I'm not sure if you do or not. Do you? If not, I'd love to pass on some tips on what to do right now...

The Lad
"They're fun to roll in" sounds exactly right at the moment. I haven't been badly homesick so I'm doing fine--if I do become homesick (ie in Europe) you will be the first person I talk to.

That's the first thing about homesickness. It's not always bad! Homesickness can sometimes be a form of nostalgia, I think - and who doesn't like a good ol' dose of that? Nostalgia, in moderate controlled amounts, can be a fine form of day dreaming. A lot of people enjoy the feeling of homesickness. Some like to lounge in it a bit.

When I got back from Switzerland to the States, I was super homesick for Switzerland. Leave America was no problem. It was leaving Switzerland where I had issues. During that time, I sort of wanted to cling to my homesickness because I wasn't ready to move on yet. I had been a "big girl" in Switzerland and done great at adapting and not missing the states, but once I had proved I could do it, I didn't seen the point in readapting to the states. Sometimes homesickness is a choice.

The problem is when it takes over.
The problem is when you can't shake it off.
The problem is when it is 9:00 at night and there's no one around and you feel totally alone.
The problem is when you look at your new foreign phone, scrolling through contacts, and you don't think anyone in that town cares if you exist.

So, we get to fight homesickness.

The easiest way to fight it is to not even let it occur. My method, when I was 16, was to stay soooo busy that it was impossible for me to get homesick. Homesickness occurs, generally, when you're left alone in your head for too long (even if it's you just disengaging from a conversation).

You need to be present in each moment. Appreciate what you have right there. For me, that normally means I find some mountains and gawk at them a bit.

Throw yourself into volunteering opportunities and clubs. When I was in Haines, I got a kick out of going to Koffee Klatch with all the "old ladies" in town. Your passion to explore will open up doors.

Say you're at school and you're getting homesick late at night. Quick! Call someone. Anyone. Leave your bedroom immediately and find some compassionate people. Have a lot of homework to do? See if you can find someone to do it with. It can even be helpful to find a family in the community that are the type that will "be there for you no matter what." If you can develop that relationship, it can be priceless to have a second home to go to, even just to do your homework.

These all require a lot of work on your own part - a lot of preparation. You need to get out of the door when you're up so others can be there for you when you're down.

Last time getting kebabs with the exchange students in Luzern, Switzerland.
Let's say you're prone to homesick and are up to your neck in it.

First, don't beat yourself up for it. It's fine to be homesick. It's not a sign of weakness.

Second, be careful how you deal with it. This will condition you for the future. For me, I didn't call my parents for the first three months I was in Switzerland so I could truly adapt and learn to get along on my own. In my opinion, for me, I knew that calling home when I missed it would train me to never really move on. I then created a rule that I could only call when I didn't need to. If something was wrong, I found Swiss people to support me.

Third, you know yourself best. I wouldn't advise calling back to where you're homesick for or looking at pictures of it, but if it helps, go for it. I think it can be helpful, sometimes, to commiserate with someone in a similar situation. Then, you're developing a new bond in your new location and building the relationship up as you both struggle and grow.

Four, if it's late at night, go to bed. Turn on some music and try to sleep. Things are always better in the morning.

Be caution of entering into a state of depression.

If you're not leaving the house, constantly crying, not eating --- let people know. This requires serious action, yo. It's not worth staying where you are for this unless you really think you need to grow through this. I doubt it's worth it, though. If you know what will make you happy, go for that. That's a legitimate choice.

If it's mild homesickness, though, I would encourage you to fight it full force - you can turn that into a hobby. In doing this you will develop great tools that will make all sorts of things possible.

And do I get homesick any more?

Homesick for where? for Seattle? Switzerland? Alaska? Bowen Island?

I miss almost all the places I've lived. Lately I've been homesick for Alaska, really wishing I was there. Other times, when in Alaska, I missed the dance scene of Seattle.

But my homesickness just comes in little waves. Sometimes I do roll in it, like when I spend a few hours going over pictures of Switzerland. Ok, maybe that doesn't seem so little. I've got it to the point where I can shrug it off.

I would like to say that when I left Switzerland, the first time, I had pretty extreme "homesickness." I could barely eat for over a week and started to get panic attacks all the time and go into flight mode. I've been there! That was a long stage of life and it only ended when I went back to Switzerland in 2009 for some resolution.

After a bit of time being homesick, though, now I just sort of let go of it. I make plans for something to look forward to and I appreciate the moment I have here and now.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog. If you don't mind answering them, (and if these are not too personal) I have a few questions for you.
    1. I have Asperger's and had hypersensitive hearing as a child. Do you have any problems with loud noises, etc. If so, how do you cope?
    2. What made you want to travel around in the first place?
    3. I have been on a gluten-free/dairy-free diet since I was four. What has been the hardest aspect of keeping your current diet.
    4. Where is one place outside of the US and one place inside the US you want to go besides the places you have already been and are planning to go in the immediate future?


Your words make me grin.

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