How to Deal with Homesickness While Abroad

According to Wikipedia, “Homesickness is the distress or impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home. Its cognitive hallmark is preoccupying thoughts of home and attachment objects. Sufferers typically report a combination of depressive and anxious symptoms, withdrawn behavior and difficulty focusing on topics unrelated to home.”

Do I deal with homesickness? Rarely. I’ve been gone from home almost 7 years and got over it eventually.

The first time I was away from home I was living in the Oakland hills in the Bay area. I went home every weekend. I hated missing a homecooked meal and getting my laundry done. Then I moved to the most depressing place on earth, Boston. That place almost killed me. Between the weather, people, driving, infrastructure, and being away from home it literally almost killed me. I have serious ailments due to living in Boston.

I then got transferred to San Diego where it got a tad bit better but not by much. At least I had SUN and warmth. The day before I flew out it was snowing pretty hard, didn’t know if I would make it out. Can you believe it was 10 degrees in Boston when I left and 80 degrees in San Diego when I landed? I almost kissed the ground I was so happy to be back in California!

I lived in downtown San Diego which is not the best part. I would smell and SEE feces and urine on the ground. I would have homeless people pass by my window at night yelling and screaming obscenities. I saw roaches the size of the palm of my hand. I rode the bus and/or train and every time I rode it I had a story to tell. I was called nigger and bitches. I hate San Diego with a passion and vowed never to return.

After that I moved to Los Angeles (Pasadena), if I was rich I would move back in a heartbeat. Los Angeles is where I really started to get over my homesickness. By this time I was 5 years out from moving away from home. Yes it took me 5 years! I loved EVERYTHING about LA. From the neighborhood I lived in, the people I met, the weather, the fact everything comes to LA first, I rented my first house, I lived down the street from my job and could walk to work, I rode public transportation everywhere and didn’t stress off of driving, my city had EVERYTHING you could think of on two main streets, I could go on. I’m about to cry just thinking about all the things I left behind. I left because I got a better job and I got tired of paying outrageous rent. Next, I moved to Tucson, Arizona.

Tucson, Arizona has a special place in my heart. When I was searching for a place to live, all I saw was dirt! Coming from California where greenery is abundant I was shocked. I packed up all my belongs and drove a rental truck to Tucson stopping once in a city right outside of Palm Springs. I was terrified someone would break in and steal everything but I made it. Tucson is definitely not LA but I made the best of it. I was actually surprised they had a lot of my favorite stores and things to do. I went to parties, an ostrich farm, and an observatory. I LOVED waking up to the mountains every morning and oh my! when they were snow topped it was heaven. I remember waking up and watching the sun rise over them as I could see them from my window…I just about had a heart attack it was so beautiful. If it wasn’t for that Arizona heat I could have stayed longer.

Of course, I’m in Mexico City, Mexico now and I do get homesick sometimes. It’s because I’m in a new country, can’t speak the language, and I’m still reeling from my mother’s death. I actually go back home more now than I ever did when I lived in the states. It’s so cheap to fly back and forth and doesn’t take long at all.

Now I wrote all of this to say there are ways to manage your homesickness. A few ways I’ve overcome it are:

1. First things first! NEVER beat yourself up about moving abroad. You moved there for a reason whether it was for safety, get out of debt, or to gain a new skill. No one said it will be easy or else everyone would do it. Embrace your new life and know there will be challenges. Also realize not everything will be the same as back home. There will be ups and downs.

2. Live like a tourist first. Go to all your country’s main attractions and get to know the culture and history of your new home. Make a list of must see things and try to check them off one by one.

3. Try EVERYTHING in your new country. Ok maybe not everything because there are just some things I refuse to try here. But by doing this you are creating a routine to help you get settled and to get over your fears. Eventually, you’ll find your favorite restaurants, parks, and even people.

4. Call home, skype/facetime…whatever you need to do to keep in contact with your family and friends. Talk about your issues if you have any and be sure to vent to someone who will listen. This has been crucial for me. I talk to my sister and father every day. Don’t over do it though to where it is hindering you from exploring your new country.

5. Get off of social media and go explore your new country. I’m guilty of this, especially when I get in panic mode and realize I cannot communicate with most people here. I can sit on facebook for hours or watch movies.

6. Keep up with the same habits you had back home and create a daily routine. Exercised every day? Continue. Wake up every day and read for an hour? Continue. Collected stamps? Continue. Loved to get a mani/pedi once a month? Continue. I’m also guilty of not doing this but slowly but surely I’m getting back into the routine of what I used to do.

7. Try to make your home a home. Pick out things that comfort you in your new space. I had to have my Bose speaker (music), diffuser (stress relief), blender (smoothies), slow cooker (cooking), and resistance bands (exercise).

8. Try to get adopted by a family that lives in your country. Make a friend and try to become part of their family. Go to family functions to find out about traditions and the culture of your new home. This is on my to do list sooner rather than later.

9. Keep busy. Learn something new such as your new country’s language, a dance, sport, or even cooking classes. This will keep you busy and you’ll forget all about being homesick.

10. Get rid of negative thoughts. Depending on where you are you may stick out and you have to have enough confidence to deal with that. People will stare, people make comments, but it’s all apart of the living abroad experience.

11. Don’t numb the pain if you do get homesick. You do not want to pick up any bad habits such as drinking or drugs overseas or becoming a shopaholic. Stay out the malls! I did go overboard with eating when I first got here. I had to have all my American comforts from back home. So a trip to Olive Garden, Red Lobster, PF Chang (oh I love their plum wine!) was nothing to me. I had to quit that immediately.

Grutas Tolantongo

Sorry I haven’t updated in a few days. After the LOOOONG trip, I needed a few days to recuperate. I am now your go to person if you want to plan a successful trip to Grutas Tolantongo! Here goes the story:

So I met up with the fellow traveler. She was my first couch surfer. Everything was fine and I enjoyed her company but that will be the first and last couch surfer I will ever have. It’s just not for me.

We mapped out how to get to Grutas Tolantongo the night before. We needed to take two buses to get there. The attraction’s website is SO misleading with a 3.5 hour trip which is actually a 6-7 hour trip. There are also no reservations for the hotels on site. We ended up having to camp in a tent overnight. I froze my ass off! Everything is provided for you: tent, blanket, and pad to sleep on. They also come and set up the tent for you and take it down.

The whole trip was beyond stressful. We left around 12:30pm to Uber to the bus station. The bus left at 1:30pm and we did not get there, set up, and “relaxed” until 7:30pm. The attractions closed at 8:30pm. So the first day we didn’t have time to do anything. Not that we would anyway after the long, stressful day that we had.

The next day more people started to come and woke us up at 6am. I did not get much sleep as I was cold and with my crippled body I tossed and turned all night. We got up and dipped in the water for about an hour and that was it. We were too tired to do anything else. There are caves and small pools but you have to hike up a huge mountain and we just weren’t up to it. IF I go back I need to spend at least three days there. But again there are no prior reservations that can be made so if there were no rooms, it would be 3 days on the ground again. Plus I’d have to pack a sleeping bag as one blanket is not enough.

This was also my first time camping. It wasn’t too bad. If I had a thicker mat for my raggedy hips and a sleeping bag, I would have enjoyed it better. Camping is actually fun with the right gear and people. I could see myself doing that in the future to be cheap. But I was literally scared all night. We brought our computers and everything. I was pissed as that could have lightened my load a little bit.

We didn’t take ANY pictures of the place because we didn’t do anything special. The ride there is beautiful though with lots of mountains and greenery in the background. I posted the few I did take. If you want a good idea of what Grutas Tolantongo looks like I suggest going to their website. It is accurate.

The food was cheap considering it is a major attraction. No US prices there where a bottle of water costs $10. The food was really good too so no complaints there. There are many places to eat at there. I had steak, rice, and beans for lunch and it was to die for.

My couch surfer ended up also losing her passport and had to get a new one today. The good thing is if I ever lose mine or know a visitor that loses theirs I know the process. You can easily get a new passport for free and on the same day here in Mexico City.

Sad thing is I was planning on giving tours to this beautiful place but I would have to see if people were willing to sleep in tents if no hotel rooms were available when we arrived. I don’t know enough Spanish to possibly strike up a deal with the owner but that also could be a route I could pursue.

All in all, I spent about $77 for the two days. Where can you spend $77 on a two day vacation? Mexico! If I had gone by myself I had planned to stay three days to explore leisurely and enjoy my time there. But I am now your go to person if you want to plan a successful trip to Grutas Tolantongo!