It’s a cool and windy day in Logroño. Walking to my street, Calle Duquesa de la Victoria, I look up and see the bright, holiday lights shining on the cobblestone. I smile because Christmas decorations have finally arrived and my two-week holiday in Prague, Budapest, Barcelona and Valencia is approaching. Through the door, up the elevator and entering my apartment I greet my roommates. I fall on my bed and look up again, now at a white ceiling. I glance around my Harry Potter sized room and realize: I really want my mom’s home-cooking for the holidays.
Holiday homesickness abroad is no joke. It can sneak up on you before, after or during a vacation. It can triggered by lights, Christmas trees, food, etc. Sometimes it’s too late to book that now-overpriced flight home. Other times you realize early enough to plan. After spending my first Thanksgiving and Christmas away from home, I’ve broken down how to cope with homesickness abroad just in time for the 2017 holiday season.
Before you do anything, slow down and let yourself feel
Cry, scream, do whatever you need to do and let it all out. Whatever you’re feeling, don’t tuck it away. I’m not saying sulk and brood for the entire holiday, but allow yourself to express yourself. Feel, accept your situation, then move on to enjoy your holiday. I promise you, these feelings won't last forever.
Surround yourself with friends (physically or virtually)
Cook a meal, watch a movie or sit on a bench and people watch. Do whatever you want together. Get your travel buddy, new or old, and hang out. Share your traditions! I’m not talking about those people who you’ve met and tolerate. No. I mean gather the closest people you’ve been fortunate enough to encounter and share a deeper connection with due to being abroad. If you haven’t found this group, no worries. We’re in the prime age of social media. Though it requires more scheduling, video chat with friends back home on Facebook, Snapchat and Skype to bring a piece of home to you.
Send postcards home
Doing something nice for your loved ones back home can ease the holiday blues. Take some postcards you’ve been collecting from city to city and send them home. Despite what technology may tell us, people love getting mail and that you thought of them while abroad. Just make sure you send them in time for the holidays (aka don’t procrastinate)!
Be solo yet social
Not everyone is equipped for solo-traveling or solo-celebrating. Since holiday tourism is booming in many big cities, go to one of them and their group events. Though not the most traditional way to spend the holidays, attending a bar crawl or hostel event is one way to not be physically alone. You don’t have to drown your sorrows with shots and it won’t be a sentimental Christmas with family, but chances are that someone else is solo too. Hang out together and get-to-know someone new. Then you can check off “make a new friend” from your 2017 goals.
Travel with a friend from home for the holiday
This one requires more self-awareness and pre-planning. If you can feel your homesickness approaching early enough, phone a friend and see if they are willing to come visit during the holidays. There’s something therapeutic about showing an old friend your new place abroad. I traveled with new friends and loved it, but everyone’s homesickness is different. It’s worth a shot.
Goal-setting for 2018? Make more time for loved ones
If you are close with your family, prioritize them even though you’re abroad. It’s easy to make excuses, but not talking to the people who knew you before you left makes homesickness worse. This can be a goal as you travel into the New Year to have more balance with your travels and relationships. Find a day and time that works with your time differences to chat. Stick with it.
Traveling abroad as an expat or tourist during the holidays comes with sacrifices. Depending on your family dynamic, being far from home is the biggest one to overcome. Not everyone can cut it and there are people who intentionally build in home time to avoid homesickness. There’s no shame in knowing your limits and if the spending the holidays without family is yours, own it and book that flight. Ignoring it, like I did at times, can make being abroad less enjoyable in the long run. Don’t sacrifice your well-being for a bucket list.
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I'd rather splurge on a good meal than a nice hotel, wine than water and plane tickets than club covers. Traveling and eating are my two favorite things, so follow my journey to see where I go and eat next! I'm just living my best life.