Homesickness while travelling is a strange thing. You could be in the most beautiful corner of the world, surrounded by all your new friends, sipping on cocktails while sunning it up on a beach, and still find that you have those fleeting moments where you miss home.
Even for the most experienced of nomads, it’s natural as human beings to yearn familiarity from time-to-time, so it’s inevitable these feelings are bound to pop up during the festive season. After all, Christmas is a time where so much emphasis is put on being with family and being so far away from them during this time can prove to be difficult.
Last year, I spent the festive period in Hanoi (Vietnam) and whilst it wasn’t my first Christmas away from my family, it was my first Christmas abroad. Throughout my travels, I was quite fortunate not to experience homesickness too often, but without a mince pie or glass of mulled wine in sight…boy did it hit me like a ton of bricks on Christmas Day.
Fortunately, there are ways to deal with this sense of nostalgia and here are some tips on how I dealt with the homesickness holiday blues.
Slow down and find a base for a week or so
Initially when I arrived in Vietnam, I wasn’t planning on spending two weeks in Hanoi – it kind of just happened. But looking back I think having a base certainly helped ease the feeling of missing home. Giving yourself enough time in one place not only allows some time to relax, but gives you a great opportunity to really get to know a place more deeply and make some new friends to spend the holidays with. Creating a sense of familiarity could really help you feel more at home in your new surroundings.
Find festive events or organise your own
Even if Christmas isn’t widely celebrated where you are, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on celebrating. In Hanoi, I was lucky enough to be staying at a hostel which pulled out all the stops on the big day to ensure we had a great time – an endless supply of free festive punch; a “traditional” turkey dinner with all the trimmings; plus an awesome party (of which my memory is a little hazey!). But if this isn’t possible for you, why not arrange your own special gathering or event?
Arrange a “Secret Santa” with your travel buddies
Christmas is a time for giving, so why not spread a little festive cheer by arranging a “Secret Santa” gift exchange with your fellow travel mates? It doesn’t have to eat into your budget too much…and even the silliest of gifts can put a smile on someone’s face.
Get a taste of home and eat some familiar food
If a traditional turkey dinner isn’t on the menu this Christmas, try and find some alternative foods that give you a taste of home life. Only at Christmas can you get away with overindulging, so treating yourself to some home comforts won’t go a miss! Every year we have a Godwin family tradition of egg sarnies in the morning…so when I woke up in the hostel that morning, that’s exactly what I had!
Remember all the Christmas hassles you get to escape this year
No battling the shopping crowds and last-minute rushing around to buy presents. No having to make pleasantries with family members you have to pretend to like. No family arguments over what’s the best way to cook the turkey or Yorkshire puds. Imagine that – a Christmas where you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want! Embrace it!
Connect with friends and family at home
Just because you’re not physically in the same place as your family, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all your favourite traditions. With technology today, it’s easy enough to participate in holiday events at home via Skype or Facetime. So make sure you plan ahead and schedule in a suitable time to call them…after all, they are probably missing you too and would welcome a catch-up at this special time of year.
Enjoy Christmas, wherever you are in the world!
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate the holidays in a new place, so try not to dwell on your homesickness and do your best to make the most of the experience. Find a unique and meaningful way to celebrate to make this a Christmas to remember. And who knows, you may even pick up some new traditions from all your new worldly friends. The better the memories you make, the better the stories you’ll have to share when you do go home.
So here’s to a happy (and different!) Christmas abroad!
Do you have any other tips for travellers spending Christmas overseas?