If your usual remedies don't work, try not to diminish your feelings, but try to build several notions of home instead...
I moved out of my hometown Paris, 10 years ago. It still felt like yesterday. To this day, I still have moments where I feel homesick. It doesn’t happen all the time but enough for me to write an article about the topic. This year, I tried coming back home several times after being away for 2 years, but the pandemic just made it unsafe. I felt more and more frustrated and homesick.
First off, feeling homesick is not a weakness, so let your feelings be. Try to understand how you react as people experience homesickness in different ways. Some people might feel sad or depressed while others may feel upset and angry. Knowing your reactions can help you anticipate and manage your emotions.
I personally feel sad and lonely. Whenever I feel homesick, I have this urge to contact all my friends from back home and spend hours on social media to try to catch up on what I missed out. I am conscious that time is fleeting, and my friends and family live their lives no matter what, even if I’m not around. So, I try to stay invested in my friendships. I follow up on their careers, life events and hobbies. I try to give news and find funny memes to rekindle old conversations. I’ve always considered myself like a loyal friend but sometimes, I realize that I have trouble letting go.
Throughout the years, I used several methods to feel less homesick. I created more group chats with my old friends, I sent post cards, I compiled a photo album of my favorite moments at home, I have invited them over and I asked them to bring me food from home. All these things have helped, but the real solution is to accept having several homes. You can have as many homes in your heart, but first, find your own definition of a home. Then, try to make sure to find a new place that fits these criteria. This way, you won’t miss your old home as much. Moreover, having several homes adds lots of benefits…
Move into a place you define as home
For me, a home is a clean place in a safe neighborhood. I usually like medium to big towns because of the open-minded, more liberal vibe. People tend to be more cosmopolitan and pro-immigration. I love the cultural diversity and I feel at ease with other minorities in the neighborhood. I feel happy when I’m close to downtown because of the livelihood of the city.
I enjoy eating out, I love to spend social time with friends, and I need my home to be near a gym. I live in Canada so I would prefer to live at a walking distance from a metro station because busses are often late in the wintertime and waiting in the snow is miserable.
Due to the weather, I would also require a laundry machine and dryer in unit, so I don’t have carry my laundry bag a mile away to find a laundromat. Those were my requirements. They didn’t seem too crazy demanding. Notice that I didn’t pick my neighborhood based on other people’s advice or based on where my friends live. Choose a place according to your definition of home, not others’.
If money and rent are an issue, think about the cost of your mental health. Moving into a new city or a new part of town that doesn’t vibe with your definition of home will constantly stress you out. There’s often compromises to be made to live in the neighborhood you feel comfortable in.
For example, I love shopping. However, the second I decided to move to an apartment closer to downtown, I reduced my shopping budget significantly because living in this apartment made me much happier than wearing fancy clothes. I cannot stress enough that your living situation has an impact on your well-being and mental health. Living in poor conditions to save few hundred bucks a year isn’t worth your unhappiness.
Find your routine
When I was young, I use to hate having a routine because I wanted to escape my life, but now I appreciate the predictable planning. I love looking forward to planned events, especially the food-related ones. It helped a lot to meet my friend every Thursday for food. Eating a delicious meal with a friend brings me comfort. It also makes me feel more grounded because I’m building up and strengthening this friendship each week. I know that if I go back to Paris, I’ll miss this restaurant ritual a lot!
Most people enjoy having a routine, so they feel settled. Having a routine somewhere doesn’t necessarily means that the place will feel like home. However, if you familiarize yourself in an environment and plan things with friends, you’re more likely to enjoy looking forward to things related to this town (restaurants, breweries, dancing bars, sporting events, games, museums, galleries, language exchange events, volunteering, hiking…). This brings me to my next point: discover and conquer your new town!
Visit like you’re on vacation
There’s a lot going on logistically about moving out, and the natural instinct is to set your landmarks at your new place. You know, the point of moving to a new place is to immerse yourself with it. Where is the nearest grocery store? Where can I sit for a morning coffee or breakfast before work? Besides visiting the bare necessities, try to vibe with the touristic spots for a change.
It may sound cliché but when I moved to Montreal, I kept hiking the Mont Royal. It’s a beautiful hill in the middle of downtown. You can find lots of joggers, dog walkers and bikers. It’s fun because at the top, you have a gorgeous view of the city. I didn’t want to be one of those locals that never visited their own city. When I was in Paris, I barely climbed the Eiffel Tower. It always felt like an option, so I treated it like one. In the end, I didn’t engage much with my town as I should have. It’s only after I moved out that I came back as a tourist and saw all the monuments through fresher eyes.
Visiting your new town is important because you’ll get to know the different neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own identity and you’re more likely to find your tribe if you’ve explored and got yourself familiar with the different areas.
The natural flow of friendships
Settling in a new town is complicated. Even if you find the right place in the right neighborhood, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will miss your old friends less.
Whenever you build a friendship, you have to spend time and energy to maintain it. We only have a limited amount of attention to give. Collecting more and more friends in different towns may decrease the quality of your overall friendships. Over time, friends may become acquaintances and vice versa. Let people flow in and out. Sometimes, there’s no reason why you lose touch, but it’s also healthy to release the old acquaintances.
If you lose old friends, it didn’t mean the friendship was bad. On the contrary, it was fun times but it’s not the same anymore. So, let some of them go and recreate new memories with new friends. Life is full of mystery. Making room for new people may bring you pleasant surprises!
If you’re successful at keeping in touch with your all of your old friends AND make new friends, that’s perfect too! Friendships and relationships are tested with the distance. True friends will stick around and friends that leave you needed to leave.
The message here is to not feel guilty about releasing old acquaintances. Don’t feel forced or pressured to make it perfect. Paths may split and they may or may not come back. It’s the natural flow of friendships and you can’t control everything.
In conclusion, many people leave their home, family and friends to seek a better life or career advancement. We know it’s the right move, but we can’t help feeling like we’re missing home. Missing home affects everyone differently but in the end, it’s a matter of keeping a positive mindset. Finding a new place is complicated enough so try to pick a town or a neighborhood that fits your personality. Visit new places and conquer the town like it’s your home. Feel settled in a (mini) routine and get excited about the novelty like a vacation. There’s no better feeling than being safe and supported by loved ones. Making new friends is important because it can shape your experience whether you enjoy going out a lot or not. Being around other people can either make you feel loved or lonely. Choose your new friends wisely, let new people come in, make room for the fresh start and don’t forget to keep in touch with your old peeps. They’re the ones who made you who you are today…