Homesickness has hit me like a Thai teacher’s hand to the back of a rowdy student’s head – swiftly, consistently, and without reason. Each time my wanderlust wins the battle between stay and go, ten weeks later my homeland fights back with a vengeance.
I recognize it almost instantly, often when my mood is sour about something silly and unrelated, and I find myself saying I hate China, or Thailand, or Los Angeles or Spain, for some unworthy reason. It always attacks somewhere between the two-and-a-half to three-month anniversary of my absence, just when the newness of a place is beginning to wear off, a routine taking its place.
Yet it strikes me as odd that, for me, homesickness and wanting to go home don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Yes, in these moments I dream of sitting down for a face-to-face conversation with the ones I love most and curling up with my always-understanding pooch and squeezing him until all of these feelings pass, but I know I don’t actually want to return.
Things won’t be different if I return now or eight months from now, and it consoles me to know that. My parents will continue to enjoy their first year as empty nesters. My siblings and friends will remain busy finding their own ways in life. Everybody else will go about their daily lives as usual. And I know when I do go back, we’ll all pick up where we left off, just like we do every other time.
I know an impulse decision would leave me feeling worse in the end. If I flew home tomorrow, I’d be angry at myself as soon as I boarded the plane. I’d be mad that I’m ruining my chances of earning a teaching assistantship at CSU based on my one-year of experience teaching at the university level. I’d be disappointed that I gave up a paid, two-month holiday and my plans to go to India. And I’d be broke, wishing I’d stayed long enough to stash the savings I’m planning to return with at the end of my contract.
So I know the obvious answer is the wrong one. Instead, I just need to get my hands on a cure. A combined concoction of talking about it, writing, and Starbucks usually does the trick.
At about this time last year, I was writing similar words for Bella Vita. If you read this essay, it won’t surprise you that I’m now writing from the comfort of my cozy Starbucks chair, my red cup in hand and a savory muffin on a plate in front of me. I even managed to find possibly the only Starbucks in Guangzhou that has all the holiday favorites (including white chocolate, which most stores here don’t carry) and has been playing Christmas tunes all morning. I already feel better.
As I stare out the window at the rest of the city waking up to the dreary greyness of the day, I get lost in pleasant thoughts of home, making each delicious sip last. I know when my brew is gone I’ll still be in China, but I also know that if this cup (and telling hundreds of you about my woes) doesn’t completely cure me, I can always have another.
What do you do to overcome homesickness?
- Six Ways to Overcome Homesickness (expatinfodesk.com)
- Homesickness Isn’t Really About ‘Home’ (edition.cnn.com)
- Country Roads Take Me Home (nearandfar.wordpress.com)