This post was contributed by Tyler Burgese
The traveling blues are real, and they are a force to be reckoned with. Nobody warns you about this, so when you suddenly forget who you are, it can seriously hold you back from enjoying the trip that you’ve worked so hard for.
We all know that embarking on new adventures gives us a chance to step outside of our comfort zones and explore unseen parts of ourselves, but this can also be extremely disorienting. Your sense of self can so easily get lost in transit, and people somehow forget to mention this in their Instagram captions. Now, this is nobody’s fault. Tough people get homesick, too. We just become so attached to what we know, that when stripped of the familiarity of daily routines and the places we call home, it can feel like something is missing.
You could pack up your entire bedroom in a suitcase, but carrying all that $h!t around would get real old… real fast. And you’re going to need a functioning back for the years ahead. My suggestions, instead, revolve around the five senses, because I am a firm believer that you already have everything you need.
Sometimes, we just need to find new ways to use what we have.
Perhaps the hardest part about setting out on your own is not regularly seeing the familiar faces and places that once constructed your world. So, you’re going to want to make sure that visual reminders of who and what you love are present in your everyday routine.
The simplest way to do this is to pick two of your most meaningful photographs and set them as your home & lock screens on your phone. It could be anything from a family photo to a landscape shot of your favorite park to a glamour shot of your dog. Or even a bag of Cheetos (hey, food is comforting). Whatever makes you feel not so far away from what you hold dear.
If you want to get cute with it, printed Polaroids or wallet-size photos are great for keeping in a clear phone case or on the inside cover of your journal. These visual reminders will make sure you don’t lose sight of where you came from and are never left without a reason to smile.
Smell is one of the most powerful senses when it comes to evoking memories. Think about it. I’m willing to bet that you can call to mind the smell of your elementary school library (sometimes for better or for worse). Or your childhood best friend’s house. If there is a certain scent that reminds you of home, whether it is the fresh air of a forest or a homemade pie in the oven, you are going to crave that comfort when you find yourself miles away.
Find a candle scent that best matches the scent you are trying to recreate. Most candle shops offer their scents in a variety of styles, so I would recommend opting for a small car freshener or room spray because they are the cheapest and most portable. That way, you can use them to give your backpack, suitcase, or even a laundry bag a breath of fresh comfort.
There are so many different ways to get a taste of home while you are traveling. You could, of course, stock up on some of your favorite snacks and sweets before you leave, but they won’t last forever. (Sidenote- have you ever stumbled upon the “American” section in an international grocery store? Lots of mustard. I guess that’s cool if that’s what you’re into)
Call a loved one and ask for some of the recipes that defined your childhood. Recreating those dishes on the road, whether with a host family or new friends at a hostel, can be a great, hands-on way to find comfort and make lasting memories.
And, of course, if you don’t have access to a kitchen, there is absolutely no shame in finding a chain restaurant and ordering an old favorite. Let me tell you, Pizza Hut in the U.K. is on ANOTHER LEVEL!
One of my favorite things to do on a long trip is to pack some of my favorite tea bags in my suitcase. They don’t take up much space, and whenever I feel distant or lost, I can brew a warm cup of comfort in an instant. *sips tea*
When I moved away from home for the first time, I made my best friend a playlist of all the songs we used to blast in my car. This was intended as a gift for her so it would feel like I wasn’t so far away, but I didn’t even consider how this would do the same for me.
My favorite quality of music is its ability to so completely capture moments and feelings. *cues “My Heart Will Go On” by Céline Dion*
Whenever you hear a song, you are immediately flooded with every memory it has created, from listening to it for the first time at a party to crying to it after your first real heartbreak. These memories are foundational to who you are and will be a great reminder of that.
Another tip specific to traveling in countries where you don’t speak the language is to have an arsenal of podcasts or playlists downloaded on your phone (because we all know about that airplane mode life). Words cannot express how calming it can be to listen to a conversation in your native tongue when all of your surroundings sound like absolute nonsense, even if it’s a pretty language.
In my opinion, it is most important to feel at home while traveling – not just in physical sensations, but also in your mind and body. At the end of the day, your only true “home” in life is you: your body, your presence, your being. So, make sure that you always feel your best! Pack only your favorite outfits that make you feel like a superstar. Exchange bracelets with loved ones so you can wear them around your wrist wherever you go. *cues flashback to wearing jelly bracelets in middle school*
And hopefully, this one goes without saying, but take care of yourself! Nothing can make a trip feel like a grand ol’ waste of money like being too sick/tired/sad to enjoy it. And trust me, I want to live it up when I travel just as much as the next guy, but it’s all about striking the right balance between debauchery and recovery. You don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn every morning. You also don’t have to stay out until 4 am every night.
Taking this necessary time to devote to self-care will make your travels so much more fulfilling and restorative. Try to think of it as coming back to yourself.
And when all else fails, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remember that home is a feeling, not a place.
What are you favorite homesickness remedies?
Tyler Burgese is 20 years old and lives in Philadelphia where he manages a vegan restaurant, designs greeting cards, and sits on park benches. Travel pet-peeve: When TSA confiscates his peanut butter.
If you’d like to contribute, submit your post idea to firstname.lastname@example.org