This is part 2 of my traveling for work series. Read part 1 here.
When I took this job recruiting students, I was afraid that I would be homesick constantly. After all, if I lived in Middle Earth, I would definitely be a hobbit (and the kind who keeps their pantry stocked with delicious tidbits, and who don’t go on crazy adventures outside the Shire). I was surprised to find that since I was so busy on my trips, homesickness was more rare than I thought it would be. During the day, I was busy with meeting with prospective students, recruiting at grad fairs, or getting coffee with alumni. In the evening, though, it was just me in my hotel room. A lot of the time, this was exactly what I needed: a quiet and calming space, with everything in its place, where I could take a break from other people and do things I enjoyed, like read, or color (yup, I’m on the adult coloring book bandwagon). I’m definitely an introvert, so I need that time to recharge.
But when the homesickness did hit, I felt so, so alone. It usually happened when I was extra tired, and when I felt like my hotel wasn’t a refuge anymore, but somewhere I was trapped.
I dealt with homesickness in two ways: by trying to prevent it, and by finding ways to self-soothe when I was in the thick of that deep longing and sadness.
Keeping Homesickness at Bay!
- Bring a small totem (or two) that brings you joy, and (here’s the key) put it somewhere you will see it. I brought an Anglican rosary and a small cloth doll my niece gave me for Christmas one year. They were both things that were grounding to touch, and that made me feel more calm and at ease, whether I was holding them or just glancing at them from across the room.
- If you’re traveling for work and get to choose your accommodations, try to choose hotels where you’ll be comfortable, and where you’ll know what to expect. I really appreciated knowing that if I stuck with a certain hotel, the decor would be serene, there’d be a couch to sit on, and the bed would be heavenly.
- Get creative with staying connected to loved ones. P and I talked over the phone every evening, but we would also send each other stickers through Facebook Messenger throughout the day (my favorites). This was wonderful, because we didn’t always have something to say to each other, but we wanted to let each other know that we were thinking about each other.
- Pack clothes that make you feel cozy and a little indulgent. I’m talking your favorite pajama pants, and a soft sweatshirt. Wear things that make you happy, and that feel like a hug.
- Make a “Feel Better” list. I have one that I keep in my planner, where I’ve written down songs, TV shows, books (bring digital copies!), blogs, and little things that I find comforting, like wrapping myself in a warm blanket, or writing about how I’m doing. (This video always cheers me up, and this one helps me to feel calm and connected to my senses).
And When You DO Feel Homesick…
- Do something from the Feel Better list. Even if you’re feeling sluggish about it, pick one and go for it. It won’t fix everything, but doing something from the list is a tangible way to show yourself love and gentleness.
- Call someone who loves you! It’s taken me a while to get comfortable calling people, but it really does make a difference hearing someone’s voice. If you feel weird just calling, send a text first to set a good time. Make sure to tell the person that you need to talk to them because you need their support. That way, they’ll know that it’s important. When we could, P and I did video calls, too – I almost cried once, because I was so happy to see him and our bunnies! And when we ran out of things to talk about, sometimes we’d just stay on the line, P doing homework, and me catching up on emails.
- Try to manage your self-talk. I know that when I’m really, deeply homesick, I slip into feeling unloved and unlovable, and I get really critical of myself. I try to remember that I deserve kindness from myself, as well as grace and forgiveness.
- Enter a fictional world that you love. For me, this meant reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (I could relate to Cath’s anxiety), or watching Star Trek: The Next Generation (I really enjoy a show with a satisfying ending to every episode, and I love this world!). Fictional people don’t have the same effect as real people, but they sure are wonderful anyway.
- Use an app like BoosterBuddy. I didn’t come across this app until after I was done traveling, but I love it. BoosterBuddy has a cute way of motivating you to do three small self-care activities every day, and it has a library of different ways of coping with things like initiation and motivation, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. I’ve been using it when I get home from work, to help me decompress, and I also use it when I need to refocus, practice self-kindness, or do a breathing exercise.
Let me know if you have other ideas! I’d love to have more tools for dealing with these kinds of strong emotions, particularly when I’m away from everything that’s familiar.