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Top Tips to Avoid Homesickness for First-Time Travellers

Written by: Olivia Wakamoto

We all know that sinking feeling that always seems to creep into our holidays and gap years. You know, the one where you suddenly miss your own bed, wish your best friend was actually there with you, and (in extreme cases) even miss your local Starbucks?
Homesickness can really derail a trip. I don’t miss Starbucks yet, but after a few weeks interning in London over my summer break, I’m starting to miss my home in California. Thankfully, I planned for this very occasion! Here are my best tips on preventing homesickness when travelling.

1. Letters

There’s something so much more personal about receiving a letter, rather than a Facebook message or email… maybe because the only emails I ever receive are from Forever 21 and my professors.
In any case, my mom knows best (as usual), and figured that I’d probably miss home while I’m abroad. Before I left, she packed me a series of letters to open throughout the course of my trip. Whenever I start missing my family, or wish that they could be here to experience London with me, I can open one of my letters to hear from them. The letters don’t take up a lot of space (unlike my family), so they were easy to bring along, and have massively helped in minimizing my homesickness.
If you’re not into snail mail (writing a letter does take time), try setting a time to call home or to video chat your friends and family once a week. Sometimes all you need is to hear from home.

2. Creating a routine

Home is home because it’s familiar, right? So if you’re finding yourself feeling out of place, try establishing just a few places to use as go-to’s to fill your regular routine. Have, for example, a spot for coffee each morning, a favorite library, and a specific place to meet your friends for dessert or drinks at the end of the day.
London, for the most part, is still unfamiliar to me. I try to spend my weekends exploring new places and sights, but the majority of my weekdays are taken up by either class or my internship. So on the weekdays, I’ve established a set of familiar spots to make London feel a little more like home. I’ve got a regular coffee shop, a favorite bench in the park, and a weekly grocery shopping trip at my local supermarket. During the week I’m not the most adventurous person ever, but that’s why I have the weekends!

3. Blogging

Aside from writing for gapyear.com, I’m also working on a series of personal blog posts while I’m abroad. Recording my adventures has made me more acutely aware of the differences between British and American cultures. British sayings like, “Are you okay?” instead of “How are you?” have most definitely produced awkward moments (mostly me staring back, wondering if, for some reason, I don’t look okay) that have played a major role in expanding my view of communication around the world.
Through putting the two countries side by side, I’m able to remember some of the things I love most about home, while still also learning to enjoy and value all things British. Of course, journaling or even keeping lists on your phone of your experiences works just as well, if you aren’t ready to release your thoughts into the vortex of the Internet.

4. Take pictures

In attempts to make my memories last, I’ve been taking pictures of everything I’ve done, seen, and eaten in London. Many of them end up on Instagram and Facebook, but some of them are taken solely for the purpose of sending to family and friends to play on inside jokes or just to let them know I saw something that reminded me of them. Nothing says “I miss you” like the endless photos of my lunches at Borough Market that I send to my roommates back at home. A Snapchat a day keeps the homesickness away!

5. Looking at my calendar

Time flies when you’re having fun, so sometimes it’s helpful to have a calendar or planner to help you visualize how much or how little time you have left. Summers are usually the perfect opportunity to deny the existence of all deadlines and appointments, but this year I have to keep track of due dates for my classes and–more importantly–try not to miss my flight back to LA.
Earlier this week, I was planning a trip to afternoon tea with my flatmates (how British, I know!), and as I looked at my remaining amounts of days and weekends in London, I realized that I had to start prioritizing the last of my London bucket list, and make time to see everything I intended to. In addition to tracking my activities, regularly looking at my planner has made me more aware of my limited time left in London, which encourages me to stop wallowing in missing home, and get out to enjoy London while I can!

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