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How to Get Over Feeling Homesick on Your Gap Year

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Vicky Philpott

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Written by: Helen Winter

Does Bear Grylls Get Homesick?

The experiences, cultures and learning curves you’ll enjoy while travelling are more than enough to put a spot of backpacking on anyone’s bucket list. However, with most things, there are times where it gets tough, and you might find yourself in a situation where you’ve had enough, and then the dreaded symptoms of homesickness arise.
Missing home is normal. Nothing pushes you out of your comfort zone more than travelling, but that’s no reason to raise the white flag and get on the next plane home or wish your gap year over.  Here are a few tips on how to cope with the usual grinds when travelling to stop homesickness from ruining your adventure.

You’re missing home

You may not realise how much you miss your friends and family until you’ve actually flown the nest. Fortunately, thanks to technology, you can now have your family in your hostel with you whenever you’re feeling down. Skype, FaceTime and Facebook Call are all free and easily accessible using your phone, tablet, computer, or anything that can access the internet.
Tired while travelling
Even in the more rural areas, you’ll find that most restaurants and cafes offer WiFi, and if it’s not advertised, don’t be afraid to ask. Webcams help make calls more personal and being able to actually see your friends and family will reassure you that everyone back home is surviving just fine without you.
Another great idea is to get your friends and families to fly out and meet you at certain points of your trips, this way they get to discover a new place and you get some familiarity restored.

You’re worried you’ve made a big mistake

Travelling is never a mistake. I may be a bit biased here, but as stressful as travelling can be, all you can do is gain from it. If you’ve managed to get to the point where you’ve saved enough money to get on the flight, then this definitely was something you were ready to do, even if you imagined it a bit differently.
You’ll always like some places more than others, and sometimes it might take a while to find that one place you just fall in love with. Most people back home will be saying they wish they had gone travelling, or are scraping pennies together to go. So move your regrets aside and just see every good and bad experience as a learning opportunity.

You’ve fallen out with your travel buddy

Close quarters and stressful schedules can put a strain on you and your backpacker friend’s relationship. If you’ve reached a point where you’re snapping at each other and feel like you’re being held together by a thread, then there’s no bad thing in having a few days to yourself. Once you’ve managed to cool off and enjoyed some quality ‘me’ time you’ll soon come to realise why you wanted to do this together in the first place. And remember, nothing calls a truce quite like bungee jumping in New Zealand or kayaking in Fiji.
Falling out with friends while travelling

You’re aching, exhausted and just want to go home

Being ill, tired or in pain can really suck the fun out of the travelling dream – I mean you don’t see that in the movies – but this is no reason to give up, or let it ruin your experience. The key to resolve this is to just take a break and relax.
A lot of things seem better on paper than in real life, so don’t worry about taking a detour from your over-ambitious itinerary and finding a beach and just giving yourself a week off. There’s no point checking things off your bucket list if you’re not enjoying them.

You’ve lost your money

Even though you swear you put it in your back pocket, you may sometimes find you’ve left your credit card in a shop, or you’ve been pickpocketed and your last bit of cash for the weekend is gone. Things like this happen whether you’re at home or on holiday, so it really shouldn’t put you off travelling.
Don’t lose faith in your travels. Of course, you can throw yourself a 10-minute pity party, it’s only natural, and once you’ve got that out of your system, you can work out what your next move is. The best thing to do is head to the nearest bank – or phone yours – and they should be able to help you out with cancelling your card and getting a new one to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, give your mum the inevitable ‘would you be able to wire me some money’ phone call. Don’t feel guilt, she probably knew it was coming.

You’ve gotten on the wrong bus and now you’re lost

Getting lost is part of the adventure, but that doesn’t mean it’s always fun, especially when it’s late and you’ve got the equivalent weight of a grown man on your back.
Firstly, don’t panic and see it as a sign that backpacking isn’t for you. Everybody gets lost, even in their home towns, so don’t take it to heart. When you find yourself in this situation, don’t be afraid to ask around, you’d be surprised by how helpful most locals can be and they’ll soon have you back on the right path in no time – you might even find it funny in a few days… or weeks.

Use your adventures to feel connected to home

If Skype isn’t accessible then there are other ways to feel connected to your loved ones back home. Picking out souvenirs that they’ll love, sending a postcard or taking a funny photo of something only they’ll understand, will help you feel more in touch. They’ll appreciate the effort as well – because they’ll be missing you too. It’s a fun way of communicating as well as letting them know you’re having fun, and rubbing it in their face a bit – it’s only fair after doing all that overtime.

You’re missing home cooked meals

In some places you might not be too fond of the local cuisines and missing familiar food can be a slippery slope to feeling homesick. Food is a huge part of culture, and even though you’re craving a Yorkshire pudding and some gravy, it should be embraced. Try something you wouldn’t normally eat, you might be surprised to find that this is your favourite dish, or find a restaurant that serves something different just to change it up a bit. Plus, the next time you’ll be sitting down for a roast, you’ll have the best stories.

You’re feeling lonely

Going travelling by yourself can be daunting and sometimes it can get lonely, but you’d be surprised by how many backpackers are in the same situation. Although you may feel shy and your confidence knocked when you left your comfort zone, it pays to put on a brave face and make the effort to introduce yourself to new people.
Common Room
Go hang out in the hostel common room, or check the notice boards to see if any social events like a pub crawl or sports tournaments are going on – these are great opportunities to get the ball rolling, and you could get some Dutch courage to help you out.
If you don’t have these options then check out the local bars and if you see some people who look like travellers or are of similar age, then pull up a chair and introduce yourself. It’s not as scary as you think.

Change your focus

Even if you can’t get over the homesickness hump then a good idea is to distract yourself. Try volunteering at a local school or animal conservation centre; this will keep you more than busy. Or why not try honing a new skill like surfing or abseiling, or maybe try to learn the local lingo, this will get you more settled, and will come in handy.
Whatever happens on your gap year, don’t let it make you lose sight of why you set off in the first place. This is the adventure of a lifetime and something – the good and the bad – you’ll never forget.

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