Ten weeks in to this adventure, I feel that I should confess to you all my travelling fault: homesickness. As confused and disappointed as my nine-year old self would have been by this phenomena, there have been countless times during this trip when I’ve just wanted to feel my bedroom carpet between my toes, watch a detective drama on BBC with my dearest mother or turn up on a friend’s doorstep at 11pm with a crisis and a McFlurry. So to my former Brownie self, I’m sorry to let the side down but even I have been struck by the horrors of homesickness. Never has it meant that I’ve thought as far as cutting the trip sort or moping around for hours thinking solely of home but every now and then I’m hit with a question or two: “what’s everyone doing at home?”, “what would I be doing at home?”, “would I be having more fun at home?” I am so incredibly thankful that the friends I have made out here are sympathetic and level-headed enough to scoop me out of my own misery, brush me down and send me back to having the time of my life.
My optimistic take on the occasional bout of homesickness is that it shows just what a wonderful life I have at home. When I’m pining for the streets of London or Oxford or Lacock, I’m thankful that I live in such a beautiful country. When I’m missing my friends or my family, I’m reminded of what beautiful people I’m surrounded by in this life. When I’m thinking about my ordinary daily routines and what I would have been doing, I’m excited that I’ve got all that life to return to. So really I haven’t seen my homesick tendencies as a sign of a travelling weakness but more as a sign that I can thoroughly enjoy my adventures whether abroad or in England. I’m learning that sometimes in life you just feel sad and I’d be feeling the exact same emotions wherever I was on the globe, so getting too caught up in feeling homesick is just a waste of an adventure.
But sometimes the homesickness can hit real bad and a simple mental note of “I’m sad because I’m sad, not because I’m here” isn’t enough to brighten the mood. In such a situation, I’ve developed some techniques of how to bounce back. After all, the trick to being a happy person is (as I like to call it) your bounce-back-ability. So here are my tips to cheer up:
1. Keep busy. A technique I have sworn by since my first Rainbow sleepover as a seven year old; if you’re feeling down, distract yourself. It might mean that you have to be extra enthusiastic for mundane tasks like breakfast or (for me) carrying buckets of cement, but if you can devote your entire energy to enjoying the here and now then the mind tends to stop wandering back to home and the life you’ve left behind. Get involved with the world around you to stop the homesickness.
2. Talk about it. Chances are that the people around you have also felt homesick at some point in their life and no doubt they will have some expert advice on how to steer clear of the homesick blues. An important life lesson that I’ve learnt this week is that sometimes you need a hand to get you out of a hole (both literally and metaphorically), so just let those around you know that you need a little help and no doubt you’ll be back where you should be in no time at all.
3. Let it out. As many of my friends and family well know, I am a crier. And, true to my emotional morals, I believe that a good cry can sort a lot of problems. If all the homesick feelings are bubbling up inside you then it might just be best to let it out. Grab a friend, grab some tissues and just let the feelings out.
4. Write what you miss. At times I’ve found myself obsessing over what I would be doing if I was at home. So rather than letting it all play on my mind throughout the day, I’ve just written myself a to do list for when I get home. It could be anything as small as “bake a cake” or “go for a late night Mcflurry” to “watch the sunrise from a White Horse”. Somehow writing the things down stops me begrudging the fact that I can’t do them then and there. Then of course there’s the shopping list for when I get home with cheese and pork pies and smarties on it but I suppose that’s more to do with my snack addictions than homesickness.
5. Notice the little things about where you are. In my opinion, the counter product to feeling homesick is revelling in the wonders of your travelling life. Whether it be how the sunrises bathe the entire camp in a beautiful morning glow or the landscapes of rice fields and scattered trees disappearing far off into the distance, travelling is magnificent.
But I haven’t let the homesickness stop me have the most random adventures. On Thursday I was digging myself into a 2.5m hole, having to jump down into it each time to dig away at the ground beneath my feet, reaching up a hand to be dragged out when I was tired. On Friday I was at a Cambodian harvest party, trying fried cricket for the first time (the review: nice flavour but a very unsettling texture). On Saturday I was holding a tarantula because it seemed like a completely logical way to entertain ourselves whilst taking a break from watering trees. On Sunday I was cycling along the roads of rural Cambodia, trying not to get hit by motorbikes, attacked by dogs or fall off the sandy road. On Monday I was harvesting cashew nuts, searching the ground for the fallen fruit because (as everyone of course knows) cashew nuts grow as part of a fruit on trees. Yes, even I miss my bed and all that awaits me at home sometimes. But it’s not as if I’m ever going to let the homesickness hold me back. Someday I’ll be sat looking back on my life and I’ll remember all the random things I’ve done in life and all the fun I had doing them. I won’t remember the little black cloud of sadness that found me even when I was in the rainforests of Borneo or in the depths of rural Cambodia. For me, positivity is a choice and I have chosen to smile my way through this gap year. In fact, I’ve chosen to smile my way through this life.
I’ll keep you posted,