Homesickness

“As one who travels and lives far from home, I thought you might have some advice about my situation. I am about to go away to a college which is a 9 to 10 hour drive from home. Although I am not the type to be homesick, I find that I’m uneasy about the concept of only coming home for major holidays. Obviously, you are used to living quite far from home, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the whole thing.”

I know what you mean. Going away is a wonderful adventure but sometimes it can shake us up, to the point where we just want SOMETHING, ANYTHING that’s familiar! I’ve never really thought of myself as being a homesick person either, but a few years ago when I was in London, I was offered the opportunity to go to New York with my cousin — but I bowed out because I missed my boyfriend & our house. I kicked myself for that later. It’s often the way — you miss your home, but then about an hour after you walk in the front door, you wish you were elsewhere.

Last night I went to a new yoga class — my first in Melbourne. It was fantastic, a big airy space, the instructor had a beautiful voice (very important), & the class was full of smiling, healthy-looking women. I really enjoyed myself & will definitely go back for more. (For those of you who are interested, I went to Breathe on Little Collins Street.)

It occurred to me though, as I was walking home, that moving to a new city is a major undertaking. It’s not just the whole finding a place to live, opening accounts with phone/power/internet companies, organising some kind of cellphone, buying furniture etc. stuff that really gets you — it’s the small comforts which you no longer have. Like a hairdresser who makes you feel glamorous, a yoga class which relaxes & restores you, a place where you can get a decent manicure for a good price. Or a friend who is happy to come over anytime, who will take you out for a midnight feast at a great restaurant. Or a nearby park with good trees to climb & a set of swings which are mostly unoccupied.

These things take time to accumulate, but I think routine is a pretty good way to settle into a city. Go for a run every second morning, go to the movies every Tuesday, eat Thai food on Wednesdays, read the Sunday papers, get a massage every Friday — whatever it takes. You can always break the routine if you get bored of it, but it’s a good starting point.

There was a period where I was living in Auckland & really didn’t want to be there. My boyfriend & my best friends lived in Wellington, the city where I grew up, 600km away, & I spent a lot of time wishing I was there with them — or flying there for the weekend. I spent most nights on the telephone talking to these faraway people, considering moving home again, thinking about what my life would possibly be like in Wellington. One day I came to the realisation that as long as I was doing this, I was going to be miserable — I wasn’t there, I didn’t really want to move home again & I had to stop this vicarious social life. It was just making me feel sad & lonely. I broke up with my boyfriend, I stopped my obsessive contact with friends in Wellington & I decided to live in the moment & enjoy myself. It worked incredibly well.

I guess what I am trying to say is that yes, you will miss people & want to speak to them a lot. Just try to keep your hair on. If your contact with them is too close, you’ll feel like you are missing out & the urge to go home will be enormous. Obviously, keep in touch, but you need to live your life too — a new life, yours alone, to make into whatever you want.

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