Lesson #21: How to Cure Homesickness

by Rachel on September 7, 2010

Fact: when you’re chasing everything you’ve ever wanted, at some point, you’re going to have to leave home and the people and things you love dearly. And that sucks. Even though I’ve been known to PTFO of my hometown for weeks and months at a time since I started going to summer camp at age 10, I’m still not immune to feeling homesick.

And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only transplant who gets that feeling! So whether you just transferred to a new job that’s thousands of miles from home or you’re just beginning your first semester of college (or your last — no judgments!), here are some of my best cures for homesickness.

1. Make your new city your city. Don’t think of this as a temporary situation; think of yourself as here for the long haul. And jump right in! You’re stuck here, so you might as well get to know your new surroundings. Chances are, you’ll fall in love with so many things about your new place, but you can’t fall in love with those things if you’re too sad to go out exploring. When your friends come to visit, or even just when you call home, you want to be able to share the things that make your new city unique. Give yourself a few months to become a bona fide tour guide of your new surroundings.

2. Plan hangouts around new activities. When you do start to make friends, plan your meet-ups around things you haven’t done before. Just checked into your dorm at NYU? Sweet — invite your new friends to go for a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge this weekend. Want to catch up with the one person you know in town? Don’t get Starbucks! Grab brunch at the best local place in town.

3. Say yes to everything. You have to at least try to get acquainted and one of the best ways to try is to say yes to everything, If something sounds mildly interesting, do it (even if you have to do it alone). If someone asks you to come to an event, go (even if you don’t think it’s your thing). Making a new place your own takes a lot of trial and error, and when an opportunity is presented to you, see it as a chance to answer that question.

4. Use the web to get inspired. Seriously, Groupon is my favorite thing in the world right now — it lets me know what I want to be doing and it allows me to do it at a discount. I also used Twitter to find Houston bloggers, foodies, health and fitness people, and social media geeks. I put them in a list called “Houston To Do” so I can just check that feed and see what is going on in my own ‘hood. It’s nice to feel like part of the community and have a clue as to what people like me are out doing.

5. Don’t decorate every free space with pictures of home. Yes, you want to think about the people most important to you, but constantly starting at pictures of the most fun days you had with your friends while you were home this summer is going to make you feel sad. Keep the pictures to a minimum — at least until you can balance them out with pictures of all the good times you’re having with your new friends.

6. Be physical. Being in motion can really help. And I’m not talking about going to the gym…I’m talking about walking to two different grocery stores to get ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and then coming home and mixing them without an electric mixer. I’m talking about finding the Home Depot and then painting your new room all by yourself. I’m talking about walking your dog as much as you can. Just being physical can really help clear your head and you might surprise yourself with the cool things you produce and experience while you’re at it.

7. Be proud of where you come from. Whether it’s finding a bar to watch your alma mater’s football game or saying, “Yes, motherf*cker, I have an accent,” it’s OK to be proud of where you’re from. It’s a part of who you are.

8. But don’t forget the worst parts of being at home. Yes, it’s easy to get all, “Life would be better if I were at home,” but come on…that’s not true. Yes, Houston’s traffic is awful. So, too, was the prospect of having sex while living at home. It’s tempting, but don’t idealize everything about home, Miss Grass Is Always Greener.

9. Don’t forget why you’re here. Whether you’re pursuing a degree at your dream college or just following your inexplicable desire to leave the town where you grew up, remember all the reasons you made this decision. It was the right one. Even if it’s not where you ultimately end up, it was still the right decision.

It’s OK to be homesick. It happens to all of us, no matter how old we are or how much time we’ve spent away from home. I generally have one good cry per week here in Houston — I miss my family and just generally knowing where the hell I am any time I leave the house. But then I remind myself that I had a really good reason to leave home and that despite its sucky traffic, I’m in a city that’s pretty much my oyster. And then I wipe away the snot, get out some baking ingredients, and think of all the good things I came here to do.