Homesickness can unexpectedly hit you hard when you are away from home especially if you are staying for a longer period. I was away for a year and it was the first time living on my own. Holidays can make homesickness even harder to bear, so here are my tips. I did almost all these things myself and with Easter around the corner, this could help you or a loved one who has to spend the holiday away.
Create your own family away from home
I was lucky since I had longtime family friends living in the Netherlands very close to Essen, Germany. The friendship started when my sister became Yahoo chat friends with Monique in the Netherlands. My sister travelled to visit Monique. And Monique and her family visited us in South Africa. That was 15 years ago almost 17 years ago now. We stayed in touch through Christmas cards and eventually via Facebook. I got to spend my birthday, Christmas and New Years in the Netherlands. My Christmas break was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
Easter Sunday and St. Patricks Day are days I spent with my two close friends though. For Easter Sunday I hosted my friends at my place and we ate way too much. Lasagne, ciabatta, salad, breadsticks and dip, ice cream, banana pancakes, Lindt Easter eggs and cake. The cake was a German-styled cake baked in the shape of a rabbit that my friend bought. None of us liked it though. It was too dry. The meal was very non-traditional. In South Africa, I would have had pickled fish, a curry fish dish which is made with onions and vinegar. It’s served cold. I would have had hot cross buns too. To my shock and horror hot cross buns aren’t sold in Germany well at least I know I searched all over and didn’t find it. I didn’t have an oven in my apartment so I couldn’t bake hot cross buns from scratch. Making peace with the fact that you won’t always find things from home goes a long way. Changing your mindset will help you deal with missing your loved ones. Yes, I couldn’t keep my menu traditional but each of my friends brought along things to eat they are very kind. I didn’t have to slave away in the kitchen. My German Easter was unique as well and I will probably never have Lasagne and wine as an Easter Sunday meal ever again.
Start new traditions of your own
This brings me to the next point. Start your own traditions maybe you used to sing Christmas Carols as a family at Christmas Eve now you can do something else like get Glüwhein at a Christmas Market. You could watch old Christmas movies with your international friends. Instead of serving complicated meals come up with new menu items. Starting new traditions doesn’t mean you don’t value the old ones. You just really need to keep it simple stressing out trying to create the exact same holiday experiences abroad is just a waste of time. Relaxing should be part of the holidays after all.
I couldn’t find hot cross buns, Anastasia couldn’t find traditional Easter Russian cake so we tried something German. We got to try something new even though none of liked it. It doesn’t matter we tried it. Making something from scratch that you never made, alone without guidance can really suck if it flops it will add to your homesickness. I made pumpkin fritters for an international dinner hosted in Duisburg with my classmates. The texture of my fritters was way off base instead of being dense they came out fluffy. The pumpkin was too watery. I travelled through the bus with a pumpkin walked uphill to my apartment and the fritters weren’t even right. Luckily everyone loved them. I realized at that moment that I could’ve just made banana pancakes instead of searching for a pumpkin like I’m Cinderella or something . Trust me to choose simpler traditions and easier recipes or just buy readymade foods if you can find them. Your holiday is more about spending time with your new friends. You might go home and it might take a long time before you get to see them again so treasure the people and those moments.
Get off social media
Social media makes everyone’s life seem perfect. I’m guilty of posting my best pictures on Instagram and of posting links to newspaper articles on Facebook. I share funny stories sometimes. I tweet about travelling and political issues. I won’t post pictures of myself whilst I’m having food poisoning. During the holidays you will see endless photos of families having wonderful holidays. Your family will also post photos. You won’t see that you aunt burnt the cake or how your mom was arguing with your little brother to set the table. Nothing is ever as perfect as it appears on social media. So if you are feeling ultra homesick avoid scrolling through all the photos and updates.
Use social media
Social media is a blessing as well as a curse. You can Skype with your family and chat with them for a bit on Christmas. You get to make international calls for cheaper. Plus you face time really adds to communication. My brother is disabled and can’t talk but his face lit up when he saw mine via Skype he recognized my voice. It still makes me smile just writing about it. But, like I said before don’t scroll through photos whole time whilst eating ice cream and missing home.
Decorate your space
Before I left for Christmas I decorated a table in my room with Christmas things. I bought a few things: A tiny wax lamp, which looks like a Christmas tree. A candy cane Harbo bears, (Gummy bear sweets) I put these in a pretty jar which Anastasia gave me. A few Lana Del Rey CDs, a snowman Christmas ornament I bought at the Christmas market in Essen and candles.
My table in my room helped put me in the festive spirit. I was still completing assignments and my last paper was due on the 20th. My table helped me remember that my birthday and Christmas was coming. A simple thing like decorating your room or apartment can make a difference. I got to send pictures of my table to loved ones back home. I even inspired a friend to do the same. The things I bought were inexpensive. I used the candles and took the CDs, snowman and tree back home.
I decided to do the same thing for Easter. Making a few changes to my space made me feel happier. I felt like I was celebrating the holidays in my own way. This allowed me to focus on the positive parts of the holidays instead of just wallowing in my homesickness.
In South Africa, I couldn’t always afford to buy Lindt bunnies so I went and bought myself one in Germany. I bought all of Lana Del Reys CDs at Christmas, I love her voice. These things were really cheap and spoiling yourself a little is a good thing, say yes to retail therapy. I didn’t go overboard so I don’t regret my purchases. Have fun and do something nice for yourself which you couldn’t have done back home.
Sometimes it’s not possible to get your new friends together to spend the holidays with. They might all be flying back home, in that case, save up so that you can travel. A friend of mine also named Nicolette did a solo travelling trip during the Christmas break. I saw her posting selfies from Amsterdam and around Austria, smiling broadly. Having time to travel is a golden opportunity to plan a Christmas, Easter, New Year’s tour for one and have an amazing time with yourself.
My brother in law spent one Christmas alone. He ordered takeout, rented all the Lord of the Rings Films was able to keep them till the 27th of December and binge-watched his favourite films on Christmas Day. For him this was one of his best Christmases it depends on your personality whether or not you would like this. The Lord of the Rings is an epic Trilogy, in my opinion, it would make it hard for me to miss home. I’m not advocating that you climb into a cave and stay there whole holidays but, if staying in a few days is something you like doing why not. You can always do a re-holiday when all your friends return, hosting a “birthday” with cake and all the trimmings on another date instead of the date.
I honestly didn’t miss home that much, maybe it’s because I knew I was only staying away for a year. When I did feel homesick I would call my mom, sister, dad, boyfriend etc. and talk to them. This was my remedy sometimes you need to hear the voices of the people you love. Most of all I spoke to them about my experiences. I could hear their happiness over the phone, see it via Skype. My opportunity to study in Germany for a year, allowed me to learn about Germany and to broaden my academic knowledge. I also got to travel in Europe. Being there meant a part of each of my loved ones got to be there too in a way. And I chose to focus on that. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself time to miss your home, the food, the people, your favourite coffee shop or clothing stores. Give yourself moments to feel sad just never ever wallow in that sadness. Cap your sadness moments at 10 minutes a day maybe you need longer when your allotted time is up do something. Positive alternatives like making a call to a loved one, listening to music from home, going out with a new friend, or going for a walk will keep you busy and can be uplifting. And remember when you call a loved one don’t focus on talking about how homesick you are. Be brief say yes I miss you, I miss home but then move on. Your mindset will help you when you are missing home during the holidays, be grateful for the holidays you spent together in the past. Be happy that you get to spend your holidays now with new people. Look for a silver lining, some of my best holiday experiences were spent abroad, be open to the experiences.
I would love to hear from you any feedback is deeply appreciated. Thank you so much for reading.
Wishing you happy travels through the journey of life!
xxx Nikki xxx