Living the expat life – dream or nightmare? Thoughts about homesickness.

A lot of people ask me how I deal with homesickness. Well, that’s not an easy topic.

I remember back then when we had moved from Europe to Seattle, I was feeling terribly depressed for some time. I had given up a good job for a prestigious cosmetics company to follow my husband, I had left friends and family behind, and all of a sudden I got this terrible feeling of emptiness. Without my job, I had no idea what to talk about anymore, for years I hadn’t persued any hobbies, and while watching my husband leaving for work every morning and the day stretching out ahead of me, I feared I had done everything wrong.

I missed my colleagues’ company, my childhood friend  that had always, always been my rock, my family and our dog, the economy had hit rockbottom and I had no idea what to do. And then I remember this sunny afternoon on Bainbridge Island, a small island just a short ferry ride from Seattle. There I was sitting in the sun under blooming cherry trees feeling lonely and miserable. And then it hit me: Everything I had wished for, had come true. I had found the love of my life, I had got married, and by quitting my job I finally had all this time that I always had longed for. So why couldn’t I be happy? I had turned my world upside down, I had this enormous chance to re-model my whole life – what right did I have to be miserable? And I realized, the world wouldn’t change for me, I had to change my view of the world!

And I started some mindwork. Whenever I felt sadness or anger or annoyance or frustration creeping up on me, I took a step back and changed my perspective. Yes, my friends were out of reach, but real friends are always with you, no matter how many miles might lie between you. Yes, I didn’t have a fancy job anymore, but hadn’t my former fancy job left me with nothing but stress and pressure? Finally, I had the opportunity to find out what made me ME. And in this process, I found out that we do not change who we are. I still like to do the same things that I liked to do when I was little. I like to paint, I like to write, I like to watch the clouds drift along and meanwhile munch away on an ice-cream.

But still, of course, there were days when I felt homesick. There still are. So I sat down and thought about homesickness. And I came to the conclusion, that what we feel as being homesick is really more a longing for old times. I sometimes miss places of my childhood, but when I go there, nothing is as I remember it. And that is because the people are not there, circumstances have changed. Going back to our old holiday cottage doesn’t work, because my brother doesn’t sit on the terrace working on some model airplane, my mum is not in the kitchen preparing a scrumptious cake, and my dad is not cutting the bushes. When I visit my hometown, I hardly can resist the urge to go to my favourite restaurant. But when I go there, and the owner is not there, and I don’t meet my old friends, it is not the same and it leaves me feeling empty and sad. So basically, we sometimes feel we want to go back to the old places when really we want to go back in time and re-live our memories.

Having realized that, homesickness isn’t that vicious anymore. Yes, it sometimes squeezes my heart, but then I think how lucky I am to have those things to remember! And after all, we carry our friends and families and memories all in our hearts anyway, so it doesn’t REALLY matter where we live, right?

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One thought on “Living the expat life – dream or nightmare? Thoughts about homesickness.

  1. Pingback: Home is where the heart is | Expatially Mexico

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