Wednesday 4 March 2015

Thinking about being homesick: decided not to be homesick.

"Aunty Em was so good to me and I never appreciated it." 
Dorothy hits a low point outside the Emerald City.
I was browsing the internet this week, reading the budget food blog by A Girl Called Jack, and ended up on a website about frugal living and read this quote...

"I went back and read my blog. I saw a woman who lived in the sunshine and even if she wasn't smiling, painted a smile on her face and got on with it."

Now this was written by somebody who has crawled out of massive debt over several years of extremely frugal living and sacrifice…so basically not on a par with any hardship I've ever experienced. But the message still resonated with me. Looking back at my blog reminds me of the things I've done and the people I've met over the past couple of years, and the little moments I would forget otherwise. I've been so lucky to travel so much.

But leaving home isn't easy. Each new place comes with its new set of challenges: like living in a dead end town in the flattest part of Austria living with an elderly woman who has no sense of personal boundaries and stripped naked in front of me over breakfast one day to prepare for her weekly massage... (Not sure if these are highlights or lowlights). Or on a paradisiacal Caribbean island where mojitos were a $1 but bottled water is $1.50 and there is extremely limited access to any communication methods. There is always culture shock and you have to adjust to a new way of life that ignores principles you've always known (like, can you interrupt people when they're talking? How close you come to somebody before you start invading their personal space? Is it rude to hiss at a waiter to get their attention?). But even if you like and enjoy the new culture, I still end up missing home. 

Sometimes homesickness can be pretty small-scale and manageable and all you really want is a shredded pork bap from Pork Joint, but you can just eat some croquetas and life goes on. Sometimes it can be worse than that, last a few days and make you feel miserable. Often I really miss spending time with my friends and I feel lonely. Sometimes I miss my family. Sometimes I even inexplicably miss my cat. The worst thing is that homesickness stops you from enjoying and appreciating where you are and what you are being able to do. But then, even though I know I was homesick in Cuba, I still look back and think “God I miss Cuba”. I can’t help but just remember the good things. So I have to remind myself when I feel down that when I look back at Seville, I'll only remember the highlights, and I know there are loads to choose from.

There are always bad days. When I look back at Cuba I remember one day, after what felt like weeks of eating nothing but fried food, scary pink sausages and rice, my room-mate and I felt like our stomachs where full of lead and we were miserable and bored. We weren't really getting on with the woman who cooked and cleaned for us. We were hot. The air conditioning didn't work because the cold air escaped through the massive gaps in the doors that we were also pretty sure rats could run through those gaps and creep into our beds at night and eat us in our sleep (maybe). We went for a run. This didn't help.  So we gave up on eating at home, got a taxi into Old Town Havana and treated ourselves to a wonderful dinner of shrimp salad. Whilst missing my friends from home, I've found some of the best friends of my life while I've been abroad. And those friendships are that good because of all the horrible, weird and wonderful experiences I've shared with those people!

Of course making friend doesn’t alleviate the problem in the long run … the more friends you make the more people you miss, and it becomes a vicious cycle... but basically the point of this post is, you feel homesick when you live abroad, so I want to express how much I love the friends I've made who mean fulfilling my dream of living abroad in Austria, Cuba and Spain hasn't been so bad.

PS Google spellcheck wants to replace "mojito" with "mosquito". It’s clearly got no sense of fun!

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