How to Deal With Homesickness When You Can't Buy a Flight Home

Many of us are homesick for faraway places right now. Here's how to feel at home wherever you are.

By
Megan Seling
On Friday, May 22, 2020 - 07:00
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Day-to-day life feels especially unstable and unfamiliar right now. Will we ever eat at a restaurant again? Or go grocery shopping without limits on the packages of toilet paper we can buy? And when can I hug my mom?!

This new COVID-19 world is an especially harsh dose of reality for anyone who’s away from home right now, whether it be by choice or necessity. Imagine relocating just months before (or in the midst of) a pandemic and, in the time you should be exploring your new city and meeting new people, being forced to stay inside. Only when our day-to-day comforts are taken away do we really begin to understand what creatures of habit we truly are.

Six years ago I moved from my lifelong-home of Washington State to Nashville, TN, a city I loved but had only visited a handful of times. Despite having the highest of hopes for a grand adventure, my days were instead ravaged by waves of isolation, boredom, frustration and sadness. I missed my old life, my old friends and my old self. 

It took a lot of time and effort to dig myself out of that rut. But it can be done. So if you’re feeling like you have no connection to the outside world — either because you’ve recently landed in a new city or been forced to redefine what “home” is — here are a few things that helped me get through some especially rough days.

Sure, a couple of these tips might seem obvious, but I learned that sometimes the most simple solution was hard to remember once panic kicked in. So above all, be kind to yourself and give yourself time to adjust, because establishing a new normal isn’t easy. Especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

1. Be a (Responsible) Tourist

When I first moved to Nashville I made the mistake of thinking, "I live here, I’m too good for all those tourist traps." What a mistake. I WAS A TOURIST! Sure, I had a Tennessee address, but this city was just as new and unfamiliar to me as a drunken bachelorette visiting for the weekend. Swallow your pride and be a tourist! Even with social distancing and stay-at-home measures in place, it’s possible to explore your surroundings.

Experts say spending time outside is not only safe, but vital to mental and physical health, so throw on a mask and see what some of your nearby parks, trails and neighborhoods have to offer. Now’s probably not the best time to hit up popular spots like The Bean or Strawberry Fields, but you can still host your own one-person walking or driving tour by looking up interesting, weird or historical landmarks beforehand, especially ones that might be off the beaten path and less crowded.

2. Follow Locals on Social Media 

Keeping my social media accounts predominantly Seattle-focused after I landed in Nashville was my half-hearted attempt to stay connected to friends and family back home, but it actually made my homesickness worse. How could I begin to appreciate what my new home had to offer when I kept getting starry-eyed over everything I was missing in the Pacific Northwest? Do yourself a favor and fill your feed with local journalists, artists, musicians, activists and businesses on Twitter, Instagram or whatever new TikBook VineClub is hot these days. You don't actually have to know people in town to begin benefitting from their knowledge and experiences, and you can always unfollow anyone who ends up being a dud. 

3. Try New Restaurants

During times of upheaval, it can be so easy to fall back on familiar comforts like chain restaurants that focus on consistency or making the same few meals over and over. But if you have the means to get takeout, do it. Many independently owned restaurants, bars and coffee shops are offering curbside pickup and contactless delivery, so dedicate one or two days a week to supporting their efforts (or more, if you can swing it!). Not only will you be supporting your local economy during a debilitating time, it’s also a great way to gather some intel about the local food scene. And few things will make you feel like a local more than having very passionate opinions about where to find the best burger in town.

4. Reach Out to Your Friends

Call a friend. Sounds obvious, right? Not necessarily. I was stubborn when I first moved to Nashville. I missed my friends and family more than I ever imagined I could, but I kept those feelings to myself because a) I didn’t want them to worry and b) I didn’t want to admit life in Nashville wasn’t the Big Perfect Glamorous Adventure I thought it’d be. Only later did I learn that many of my close pals were doing the same thing — they didn’t reach out as often because they didn’t want to get in the way of my new life 2,500 miles away. Looking back it feels silly. Embarrassing, even. But it really is so easy for people to get wrapped up in their own lives, and their own heads.

So if you’re feeling homesick or alone, reach out to your people. Let them know you’re thinking of them. Don’t assume that because they’re not calling you, they’re not thinking about you. And if you have a friend who recently moved out of town, give them a call or send them a message. Happy social media posts are rarely the whole story. Reach out and ask how they’re adjusting. It can be really hard to find steady footing in a new town (and a global pandemic), so remind them they always have a support system, and a home, no matter where they are. Maybe it will help you realize that that’s likely true for you, too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Megan Seling loves dogs, music, candy and hockey and she has been writing about all those things (and more) for over 20 years, though she still hasn't been published in the New York Times.