How I’m Battling Homesickness

I apologize in advance for the amount of inspirational quotes in this post. It happens.

I apologize in advance for the amount of inspirational quotes in this post. It happens. Photo credit 

Alright. It’s time for me to cut the crap. While Spain is beautiful and my life seems completely together on paper, I would be lying through my key strokes if I were to sit here and tell you all that everything is as perfect as it seems on Instagram. Here’s the truth. I’m on my eighth week in my new, fabulous country and guess what? I’m (still) homesick.

Let me start this post by saying that what I’m feeling is not that 7-year-old away at sleep away camp “Oh my god if Counselor Jessie doesn’t let me call my mother right this second I’m going to FREAK OUT” kind of homesickness. In fact, for a while, I couldn’t even identify my feelings because my only frame of reference for what homesickness looks like is that 7-year-old at camp. That 7-year-old that I couldn’t understand why they were crying because we were going to see our parents in like, five days, so they just needed to calm down and make some friends. Yes, that was me. The girl that LOVED sleep away camp. The girl that didn’t come home AT ALL during her first semester of college because the term “homesick” didn’t apply to me. The girl that toughed it out in New York City on a laughable salary and refused to move home, and has traveled the world without a pang of homesickness.

Well, let me tell you, all of that has changed. Two weeks after I moved to Madrid I was hit with a case of homesickness that hit me like a bat to the forehead.  What’s worse, it was in disguise! On week two in Madrid I was on cloud nine. I was making friends, I was learning my way through the secret side streets of my neighborhood, I had even done a bit of traveling! I was feeling like quite the little American-girl-goes-cosmopolitan-in-Europe. All was well and good until I hit the sack. I started having vivid nightmares that were scaring me so badly that the sound of my own crying in my sleep would wake me up. The emotions in my nightmares were unbelievably real. I remember feeling intense grief over the death of my parents (who are both in great health), immense rage, severe loneliness, all emotions that somehow played a role in whatever was the plot of said nightmare. I had no clue what the hell was going on so therefore I couldn’t figure out how to get the nightmares to stop.

Finally I spoke to a friend from home about my dreams and how they were really starting to affect my daily life (fear over going to bed, not sleeping, feeling lethargic) and she suggested that I look up the symptoms of homesickness. I literally laughed out loud. ME? Please. I don’t get homesick. Said friend was quite patient with me, saying “look, just Google it. Homesickness has nothing to do with whether or not you wanted to move to your new place or if you were forced. It’s a completely involuntary reaction. Also, the symptoms of homesickness are very different for adults than they are for children so you may want to investigate.” I dramatically threw up my hands in desperation and grabbed my laptop.

Of course, she was right. This article from CNN entitled “Homesickness isn’t really about ‘home’“, described everything I was feeling. I didn’t actually miss DC or New York City or America as much as I missed the familiar – whether that be the close relationships I have yet to make, Louisiana brand hot sauce, or the English language. Once I was able to diagnose myself, the nightmares stopped.  That said, it seems as though my feelings of homesickness have now come to the surface instead of resting in my subconscious and only rearing their ugly heads in my dreams. After the nightmares stopped, the physical aspects of homesickness set in. The tearful phone calls to family and friends, the overtiredness, the complete disinterest in ANYTHING besides watching “Scandal” on my laptop, the irritation with everything I deemed “too Spanish”.

Finally, I got over myself. It was time to take the advice from my world-traveling friends and the CNN article and devise a plan to get over this homesick bullshit. Here are five ways that I’ve been battling homesickness while here in Madrid.

1. Make friends, particularly international/Spanish friends – Clearly this is the last thing I wanted to do. Who the hell wants to go through the middle school bullshit of trying to prove to someone that they should be your friend? Well, whatever. I embraced it. The only way I was going to form those close relationships I craved from home was to get off my ass and make some damn friends. I emphasize international/Spanish friends because I wanted to get on the fast track to appreciating everything about Spanish and European culture instead of damning it and yearning for the comforts of America. Where do I find these friends? Couchsurfing events and Facebook groups based in Madrid (or wherever your new city is located) are a great place to start.

2. Don’t say no to anything – Let me clarify. If a relatively new, yet sane friend asks you to go somewhere or do something that doesn’t seem like it will endanger your life, just go. As a new person in a new city, I just don’t feel like I’m in a position to turn down any invites just because I “don’t feel like going”. Pretty much everything that I haven’t felt like going to here, but forced myself to go anyway, was tons of fun. I usually made a friend out of the experience and at the very least, I came home with a story to tell.

Hi friends at home. This is how I feel about you.

Hi friends at home. This is how I feel about you.

3. SKYPE – Some people have tried to tell me that the easiest way that they got over their homesickness was to stop or drastically limit talking to their friends and family from home. UM. NO. Sorry that just doesn’t work for me. I’m only on my 8th week here and I do not have the type of girlfriends that I can rant to about European men (more on THAT later) or share my joy over finding the. perfect. scarf. No new friend is ever going to be able to take the place of your best friend from home, so log on to skype and get your fix. Plus, I believe it helps battle homesickness when you keep in touch with folks back home so you don’t feel like their lives are completely moving on without you. Also, limiting talking to my family? Yea right.

Brunch at La Gringa. Looking at this photo makes me want to cry again. So perfect.

Brunch at La Gringa. Looking at this photo makes me want to cry again. So perfect.

4. Brunch – Sometimes it’s the little things. I am a brunch fanatic and I must say, Madrid hasn’t quite caught on to this phenomenon yet but they are getting there. I dove head first into the amazing brunch culture in New York City and DC, and nothing makes me feel more at home than a good ol’ fashioned brunch. Thanks to God and my friend Danielle, I was put on to two sister restaurants owned by expats that offer fantastic American style brunches. I literally almost cried at the first bite of smoked salmon Eggs Benedict. Carmencita and La Gringa. Go now. Get your comfort food on.

5. Hug someone, preferably not a stranger – So here’s something interesting. I really thought the double kiss greeting was so Euro and cool until I realized that it had been about a month since I had hugged someone or been hugged. You don’t realize how important a hug is until you stop getting them. Think about it. People in America hug EVERYONE. Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, everyone gets a hug even if it’s a no-hip-contact-pat-on-the-back hug. That physical contact with someone provides a sense of comfort I didn’t know existed! Also, in case you didn’t know, we actually do need 8 hugs a day.  My roommates and I have started hugging each other. It helps.

Have you ever been homesick after moving abroad? What did you do to alleviate your homesickness? Let me know below!

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