11 Ways to Overcome Homesickness Abroad

11 ways to avoid homesickness sm

So you’ve found your apartment, opened up a bank account and have even started your dreaded immigration paperwork. After the anticipation and farewells, along with and the buzz and stress of getting started in your new ‘home’, it finally hits you. You’re here alone. Maybe you won the roommate jackpot or were blessed with a coworker that’s taken you under their wing, but if you’re like many brand new expats, this is probably the time that loneliness and homesickness are starting to set in.

But don’t fret! It’s part of the process and something we’ve all been through. And it absolutely does get better, but it will take effort on your part. As you get to know your new surroundings (and find your niche within them), don’t forget that you’re the protagonist of your new exciting life, and this experience will be exactly as amazing as you make it.

You got this! And if you feel like maybe you don’t, read on for 11 ways to overcome homesickness and transition into expat badassery.

Go Outside.

Simple, right? Usually. Except that one of the side effects of loneliness is crawling into hibernation mode with a warm cozy blanket and the unlimited caverns of the internet. IT’S A TRAP!

Go Outside WM blog
Retiro Park. Madrid, Spain 2012

Ditch the Netflix and get out there. Explore your neighborhood and allow yourself to get lost. People watch and window shop and find your favorite hidden corners. Say hello to the guy at the newspaper stand, the woman at the fruit shop and even your gossipy old neighbor lady who’s always spying from her bougainvillia-covered windowsill.

These little connections on your block can go a long way to making you feel more at home. And remember – endorphins are the happy hormones! Getting out and about and moving your body will automatically make you feel better.

Date Yourself

No friends? No problem! You recently packed up your life possessions and moved away to start a brand new adventure, so chances are that you’re decently cool.

3-2015 Essaouira, Morocco (6) wine wm
Essaouira, Morocco 2015

Take yourself out to dinner and order a bottle of wine. (Feel free to drink it all, just every now and then.) Find local events like live music or open mic nights and mosey on over. Enjoy the experience and work on shedding the pesky insecurity of flying solo. No one is really noticing that you came in alone, and if they are, it’s a pretty good chance that it’s because (a) they’re alone too or (b) they’re interested in that solo-mystique you’re vibing.

Dive Into a Good (Local) Book

One of my favorite ways to learn about culture and history in a new place is to delve into a historical fiction set in the area. In the Dominican Republic it was In the Time of the Butterflies, in Turkey it was Bastard of Istanbul and in Madrid it was Winter in Madrid.

3.Get Lost in a Good (local) Book.
Santorini, Greece. 2009.

Not only does it give you a peak behind the surface of your new home, but it’s also the perfect companion to take along with you to those “dinners-for-one” and meandering walks through the park.

Learn Something New

So much of loneliness and homesickness is attached to having too much time on our hands and a lack of focus. Fill it up!

My Piso art Chueca, Madrid 2012 (3)
Chueca. Madrid, Spain. 2011

Chances are you moved to this place because something about the country and culture inspired you. Join a language class, a dance class, an art class, a cooking class, a gym. This one is three-fold – not only will you fill your time and learn a new skill, you’ll also meet new people with similar interests.

Keep Doing You

Although you’re in your new surroundings and looking for new experiences and self-growth, it doesn’t mean you have to leave it all behind. Find a way to keep up with your hobbies and interests as much as possible.

5-keep-doing-you
Siem Reap, Cambodia 2013

No matter where you are in the world, you can probably find a basketball team, a yoga studio, a running crew, or whatever else gets you going. Have fun, do you, meet new people. The best way to find people you’ll like is by doing the things you enjoy. So do them! (the things that is, not necessarily the people 😉).

Note to Self

Don’t distract yourself with the negatives by missing out on all of the positive new experiences around you. A great way to focus on the amazing is to keep a record, whether it be personal or something you can share with friends and family.

img-20140430-wa0021
Bangkok, Thailand 2014

I’m definitely an advocate for journaling, though I know it’s not for everyone. When I’m in a writing slump, I sometimes carry a little notebook around with me just to jot down some of the day’s special moments or the lovely sight I’ve just stumbled upon.

If you’re interested in sharing your experiences with friends and family back home, World Nomads and WordPress offer free and very easy to use blogging, and mobile apps like Photo 365 enable you to capture a photo a day that can later be converted into a slideshow of your highlights. Making a point to note your experiences will help keep you focused and appreciative of all the good stuff you’re exploring every day.

Deep Chats. With Yourself

Something gave you the itch to leave your family,  friends and worldly possessions and start this solo adventure. Delve into that.

Cabo San Lucas boat arch 7-2012 me katy cruise wm
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 2012.

Rather than seeing this alone time as lonely, look at is as quality time to spend with you. Ask yourself genuine questions and take advantage of the lack of distractions that we normally face in our daily lives.

Local Tunes

You don’t have to understand the language of the lyrics to get down with some good local music. Whether it’s checking out live gigs, or simply searching for top artists of your preferred genre in your new city or country, you’ll feel more like a local when you cruise the streets with local beats in your earbuds.

manu chao wm
Manu Chao. Madrid, Spain 2013

Some of my all-time favorite artists have been discovered while looking up travel tunes in any given country, like the Basque Country’s Manu Chao (Spain), Cambodia’s Dengue Fever and New Zealand’s Fat Freddy Drop.

Local Flicksnetflix

Like books and music mentioned above, movies are another great means of getting to know your new home. While not all countries have a very happening movie biz, it’s worth finding out if there are any star directors or titles to check out.

Movies and series set in your country or directed by a local can help you to see deeper behind the scenes into culture, dating norms and family life, not to mention that watching the flicks with subtitles can greatly improve your grasp of the local lingo.

K.I.T. (Just not too much)

There is so much to see and taste and do and explore and experience in this new place, but sometimes we all need a little bit of home sweet home. When I first started travelling, smart phones with international data weren’t yet “a thing” and talking to my family, or anyone for that matter, involved finding an internet café with opening hours that corresponded to the time zone back home. That, or buying overpriced calling cards that I used from pay phones (yes, you read that right) on usually busy avenues.

Times have changed and getting in touch with your loved ones is as simple as downloading a couple of apps. Video calling is easy with FaceTime and Skype, and apps like Line allow you to place free international calls. By far the most valuable and convenient way to communicate is WhatsApp to chat, send pics & voice calls and to create groups with family and friends.

#madrid 😍😍

A post shared by erica edwards (@getup_getout_getlost) on

That being said, do your best not to get sucked into your phone and remember to remain present and in the moment. Balance is key.

Make a Local Bucket List

Bucket List

Wherever you are, I can guarantee you that there are literally hundreds of interesting things to see and taste within a 50-mile radius. Make a bucket list to prioritize some of the things that most catch your curiosity, and then make them happen.

Just your average #humpday in my #barrio 🐮🥁🇪🇸

A post shared by erica edwards (@getup_getout_getlost) on

When I first moved to the Canary Islands and didn’t know anyone, I used popsicle sticks and whenever I was in doubt of how to spend a Saturday I’d grab one and hit the road. It’ll encourage you to take advantage of your time abroad, and checking things off of any list feels pretty amazing.

Now Get Outta Here!

You will get homesick and the first couple of months will be a bit lonely, but that’s just a small piece of the puzzle. Soon enough you’ll find your niche, your circle of friends and your favorite spot to have a cheeky afternoon caña. But first ya gotta get up, get out, get lost ❤

© Erica Edwards and getupgetoutgetlost.com, 2016-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Erica Edwards and getupgetoutgetlost.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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44 Comments Add yours

  1. As an American living in Scotland, going outside and joining something have definitely been the most helpful! It’s so easy to get cooped up on my computer all day and start going down the Old Friends Facebook Hole but a walk in the park by me always clears the mind. Love the post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Scotland, nice one! Are you working or studying there? I’m also American (from CA) and have been living nearly six years in Spain. Haven’t made it to Scotland yet but it’s definitely on the list!

      Like

  2. Akshay Patil says:

    Loved this post, and has important information, now i am following your blog. kudos to your work. keep it up

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for reading and following!

      Like

  3. g10ja says:

    Well as a solo traveler I know those feelings. And I liked the way of your attitude. Good luck to all solos:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Good luck to you! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  4. Alma says:

    Some great advice! Loved your blog

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  5. Alexander Popkov says:

    Oh well. I am homesick now, so trying to keep myself busy with work and hobbies. In fact, decided to leave Finland and move to my homeland for some time. Eventually would go some new country to live I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      It happens to all of us, and I think these cold winter months are the most difficult. For me hobbies are key, especially getting involved with groups of people who share your interests! When I moved to Madrid I was pretty miserable for the first couple of months, but suddenly I found a great group of friends, an awesome yoga studio and a solid group of hiking buddies and it all clicked so quickly from then on!

      Like

  6. Lance says:

    I love the idea of using popsicle sticks to determine your local bucket list. Thanks for the great tips/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I move around a lot, so it’s a fun little habit I’ve brought with me wherever I go! It’s exciting to do the research to decide where you want to visit, and when I move on to the next destination I always pass the sticks off to a newbie expat 🙂

      Like

  7. Ethel says:

    Great advices. Actually I keep practiving “dating myself” also in my home country. Best way to chill when kids finally sleep 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I think dating yourself is the most valuable piece of advice here! When I first started travelling, I’d never gone to a nice restuarant or to the cinema alone, but once you get used to idea it’s so enjoyable! Especially when I’m travelling for work and don’t have much extra time to sightsee, I always treat myself to a nice solo dinner and glass of wine .

      Like

  8. Beverley says:

    These are very good tips even when your not home sick. Will definitely keep these in mind when I go travelling for long periods of time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  9. Danik says:

    Fantastic tips for those in this situation. I was like this when I used to live and work in France, and had to adapt to the local way of life and brush up on the language very quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Wonderful, what part of France were you living in? Were you working or studying there?

      Like

  10. Denny George says:

    Very good advice for those of us who live away from our homeland. Thank you. All of us should practice these tips.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  11. Renada says:

    These are great tips. I think even if you move somewhere new within your own country, these things are good advice. I liked the tip about ordering and drinking a bottle of wine! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Right?! Wine not?! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Like

  12. Honestly, this is some of the best advice I’ve read about homesickness. Going outside sounds so simple but it’s SO true. You need to give yourself a chance to fall in love with your new home!!=

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for reading, Carmen!

      Like

  13. AmyEA says:

    The popsicle sticks are an interesting idea. I always love meeting up with new people, but sometimes it can get very tiring.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It’s such a fun way to mix it up! Even when I lived back home in California, my ex and I had popsickle sticks for local sights to check out to keep the weekends interesting 🙂

      Like

  14. therainbowroute says:

    I usually get homesick about 3 weeks into travelling. That’s when I start pulling out all the tricks and tips like you’ve listed here. Slowing down and making time for yourself is so important. If you burn out, you will miss out on so much more.

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      It’s so true! I like to travel slowly and really appreciate places rather than try to race through from one site to the next. I thnk it’s so much more valuable in the long run! I might end up with less checks on the bucket list, but I’ll have a heartfull of meaningful experiences 🙂

      Like

  15. Samantha says:

    These are some great tips and ones I would implement when I was living in Korea. I was there for 2 years and luckily I wasn’t toooo homesick when I was out there (mostly only when it was the holidays).

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      Hey Samantha, were you teaching English in Korea? I’m considering a move to either Korea or China next year and would love to check out any posts you have about applying or programs you’d recommend!

      Like

  16. josh says:

    Cool article! I’d love to see Manu Chao, it’s definitely on my bucket list!

    Like

    1. Erica says:

      He’s INCREDIBLE! I’ve been lucky to see him a few different times in Spain and Portugal and he never seizes to amaze 🙂

      Like

  17. lukeandmeagan says:

    These ideas are all amazing – and they’re great life coping strategies, in general. I’m an introverted, only child from a really small family, so I never had tons of people around, and solitude could turn to loneliness pretty quickly. So, a lot of these tips really resonate with me as ways I coped as a young adult, even at home. Thank you for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Like

  18. amit says:

    As somebody who long-termed traveled around the world I can re;late to this post very much (In-fact I’ve written a similar one haha) – I agree with a lot of your points on this, however having deep chats with myself has the opposite effect (I can’t be alone for too long, which is ironic as I’m a solo traveler.) Anyways, back to your post there are some great tips for first time travelers who may end up feeling homesick. I especially like “Don’t distract yourself with the negatives by missing out on all of the positive new experiences around you.” – This is so true, and so easy to fall in a hole and forget to do things that will have a positive effect on you.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Tara Higgins says:

    So many great suggestions here! I have to say that the first time I moved to a foreign country alone I was quite lonely, but so liberated as well. Definitely agree with the suggestion to “date yourself.” It’s so fun to explore a new place alone and learn new things you’d enjoy doing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I totally get what you mean by liberating… it’s hard, but realizing you can start a whole new life on a whole other side of the world really shows you what you’re made of!

      Like

  20. Eloise says:

    Making local bucket list is a fab idea. I never feel homesick. Of course, I sometimes wish I could see more often the people back home. But there is always something new for me to explore here so I really don’t want to leave! My list is on a to-do list app on my phone – a lot less stylish than your popsicles! But it’s maybe slightly easier to take notes when I meet someone who recommends a new place ahah
    I may add another idea: play sports. I find that being part of a team is a great feeling that can help with homesickness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Sports are definitely one of the best and and easiest ways to meet people within a new community! It gives a reason to socialize with people who already have common interests with you!

      Like

  21. I really like the idea of getting outside. It’s so common to hear of people getting FOMO while browsing through Instagram or Facebook, whether they’re at home or starting a new life abroad. Getting out and just taking a walk could help. I also find that being able to give back or joining a community…feeling a sense of responsibility or ownership for someone or something else…helps pull you out of whatever funk you might be in. Like you said, it changes your focus, which can change your attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I agree! Finding your place within a community is so important, and especially if you can help care for someone else to help shift your focus from the old ‘woe is me’!

      Like

  22. Jithin says:

    though in the same country, I live very far from my home. Homesickness will be there sometimes. Thanks for your tips, it will definitely gonna help.

    Like

  23. The Passport Symphony says:

    Very interesting post, I see most people relate to it. I guess I’m a peculiar exception. I don’t think I ever struggled with homesickness but I always feel away-sickness (that’s how I call it :D) when I stay home too long
    .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      I think I experience a bit of both, I always say it’s one of the side effects of living semi-nomadically. When I’m back in California, I miss Spain. When I’m in my chosen home Spain, I miss California and my old villages in Cambodia and the DR. In Portuguese there’s a word – saudades – that is a kind of longing for some unplaceable thing. I suppose that’s the best way I can describe the sentiment.

      Like

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