11 Ways to Overcome Homesickness Abroad

Overcomining Homesickness Abroad

11 Ways to Overcome
Homesickness Abroad

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.

Take a deep breath. It’s part of the process and something we’ve all been through. And it absolutely does get better, but at the end of the day, it´s up to you. 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 tried and true ways to overcome homesickness and transition into expat badassery.

1. 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!

Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain
Retiro Park, Madrid in August

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.

Before I had real friends when I moved to Madrid, it was these friendly and familiar faces that gave me a little social boost every morning and these connections on my block went a long way to making me feel more at home.

Besides that, endorphins are the happy hormone and vitamin D is key in curing the blues. Getting out and about and moving your body will automatically make you feel better.

2. Date Yourself

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

Essaouira, Morocco 2015
Essaouira, Morocco 2015

Take yourself out to dinner and order a bottle of wine. (Feel free to drink it all, just not every time.) 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.

3. Dive Into a Good (Local) Book

One of my favorite ways to learn about culture and history in my new “home away from home” 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.

Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece

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.

4. 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)

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, whatever!

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.

5. Keep Doing You

Although you’re in 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.

Siem Reap, Cambodia 2013
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 😉).

6. 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. (Again, keeps you busy on those “dinners for one”!)

Bangkok, Thailand 2014
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 you keep focused, present and appreciative of all the good stuff you’re exploring every day.

7. Deep Convos. With Yourself.

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

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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.

8. 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, Madrid, Spain
Manu Chao, Madrid, Spain

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.

9. 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.

Movies like Amores Perros and Y Tú Máma También helped me to learn Spanish and to delve into Mexican culture (not to mention helped me to fall head-over-heels in love with Gael García Bernal 😍). In Spain, El Tiempo Entre Costuras and Gran Hotel (a Spanish-esque “Downtown Abbey”) gave me a glimpse into Spanish history and culture.

10. 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. (Yup, I´m that old. Sad but true.)

Times have changed and nowadays 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 and WhatsApp allow you to place free international calls and videocalls. For me, WhatsApp is by far the most valuable and convenient way to chat, send pics & voice messeges and to create groups with family and friends.

View this post on Instagram

#madrid 😍😍

A post shared by Erica | Get Lost! 🌍✈️✌ (@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.

11. Make a Local Bucket List

Bucket List
My Canary Island 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.

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 💙.

60 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

  24. Eric Gamble says:

    Love these 11 ways to overcome homesickness abroad. I think getting outside is definitely key. Sometimes the lack of Vitamin D from the Sun can cause or enhance depression. I believe they call it sundowners syndrome. I love all the activities you recommend that are solo too. I know sometimes you just need to get lost with yourself and start thinking creatively!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Em Ma says:

    So many great tips here that I could even take on board travelling slowly around my own country. Sometimes you just want to hang with your bestie, but you can’t. Getting out and about always makes you feel better.

    Like

  26. Sandy Papas says:

    Great tips for overcoming homesickness. I especially love going outside, I find getting back to nature always helps me. I also love making a bucket list of local things to do.

    Like

  27. Sandra Papas says:

    How about Facetiming family & friends back home? When my girls lived in London I got quite a few, often teary calls for quite some time. It all sounds great but its hard to be away for long stints. Worth it though!

    Like

  28. Yukti says:

    Great tips on how to overcome homesickness in a new place! You´re right that going out and mixing with locals and getting into innovative hobbies is the best way to get adjusted to new places.

    Like

  29. Alison says:

    I love all your tips here on how to get outside yourself and start writing/ living your own story – or life. I find I sometimes have to give myself that little pep talk to get out the door and integrate with others in a new setting and I always chuckle afterwards at how well worth it it was!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Absolutely! I´m not much of a homebody, but sometimes when I´m in a new city where I don´t know anyone it can definitely take that extra effort to get up and get lost out there 🙂

      Like

  30. Mel Butler says:

    I have been living overseas for 15yrs now with my husband and a few times I have gotten a little homesick. These are some good tips, I especially like listen to your local tunes. Would you believe I listen Australian radio stations and Australian tv shows and I live in the UK. Never thought about a local bucketlist so I might try that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Have you been based in the same city for all of those 15 years? It certainly must feel like home by now! I´ve been abroad for about 10 years, but I´ve been based out of various different countries and cities so there´s always that little flicker of homesickness when we make the big moves 🙂

      Like

  31. Joanne says:

    You have such great advice. Moving to a new country sounds so daunting. My children have always travelled with us but our oldest graduates this year and I know he’ll travel often. I really like the idea of finding projects (which will help you meet people) and making a local bucket list. It’s often so easy to miss the great things right under your nose!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Sounds like you´ve instilled a great love of travel in your children! If your older graduate is interested in a year abroad teaching English in Spain, there are lots of options out there, and it´s a great way to get a taste of living abroad while earning money to sustain oneself and a perfect opportunity to travel about Europe! Feel free to check out my posts on teaching English in Spain: https://getupgetoutgetlost.com/2018/09/17/teach-english-in-spain-as-an-auxiliar-de-conversacion-language-assistant/ and https://getupgetoutgetlost.com/2017/12/12/teach-english-in-spain-beda-language-assistants/

      Like

  32. arsenalnic says:

    Great tips. Having been travelling for almost 4 years we’ve definitely had lots of bouts of home sickness. I do think it helps when you travel with a partner or friend especially if they are from home, but then again your home sickness can also bounce of each other and get worst. I think the thing is to always listen to yourself and your heart. For the most part it does come and go and the experiences you get travelling do make it fade away. But at the same time, if you are actually really unhappy then do something about it. We recently had a bit of time back home before heading back out and it was the right decision for us and has made us feel so much more refreshed and ready to travel again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      It´s strange how it can come and go over the years. I´ve been living abroad for about ten years in a few different countries and cities, and it´s funny how sometimes I´m homesick not for ¨home¨(California), but for a secondary home – veg amok from my favourite spot in Cambodia, or surfing my favorite beach in the Dominican Republic.

      Like

  33. Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions says:

    I love this post. Your suggestions are spot-on. As someone who has done this process a number of times now (to China, Mexico, and Vietnam), I know how hard it can be. Getting out there (literally out there, in your new neighborhood like you mention) can work wonders. Great reminders, and I’m sure this post is a huge help to anyone abroad struggling with homesickness!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I´ve just spent the summer visiting friends in Vietnam and am considereing a move there to teach English for a year or so. What area were you living in?

      Like

      1. Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions says:

        I’m in Ho Chi Minh City, and I love it! It’s a perfect home base for exploring the rest of Vietnam and SE Asia in general. There is a huge community of teachers here so if you decide to come, you’ll definitely have a big support network. Best of luck and feel free to message me if you have any more questions, Erica!

        Like

Leave a Reply to Sandra Papas Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s