“I felt a pang — a strange and inexplicable pang that I had never felt before.
It was homesickness.
Now, even more than I had earlier when I’d first glimpsed it, I longed to be transported into that quiet little landscape, to walk up the path, to take a key from my pocket and open the cottage door, to sit down by the fireplace, to wrap my arms around myself, and to stay there forever and ever.”
― Alan Bradley, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
It’s a funny thing, and it can happen to the most seasoned of travellers. One moment, you are admiring a view so beautiful that the thought of returning home and forsaking it would be ridiculous, and the next you are longing for that familiar dip in your side of the sofa, the taste of your favourite meal, the face of your mother. There is no accounting for it. When it hits you, it takes the giddy joy of travelling with it.
For me (Rachel), feeling homesick can come easily. My mother has lived in the same house since I was two years old, and despite my not living there for a long time now, when I am homesick it is there that I travel to in my mind. I dream of my favourite meal being cooked, spaghetti bolognaise, the taste of which is always best when my mother makes it. I think of the familiar rooms, the feel of the hallway carpet beneath my feet. I dream of my mother’s laugh, my sister’s wit.
Daniel, in my experience of travelling with him, feels this phenomenon less frequently than I. He was born in Malawi, brought up in South Africa. I can trace my first steps back to my mother’s house, whereas he has memories of swimming near hippos, getting to use his first pair of flippers on Christmas day, and the feeling of being bare foot more often than not. Perhaps experiencing travelling throughout his youth, from Africa, to Ireland, to the UK and Hong Kong, better prepared him for his travels as an adult.
So, how to overcome it? For myself, it is often through food. When I studied in Beijing, China, on days when I felt homesick I would search for Western food. Sometimes a flat white could make all the difference (if in Beijing, you won’t have trouble finding some excellent independent coffee shops). To write that now seems funny, as China is one of my favourite places to be in the world, and the food is definitely something I turn to when I long to be there. The taste of home can sometimes bring you back from the agony of missing it, can provide you with the familiar feeling of recognition.
It also helps to talk. Talk to the person you are travelling with, chat to your family back home, Skype, message. Send photographs. Stay in touch. Remember, first and foremost, that feeling homesick while gazing upon a once in a lifetime (hopefully not) view, is monumentally better than feeling travel sick while gazing upon a computer screen at home. Remember that, and allow yourself a moment to wallow. Then, pick yourself back up, go and taste the local delicacy, meet someone new, and discover someone else’s idea of home sweet home.