The first time we visited Asia was the first time that I worried about travelling far from home. I’ve been to New York, but a six hour flight from the UK is very different to flying to Malaysia. I love to travel (hence, you know, the blog), but I was really, really nervous. Why? I don’t know, exactly. I am the sort of person that suffers from homesickness, but I’ve travelled Europe for four months and been to India alone – though I struggled there with missing home too. I’m also scared of flying. ‘A traveller indeed!’ You may be thinking, and yes, I suppose my point is that you shouldn’t let these things stop you from experiencing the world.
On the first night in our hotel in Kuala Lumpur, I couldn’t sleep. We had a strange twin room with a kitchen, large bathroom, and living room that stank of smoke. I felt uneasy looking at the bright lights of the capital city our window, a different feeling to the usual excitement of visiting a new place. I just felt very far away from everything I knew. The next day it got easier, and we explored the city, finding elements of home that made it easier for me – good coffee etc. We got a room upgrade which was welcome, into a smoke free area with a nicer space. I settled into the city and began to love it, and – as I always do – started to look up how easy it would be to move there.
The next year I was lucky enough to be accepted to the Beijing Normal University to study Chinese for a month (you can read more about this amazing programme here). This meant, of course, that Daniel couldn’t come with me initially (though he visited two weeks in and spent the remainder of the time at a nearby hostel). When I arrived it was 6am, and the jetlag was real. I hadn’t slept on the plane, but the excitement kept me going for a while. By 6pm I was lying on my bed silently crying, desperately trying to get WhatsApp to connect and simultaneously not wake up my new roommate. Of course it got easier as it had done with KL, and by the time Daniel arrived I was loving my time in China, having rediscovered my love of clubs, found the best coffee down the most intriguing hutongs, and sharpened my haggling skills. The point is that you also might struggle with being away from your family, your home, and your routines. But that doesn’t mean you cannot travel, it just means that you might need a few tips on how to bring home with you. We are planning an epic year long honeymoon (due to leave in October). A year away from my family and friends? That’s going to be tough for me. Here are my tried and tested ways of coping!
· Find a way to bring home to you.
When I was feeling my most homesick in Beijing I managed to find a website online that streamed my favourite show, The US Office. Just being able to watch a couple of episodes really had a huge impact on me. It gave me a familiar way of relaxing, and took away my homesickness. That’s a slice of home for me, being able to curl up and watch Jim and Pam. If you have a similar thing – a show, a podcast, a song – maybe consider taking it with you on a USB. It could bring home to you too, making you feel much more settled.
· Breakfast time is essential.
This might sound strange, but one of the hardest things about a new culture for me is finding something to eat for breakfast. I can eat anything for lunch or dinner – seriously, throw it at me, but I suppose I’m a creature of habit and breakfast time is a big deal to me! I’m so used to my natural yoghurt, fruit and honey breakfast, or a couple of slices of well buttered toast (seeded bread only, thanks), that eating breakfast in the Beijing university canteen was not easy. Daniel loves spicy food and noodles for breakfast, and these things are never an issue for him. I tried a few different things here. I went to the supermarket and got what I thought was bread, but it turned out to be very sweet and full of cream and bean curd. Then I found that the canteen did onion pancakes. So, I collected sugar sachets from coffee shops that I frequented, ordered onion pancakes and covered them in sugar to make sweet pancakes. As I’m typing this, I can see that it perhaps sounds a little odd. But remember, food is a huge part of familiarity – that’s why you see tourists visit McDonalds abroad. Sometimes you need to taste a slice of home.
· Stay in touch.
With your friends, your family, your life back home. Yes, share stuff about your trip, photographs and adventures and the like, but ask people how they are too. Remember that they are still working, living their usual life, and that they won’t always want to hear about your adventures. Hearing about your best friend’s day will make you feel better too, giving you more of that familiar sense of home.