The cure for homesickness

27 January 2014

I don’t think I’ve written about it much (ever?) here, but when I first moved to North Carolina, I was miserable. Actually, just to make you feel better about yourself if you’re currently suffering from a severe case of homesickness, let me be clear: every day when I came home from work, I would cry through dinner. For a month. The only thing I wanted to discuss on our evening walks was our plan for moving back to Connecticut — how, and how quickly it could happen. I hated NC and the town we lived in, I missed my family and my friends horribly, I found starting a new job ridiculously stressful, I couldn’t stand the July heat… the list goes on.

A lovely reader emailed me last fall to ask if I could write a post about how I got over my homesickness. I feel badly that it’s taken me so long to do so, but the truth is that even now, after almost five years, the memory is still a bit raw. Thankfully, it has much, much softer edges, and I hope this post might be an encouragement to any of you who are going through something similar. My best tips for curing homesickness, accompanied by pictures of our cats, because everything is better with cats:

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1. Have a support system. I almost feel bad for writing this one, because if I hadn’t had John by my side, I don’t think any of these other tips would have done the trick. But, it needs to be said. Keeping in mind that it was MY job opportunity we had uprooted and moved for, it’s nearly unbelievable to me how kindly and stoic-ly he tolerated my complaining and wailing, commiserating without joining in on my NC-bashing fests. He fed me dinner every night (even if I cried through it), and never once made me feel guilty about my opportunity even though he was dealing with his own homesickness. He was, and is, my hero. Maybe it’s not your boyfriend — it could be your Mom or Dad or your best friend. But please, find a patient soul who will love you and listen to you, for as long as it takes.

cats

2. Get your internet hooked up ASAP. A practical tip! Make arrangements for your internet to be hooked up the day you move in, if possible. Though in reality it was a week at most, it seemingly took eons for our internet connection to get hooked up after we moved in. In those extremely fragile first few days, it was almost more than my stressed-to-the-limit heart could take to have to go to the library to use the internet (we didn’t have smart phones back then). Why did I need to use the internet? Aside from simple things like looking up how to get places, the internet was the easiest way to connect with faraway loved ones. My family started a private blog the week before our move, and chronicling our first days and weeks in a new place was a great way for me to vent. It also was more efficient than calling four family members every night to give four separate rundowns on my sorry state. When you’re spending a lot of time crying, you need to be efficient in other areas of your life :)

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3. Find a church. It took us a few weeks, but finding a church we loved was the first tiny step toward feeling like we belonged in NC. We still attend the first church we tried, so our search was easier than most, but even though we didn’t know anyone at church, feeling like we had somewhere to go every week, somewhere down here that we identified with and felt a part of, was a huge turning point for us.

4. Concentrate on the good parts. Easier said than done, my friends. And it took me a long time to take my own advice. I was so busy hating our new town for everything it wasn’t (charming, historic, familiar, near the water, moderately temperatured) that I had no time to appreciate it for what it was (new, filled with stores I used to have to drive an hour to, close to the airport, surrounded by amazing city centers). It’s not that I’ve lost my love for New England, just that, over time, I’ve grown to appreciate the GOOD things about where we live.

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5. Get out there. Of course, until I started experiencing those good things, it was hard to appreciate them. Despite our depressed state, we made everyday adventures a priority, discovering more and more things to love about NC along the way. Use the tips in this post if you need help — getting out of your house/apartment and doing something fun instead of moping/sulking is key.

6. Get a pet. I’m serious. Until we got our cats, going back to NC after a visit to our families was nothing but misery — but once we had two little fur friends waiting for us, “home” started to feel a little more like home.

To return to the title of this post, in my experience, the only real “cure” for homesickness is time. Hopefully, the rest of these suggestions will make the wait a bit easier. One other thought that might help? Homesickness only exists because the people and places you’re leaving behind are so well-loved. Reminding myself of this didn’t always work, but it’s worth a try :)

I would love to hear: Have you ever up and moved somewhere completely new? Have you ever experienced intense homesickness? If so, what helped you cure it?

P.S. I don’t have anything about friends on here because making friends was an entirely separate issue for us than curing homesickness. If you can believe it, it took us even longer :) Perpetually jealous of those, like my younger sister, who make friends at the drop of a hat!

22 Responses to “The cure for homesickness”

  1. These are such great tips, Emily, and I love your honesty about how they’re easier said than done. I keep telling Dave that the longer it takes him to get here, the higher the likelihood that I just break down and get a pet :)

  2. I love this post, and thank you for being so honest and open about your homesickness. It can be hard! Right after college (almost five years ago), I moved from NC to Washington DC for a job. I’m pretty extroverted and I love meeting new people, which I’m thankful for – so I really never had much homesickness. I actually think I get a more homesick for NC now, five years later, than I was for the first four years of living here! Finding a church and finding ways to meet new people (especially since I was single) are crucial to being content in a new place, and luckily, DC has so many things to offer. I very much affirm your suggestion to get out there and try new things & meet new people – very few days go by that I don’t try something new or meet someone new!

  3. Thank you for sharing this. The concept of ‘home’ is one I have pondered over for a few years now. About six months ago, I moved from the coast of South Carolina (Beaufort, Hilton Head) to a town south of Atlanta. I think a lot of it has to do with my current situation (finances, no regular employment), but I miss home so much. Even though I wasn’t born or raised there, South Carolina is that one place for me in life that will always be home – especially the Lowcountry area. I try to live in the moment and find joy in the small things, but the pangs of homesickness are so much sometimes that I do find myself crying. I feel guilty because my family is here – in Atlanta – but I still find myself homesick for a place. I think I always will. I would love to read your thoughts on making friends. I am pretty reserved and prefer “quality over quantity” when it comes to relationships, so moving to new places has always offered that added hurdle of finding friends – on top of homesickness and other worries!

  4. Oh, Emily. I love this post. I was so homesick when Levi and I moved to SC the week after the wedding (and I know that the GA-SC change doesn’t even begin to compare to a CT-NC transition!). We moved in together (for the first time) to a place where neither of us knew a soul, both worked from home, and it was just impossible to meet anyone. Add the post-wedding blues on top, and it was enough to have me crying daily. Getting a pet is the best advice. Once we got our little fur child, we started to feel more settled and more like a family. Plus, she’s so funny that she makes us laugh all day long!

    It will be 3 years in May, and we still struggle to make new friends (since we still work from home), but we’re grateful for the fabulous ones we have. We’ve also started adventuring locally, which is another great suggestion on appreciating and becoming comfortable with your surroundings. The silver lining in this situation is that it’s definitely made us feel more like a team — we’re in this together! With that said, I would be lying if I still don’t try and find reasons for us to move back to Atlanta :).

    Thank you for your honesty in this post. It’s a scary thing to admit (since all newlyweds are supposed to be SO! HAPPY! ALL! THE! TIME!), and I appreciate you being so open about it!

  5. Ha, it would seem that Natalie and I just flip flopped…GA to SC and SC to GA!

  6. I can totally identify with this! I moved from Vermont to New Orleans when I was 10 and I’m still not over it. I left New Orleans after high school to visit family “for a few months” in Florida before heading back up north for college and, 14 years later, I’m still here. Life happened. But I’ve never shaken the desire to get back to Vermont. I love it and miss it so much. The main thing keeping us in Florida is the fact that my husband has an awesome job and my mother in law lives about a mile away (which is invaluable when you have young children) but I’m still not convinced we’ll be here forever. My husband is an awesome partner in this kind of adventure and we are really trying to make the most out of our time here but some days are easier than others. I think there are just certain places in the world – different ones for each of us – that fit our hearts better than all the rest and it can be a serious challenge when we aren’t able to be there.

  7. I really enjoyed reading your tips and experience Emily. I am really considering moving to the South from New Hampshire once I recover from a back injury that I am dealing with. I have never been farther than an hour from home, as I attended UNH for college, so it will definitely be an adjustment. I agree that it is important to find a church when you settle in because fellowship and the community there can be medicine for the soul. Thank you for sharing this :)

  8. Haley

    I’m brought to tears right now…I needed this so much today!

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  9. Haley

    Haley again-I’m pretty sure I’m the emailer you’re referring to…if so, please do not feel bad about the time you took to post this. I needed it more now than ever and I am overwhelmingly thankful for this and for you!

  10. I think transitioning to a new place, especially without the comfort or security of a school environment, is one of the hardest things about being a young adult. I don’t think anyone makes it through those first couple post-college years without a few (more many) good cries. Thanks for the honesty in this post! Also, as silly as it might sound, I’d love to hear your thoughts on making new friends in your twenties because I think it can be difficult to do in a new place, and a lot more people struggle with it than actually talk about it.

  11. Love everything about this post! I moved to Nashville 3 weeks after I graduated college this past May. Though my boyfriend was born and raised here and we had spent countless spring and winter breaks here, the move was still a big transition. Most of his high school friends had moved away, we both began new jobs and started living on our own for the first time.

    I’ve been here almost eight months to the day, and only in the past few months have I really started to feel at home, settle into a routine and make new friends. It’s a long process, but I’m so happy and proud of myself for making this big leap!

  12. Love that you shared this! I always struggled with homesickness throughout college. Your tips are spot-on for feeling better about the situation.
    -KT

  13. Rob

    Great post, Em. Home is where the heart is — and the cats.

  14. Emily Alice

    This was such a great post, Emily! When I studied abroad in London last year I cried like a baby all the way to the airport, then on the plane, and for the first three days I was there. I hated how cold and cloudy and dirty the city seemed. I called my family every chance I could. In order to get over my homesickness I think it took me realizing that there was nothing I could do about it other than to suck it up and make the best of it. After those awful first three days I loved every single second of being in London!

  15. Thanks so much for sharing Em! I also experienced extreme homesickness when I moved from VA to NYC after college – your advice is spot on and I know it will help more people than you think to just know other people have experienced it too.

  16. To echo others, this was a great post and thanks for sharing! I’ve actually gotten more homesick the longer I’ve been in NC. In undergrad, I was used to being away from home but I only lived 3 hours away so I was able to come home reasonably often. Now I’m lucky if I go home twice a year and the longer that goes on the more homesick I get. Pets really are one of the best cures though! Chris and I both get homesick from time to time but we have each other and our puppies to get through it together. The dogs keep us laughing all the time and that definitely keeps our spirits up!

    And like someone else said, I would also like to hear your tips about making friends in your 20s!

  17. Sarah

    I loved this – it’s so great to hear that I’m not alone in hating a new home for a while! My husband and I left Raleigh for Atlanta about 4 years ago. We were so ready to leave NC, where we both grew up, and thought that we would love Atlanta so much, that it took a few months for us to admit that we were miserable. We assumed for years that we would move back, but jobs have always kept us here as well as that nagging feeling that “you can never really go home again”. My tip would be to think of all the things that you might miss if you left your new city. That one takes some time since you have to find things that you might miss, but we have a growing list now!

    I also second the point about making friends! I’m much more of an introvert than I used to think :)

  18. Sarah

    I was lucky in my post-college experience. I stayed in the same city where I went to college (Richmond) and quickly met my now-fiance, who grew up here. The first few years, I felt surrounded by people- a bunch of my college friends had stayed in Richmond, or were nearby in DC, plus I had been brought into my boyfriends awesome group of friends! But slowly, a lot of “my people” started moving away. It was really sad, even though I’m by no means a loner now. I still find it hard not necessarily to meet people, but to meet people that I really, really like. My closest girlfriends still live in other cities, which makes me sad.

    To echo Emily’s advice, I definitely recommend getting a pet to cure any sort of sadness!! I convinced my fiance to get a puppy when two of my very best friends announced they were moving to new cities. A small cry-fest may have been involved. But besides the comfort that having a pet brings to your home, a dog forces you out to meet people! It’s a great way to break the ice and get to know your neighbors. I didn’t know any of mine by name before we got our dog. Now we know everyone! People are quite bold when you have a puppy they want to pet :)

    The other great thing to do is to join an adult sports/drinking team (if that’s your thing), we have a kickball league here. We’ve made more friends that way too.

  19. Oooh I know this all too well!! And it’s still very fresh, but hopefully not permanent. My homesickness comes in waves. Before Christmas, I was at the 3 month mark of not seeing any family and I was miserable. Not only is moving away hard and missing family, but the FOOD of the SOUTH gets missed so much in our house. You just can’t get good chicken pastry in Amarillo. Or butterbeans. Or sweet tea!!!! and Bojangles? Forget it. It’s been interesting learning how to bring a taste of “home” here into our kitchen, but we’ve learned that we definitely took southern cookin’ for granted. Moving to a crappy town (dirty, dusty, windy, dated, with little to do) is really the pits. Thank God for sweet people, though, and FINLEY!! It’s definitely better to focus on the positive, but we have to force it and verbally speak positive words! We just have to both suck it up, because we mutually feel the same way–which can be both good and bad. I think we’re busting our behinds to get back to the South, sooner rather than later! Fingers crossed :) I’m glad yall love NC now though, and I’m glad we were able to become friends and practically neighbors when while we were there!! XO

  20. Cassie

    Thanks for this! I just moved from New England to North Carolina in January, and I am really, really struggling. I have family here, and always enjoyed visiting, but living here is a whole different experience! I definitely have my ups and downs but it was nice to read about another New England girl’s move to NC, and how despite missing the beach, the history, family, etc. Good to know it gets better!

  21. Caroline

    I just discovered your blog as I’m planning my wedding in my home-town in Virginia long distance from Los Angeles. I have had waves of homesickness ever since I moved as well and now that I’m planning a wedding 3,000 miles away from my mom, dad, best friends, and future family-in-law it’s rearing it’s ugly head more than ever. I’m so thankful to have met my fiance (and best friend) out here in LA, he grew up in the same town as me though we met in California. He understands where I came from and what I miss, but I think this time it’s a bit different being a “bride to be” without the women closest to my heart being close enough to hug.