Living abroad is never an easy move to make.
No matter how much you love traveling, there are things that you leave behind which makes a place your only home: family, friends, a house, town, way of life…a feeling of true comfort.
I have traveled for months at a time, worked a couple of American Summers at a camp outside Philadelphia; and more permanently, applied for a 2 Year visa in the UK where I have been currently living for almost a year. All of which I did on my own.
I am not even close to being done with this living abroad thing, with Canada hopefully my next move in 2015-16.
After all my years away from home, it is pretty safe to say I know what I need to keep the homesickness at bay. This will be different for everyone and there are mountains of lists available online on how to beat it. But when I think about the must-have things I need to help me live away from home, these 10 things are what I know I just couldn’t manage to live without in order to continue living this lifestyle.
Maybe some of them will help you too.
1 – Eating your favourite foods
This is easy. No matter where you come from, there are certain foods you are used to and certain dishes which are cultural that you just can’t have anywhere else. Nothing tastes like home.
BUT there are ways around this.
In Australia, one of our signature dishes is the Chicken Parmijiana, (Chicken Parma to us!) which is a breaded chicken schnitzel, with a layer of tomato sauce paste, a thin slice of ham, and cheese melted on top. It is delicious! You can’t beat this meal; which is your typical Aussie pub fare. At least once a week, I make this for myself and it is amazing! It is the closest thing to home I have had with British ingredients…which is a feat considering I haven’t been able to enjoy certain foods here as they just taste repulsive to me.
Recipes aside, anything I eat often is worth taking with me as a ‘stash’. Whether it be Cadbury chocolate (the Hazlenut kind), Macaroni and Cheese, Arnotts shapes, or Baked Beans in Ham Sauce just to start…I could only manage a couple of months without some of these, before needing rations sent from home. So work out what you CAN’T live without and take enough to last you a little while. Or get people to bring you these things if you manage to meet up with them at any point.
You realize pretty quickly just how far you will go to have your favourite tastes of home…and how much you will pay to ship it over! (Thank god for Aussie food suppliers here!)
2 – The benefits of technology
I have no idea how people managed to travel without immediate access to home. If nothing else than to touch base with family and friends while you are away, see the dog on a skype call, or sort out an issue back home with ease…technology is just amazing!
Whether you Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Voxer, Facebook or anything else on offer, just being able to speak to someone, even through words, makes any traveler’s life abroad that much easier. Feeling connected is the one thing that is necessary to combat homesickness, especially when living away. Even though you aren’t at home, you can still feel as though you are just by staying in touch, and remember it goes both ways. So use it OFTEN!
3 – Take your favourite clothes on your travels
When packing for your big adventure, make sure you take the clothing that you feel the most happy in. Whether it is a pair of sweat pants, a poncho or your favourite pair of jeans…having these items with you is vital. Why? Because you want to feel COMFORTABLE when you are thousands of miles away from home. Nothing beats relaxing in your favourite outfit as you watch a movie on a Sunday afternoon while rain pours outside.
Trust me – It isn’t about the QUANTITY of clothing you bring, you can buy stuff anywhere. But NOT taking that favourite sweater because it won’t fit in your suitcase…that is just the BIGGEST mistake one could make. So DON’T do it! Prioritize your selection!
4 – Have access to all your favourite movies and shows
So anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am a movie and television nut! I can’t go even one day without watching something on my computer! Usually when I get ready in the morning I will have something on, or at night when I am winding down after a long day. It is how I relax and enjoy my spare time.
There are many options out there for people like me, whether you want to invest in an IP changer-which allows you to watch the Global catalogue of Netflix at the push of a button, and bypass any blocked site too. OR you can build up your computer’s free space or an external hard drive, full of your favourite shows and movies so that all your comforts are right there anytime you need them.
Many people would not worry about things like this, but when you are away from the comfort of home, and the people who know you best; spending the day with the ‘friends’ you have spent years getting to know, can be the next best thing. For me this can be anything from One Tree Hill to Gilmore Girls to Sex and the City, or The Hangover, Signs or Home Alone…knowing I have these at my disposal is all I need to cheer me up, enjoy my day and feel good.
I COULD NOT live without them and I will readily admit it!
5 – Set realistic travel goals
Upon settling into a new place, once you find a job, a permanent residence and all of that serious stuff…you can finally begin to enjoy yourself! What better way to do that then to explore this wonderful city you have embarked on?
Depending on what location you are in, will determine what type of exploring you can do. But for those of us in London, well we have the UK, Ireland and Europe right on our doorstep! Paris for the weekend…when are we going? Oxford for the day? You bet!
Or you can just wander around the city itself and explore the touristy things, or museums…or the many millions of pubs in the city. Exploring the city you live in will help you fall in love with it, and make you want to stay as long as you possibly can! So what the hell are you waiting for once you settle in? Get LOST!
6 – Create a friendship group
After establishing yourself in your new country, eventually you will need to expand your friendship group from being a lonely party for one…to however many friends you can make! The good thing is we have access to Apps like Meet-Up which allow us to join groups, and even more importantly, you can meet other expats just like you!
I prefer to branch out and meet other nationalities, so I really only have one Aussie friend in London, but meeting people from the US, Canada and the UK has allowed me to expand my future couch surfing possibilities; but more importantly learn about other cultures and what bought these people over here too.
Sticking with just Aussies was never in my plan, and only after 9 months here, did I even venture into living with New Zealanders. I love speaking with people from home, but I didn’t come all the way over here just to meet people who live in my neck of the woods. Expand yourself and the people you decide to make your family. You will not regret it! Meeting awesome Canadians made deciding to move there that much easier for me.
7 – Complete your list of ‘must-do’s’
Once you begin exploring, don’t forget to tick off your list of things to experience. Given, you may not be able to see and do everything! Be realistic, money does not grow on trees and as great as traveling is, giving up every weekend to sight see is not advised. You do need to relax and have lazy weekends too when working full time.
BUT you should ensure that you get to experience everything you want to, whether it is the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Oktoberfest in Munich, a typical British High Tea or see the Eiffel Tower in Paris. If you have a plan for what you want to see more than anything else, you will have a goal to work towards, which will distract you when missing home pains come a-calling. And it is so much FUN! So forget missing home and realize how lucky you are to have the chance to knock any place off a list! Get CRACKING!
8 – Meet Up with people who are visiting
After being away from home for so long, one thing that has helped me to not feel homesick is catching up with people I know from Australia. Whether it was high school classmates I hadn’t seen in years, or good friends who were planning holidays over my way before I even decided to move here; always make the effort to catch up with people you know. Not only does it give you an awesome catch up months in the making; but it allows you to share your experience with someone who understands where you are, as well as sightsee with familiar people.
I have been lucky enough to have caught up with almost 8 people since I arrived over here, which has been a pretty significant number in 11 months. But it was so worthwhile to see every single one of them, and it really kept me going another few months, even if I only spent a few hours with them.
I count myself as very lucky to have so many people in my life that took the time to arrange a day just to see me and touch base while they were here, whether we saw each other a lot or hardly at all back home.
9 – Have a musical anthem
Everyone has a soundtrack they live their life by. But one thing people who move abroad need is an anthem. At least one song that reminds you of why you decided to move half way across the world. A song you can listen to on those lonely days, bad work days or days that make you feel happy you made this decision.
Your anthem needs to be an inspirational song, ideally about living in the moment and taking nothing for granted. Two songs that really resonate with me are ‘Wake Me Up’ by Avicci and ‘Can’t Hold Us’ by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Both songs pick me up when I am feeling down, they are awesome to exercise to and ultimately they remind me that I am doing a very brave thing moving abroad on my own and that I shouldn’t waste a second of this experience wishing I was back home, no matter how much I may miss it at times.
So find that song and listen to it when you need to…it could be just what you need to feel better!
10 – Appreciate that you may only experience this ONCE
The best part about moving abroad, is the experience you have once you are there. But because of Visa’s and even age requirement restrictions, sometimes these adventures only happen once.
Your responsibility to yourself is to live every moment you can while you are away-see everything you wish, eat new food, understand the culture of a place and appreciate that you now know what it is like to live in another country.
You may feel homesick, you my miss people, you may wonder if you made the right choice…but ultimately, you are here and only get one shot to do it right. DON’T waste it wishing you were home. You have your whole life to live there.
Some people will never have the chance to experience what you do, nor see the places you get to visit. Remember that this experience is not FOREVER. So, do not waste a single MINUTE of it, while you have the chance to be here living this life.
It may only come along once. So, bloody ENJOY it!