Homesickness While Traveling: 3 Simple Steps to Overcome It

One of my closest friends recently got married, and her bachelorette party in Palermo was one of the best weekends of my life. And the wedding? In an abbey near Rome...pure magic.

Now, even though I'm in Kuala Lumpur, I find myself scrolling through Instagram, replaying videos of those special moments on repeat, feeling a wave of nostalgia wash over me.

I’m in KL with plans to head to Australia next, then Singapore, and finally Thailand. But right now, all I can think about is trading all those tickets for a return trip to Rome. Don't get me wrong, I love meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, but there's something irreplaceable about sharing stories and laughter with friends and family who have known you forever. So what’s happening? I’m getting homesick, that’s what’s happening. And trust me, it’s perfectly normal.

Feeling homesick doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake by choosing a nomadic lifestyle. It just means that every choice comes with its own set of pros and cons.

The good news is, homesickness doesn’t have to kill your travels.

With a few tricks, you can embrace those moments of longing and still fully enjoy your travels. Here’s how to keep your heart light and your spirit adventurous, even when home feels far away.

1. Understand What Triggers Your Homesickness

You may think homesickness is about missing a place, but in my experience, something else tugs at your heartstrings. Let's dive into what really makes you feel that pang of longing.

Missing loved ones

Group of friends outdoor at sunset

No matter how exciting your travels are, nothing can replace the bond you share with your family and friends. Being away means missing out on your people's milestones, inside jokes, and those simple daily chats, and yes, it can definitely bring on a wave of loneliness. Having grown up in 6 different countries—from Rome to Houston to Istanbul—I've learned that home is where my people are.

When we lived in Houston, my brother and sister were my anchors. Amid all the moves, they provided a sense of stability and familiarity more than any house ever could.

These relationships are irreplaceable, and missing out on their lives can make you feel incredibly isolated. Celebrations like birthdays and holidays like Christmas, which we often take for granted, become reminders of what you’re missing. Homesickness often strikes hardest when you realize you can’t just pop over for a chat or a hug with someone who knows you inside out.

Routine and familiar places

Laptop next to cup of coffee on a wooden table top in a cafe

Routine might sound dull, but it's what keeps us grounded. Your daily coffee spot, the gym, even the little quirks of your apartment—they all create a sense of security. As an Italian who loves to cook, my routine also includes going to my trusted neighborhood grocery store, where they know exactly what I want, my butcher, and the caseificio where I get my mozzarella.

And let’s not even start on the food cravings. When you live abroad, food is one of the first things that hits hard. I love other cuisines, but there’s nothing like a perfect mozzarella di bufala with yummy tomatoes, fresh basil, pizza bianca and prosciutto crudo. Not exactly something you can find everywhere!

These routines, no matter how mundane, actually provide comfort and a sense of normalcy. Disrupting them can leave you feeling a bit lost. So it's important that when you're hopping from one country to the next, you establish new routines that can help create that sense of normalcy again. Maybe it’s finding a favorite café in your current city or joining a local gym. You would be amazed how much these little things can help make a new place feel a bit more like home.

Culture Shock

Traveler at archeological site in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Exploring new places is thrilling, but dealing with different customs, languages, and social norms? It can be exhausting. For those of us who are third-culture kids, this might be less daunting. But the reality is that most people choose a nomadic lifestyle later in life.

While experiencing new cultures is fascinating, it can be tough when you’re actually living there and not simply visiting. Even small things, like understanding the local drinking culture or navigating strict rules like those in Singapore (where you can’t even chew gum without risking a fine), can be challenging. Even dress code rules can be a surprise.

These differences, while part of the adventure, can pile on top of existing homesickness and make you feel even more out of place.

2. Adopt Strategies to Manage Homesickness

Okay, we understand the triggers–now it's time to equip yourself with the tools to navigate homesickness. Let me share some strategies to stay grounded and joyful while you're on the road (they've certainly helped me, so hopefully, they will help you!).

Stay connected

Video call on a mobile device

Technology makes life easier in many ways, and staying connected is one of them. If you haven't tried yet, trust me, regular video calls with loved ones can do wonders. I recently had a marathon FaceTime session with my friend Valentina, who’s living in Japan. We hadn’t talked in months and ended up chatting for over three hours. She’s my go-to for deep conversations about life and world events, and while we couldn't meet up in person, that call made me feel like I was right there with her.

But I know, sometimes scheduling a video call is easier said than done. So don’t just stick to video calls. Use shared photo albums to keep a visual link to home (if you have an iPhone it's super easy to set one up). It’s a great way to feel involved in each other's lives.

And don’t underestimate the power of a spontaneous message, even if you're in different time zones. A quick “thinking of you” text can bridge the gap and make you feel closer to your friends and family. Plus, it makes your heart smile when you get one of those messages.

Bring comforts from home

Polaroid photos

When you're miles away from home, a few familiar items can make all the difference. Pack some small, comforting objects that bring a slice of home with you. It could be a favorite pillowcase, cherished photos, or a book that feels like an old friend. For me, it's my trusty moka pot. I swear, every Italian abroad has one. The smell of coffee brewing in a moka pot instantly transports me back home.

Yes, scents are powerful. A candle with a familiar fragrance can make any space feel cozier. Personal items can also carry emotional weight. My grandfather used to gift me photo albums every year. Each one starts with a little dedication from him, and flipping through them always brings a sense of comfort.

These small items can help ground you when everything around you feels foreign and unfamiliar.

Seek Familiar Experiences

Expat meetup in a cafe

Injecting some everyday routines into your new surroundings can create a sense of normalcy. Find a local café that becomes your regular spot, or discover a park where you can take daily walks. It’s these little rituals that can make a new place start to feel like home.

Look for places that resonate with your cravings and comforts. Maybe there's a bar that serves your favorite beer from back home or a market that stocks that ingredient you’ve been missing. Joining a local gym or yoga class can also provide the structure and community that helps ease homesickness.

Expat meetups are a goldmine for finding like-minded people who understand exactly what you’re going through. Sharing experiences and swapping stories with fellow travelers can create a sense of community, even thousands of miles from home.

3. Reframe Your Mindset

Sometimes, the best way to tackle homesickness is to shift your perspective. It’s totally normal to be thrilled about discovering new places while missing the comforts of home at the same time. Here’s how you can embrace your travels without letting that nostalgic ache slow you down.

Focus on the benefits of your location

Traveler exploring Northern Thailand

Even when you're going through homesickness, remember—you chose this spot for a reason! So, take a moment to remember what attracted you here in the first place.

Make a list of all the things you’re excited to experience—whether it’s the breathtaking nature, unique cultural events, or simply a different pace of life. Dive into the positives of your location and try not to fixate on what you miss from home.

There’s a reason you decided to leave home, and it’s easy to forget that when nostalgia hits. Remind yourself of those reasons because no place is perfect. Enjoy the local cuisine, explore new traditions, and immerse yourself in the culture that surrounds you.

Practice Gratitude

Happy person at sunset

It's easy to focus on what we don't have, but shifting your mindset to appreciate what you do have can make a world of difference. If you're always thinking about what's missing, you'll never fully enjoy where you are.

Start a gratitude journal dedicated to your nomadic lifestyle. Be specific! Jot down those little moments—a mouthwatering local dish, a heartwarming chat with a new friend, a stunning sunset over unfamiliar landscapes. Reflecting on these positives can help balance out the tough days. I started my first journal at 13 when we moved to Istanbul, and reading back on what young me was thinking always brings a smile to my face. It's never too late to start documenting the good stuff!

Embrace the temporary nature of homesickness

Homesick person close to a lake at sunset

Homesickness can come and go like waves. Sometimes, you might not feel it for months, and then suddenly, it hits hard. Allow yourself to feel the sadness or frustration without judgment. Don’t suppress it—let it out! Remember, these feelings don’t mean something is wrong with you or your travels.

Acknowledge the emotions, then focus on actions and experiences that bring you joy. Homesickness is just a temporary feeling and doesn't define your entire travel experience. Embrace the highs and lows of your journey, knowing that both are part of the incredible adventure you’ve chosen.


You may also be interested in:

How to Beat Your Post-Travel Depression: Your Guide to Feeling Better
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7 Ways to Handle Loneliness as a Digital Nomad
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Homesickness Won't Define Your Journey

Now you know that homesickness is a common part of the travel experience, especially for long-term travelers and digital nomads who are constantly redefining what "home" means. But it doesn’t have to cast a shadow over your adventures. Those feelings of nostalgia? They’re a natural part of the journey, and you’ve got the tools to handle them!

If you think about it, feeling homesick simply means you have something wonderful to miss. That’s a good thing! By using the strategies we've discussed—keeping in touch with loved ones, bringing along comforts from home, finding new routines, and shifting your perspective—you can keep homesickness in check and not let it hold you back.

And while it might sound surprising, facing homesickness can actually make your travels more meaningful. It can deepen your appreciation for both your old and new homes.

Personally, I’ve found that these moments of longing often make me cherish the little joys in my current location even more. And just like I said earlier, if I have something to miss, it means I have something good in my life. I should be grateful for it!

So, embrace the adventure. You’ve got the strength to navigate those homesick moments. You'll come through them with a heart that’s both homesick and full of wanderlust, ready for whatever the next chapter of your journey brings.

Ready to Beat Homesickness While Traveling?

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