I’m not sure if this makes me strange, or if this is something that everyone who travels can relate to.
I’ve never been the kind of person to get homesick. When I was younger and went away to summer camp, I never missed my home. I never cried for my parents, or my bed, or my stuff, or the things from home that brought me comfort. I never needed it–I was always more than happy to be right where I was.
In fact, it was only after I returned home that I experienced symptoms of what could be described as “homesickness”. Upon returning home from camp and extended family vacations, I was always plagued by a sense of sadness. The best way to describe it was that I missed the feeling of those places. I missed the sights, the sounds, the people and the activities, but more than anything I missed the way it felt to be there. When I’d return from summer camp, for example, I’d miss the way it felt to fall asleep to the sound of chirping crickets in a cabin with 20 new friends my age, and the way it felt to listen to ghost stories by the campfire. When I’d return from family vacations, I’d miss the way it felt to eat watermelon on the beach with my cousins by day, and fall asleep happy and exhausted by the sun each night.
Now that I’m older, the only thing that has changed is that I now have the opportunity to travel away from home even more often, which means more opportunities to fall in love with new places over and over, and to be torn away from them over and over.
In fact, I’ve noticed a trend–one that seems to keep getting worse the older I get. Each and every time I return from a new place, after a few weeks I begin to feel incredibly nostalgic, to the point where I would absolutely book a one-way ticket and go back right this instant if I could.
I find it so strange that I’ve never experienced anything remotely close to homesickness when I’m on the road. The strange beds, the constant packing and unpacking of bags, the feeling of being lost and overwhelmed, the extreme distance between myself and my loved ones–it has never once worn me down. Then again, I’ve never been away from home for months at a time, so I can’t speak to how I’d fare in that situation. But to be honest, I have a feeling that I would be quite alright.
I say this because my family moved a lot when I was younger. In fact, I attended 2 elementary schools, 3 high schools (one of those was a boarding school) and 3 universities–all in different cities and states. Throughout all of these moves, I was weirdly okay. Even going off to boarding school for two years was simply a new adventure for me, and I was happy to be in a new place and make new friends. Sure, living in a dorm far from home with no roommate, laptop, or TV in my room as a junior in high school was a little weird, but I adapted quickly and never looked back. By attending three colleges, there were certainly times when I felt lonely and it was definitely difficult to make friends at each of those places (especially the second one…literally no friends for a year), but during those times I actually learned to embrace the loneliness. I’ve never been the type of person to miss my old neighborhood, or my old house, or my old bedroom–which makes me think I never will be that kind of person.
Maybe it’s because my family had lived in a total of 12 house by the time I graduated from college, so I never had the chance to develop a strong sense of “home”. Maybe it’s just the way I’m programmed. Who knows? Whatever it is, I just don’t get homesick.
…That is, of course, until I get home.
My most recent trip abroad was to Thailand, which has been number one on my personal bucket list as long as I can remember. Honestly, it was every bit as perfect as I imagined. Of course, that’s not to say that everything went smoothly. I got grotesquely sunburned, was stung by a jellyfish on my birthday, almost fainted from the heat, tripped in a hole and strained my knee, allowed myself to be absurdly overcharged because I’m bad at haggling, suffered through sleeping in a beach hut with no A/C for five nights, showered with ants, ate a number of questionable meals, and got bombarded by mosquitoes.
And yet, I. Miss. Thailand. So. Much.
In fact, I’m absolutely dying to get back to Southeast Asia ASAP and explore more of it. I just miss the way it feels to be there, plain and simple. It’s like a legitimate sadness that I feel in my chest. I miss those sweaty drunk backpackers that made me question the values of my generation. I miss the communication mishaps. I miss the way it feels to walk down a road in Bangkok and say to myself “Holy cow, I’m in Bangkok!”
Does it make me heartless for missing foreign lands more than I miss my own family and friends? Does it make me abnormal that I ache for the confusion, chaos, and wonder of traveling more than I ache for the comforts of home when I’m away? I have no idea.
I think it may be similar to the phenomenon of missing an ex-lover. Maybe you ended on good terms, maybe not. Maybe it was a long affair, maybe it was just a short fling. Either way, you don’t have it anymore–and because of that, it makes you want it even more.
Have you ever felt this way about a place you visited? Which do you miss more–your home, or anywhere but home?