An untranslatable word describing the feeling of longing/craving/yearning for someone or something than it has to do with the nostalgia, missing of a place, state of mind or person and warm sensation of emptiness caused by a powerful memory. Something you can even feel for something or someone you’ve never seen or had.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not miss home. Some days there are small things that I miss, a place, a building, a feeling. Other days it feels like I miss the whole city, the whole country and everything in it.
In almost three years I have empirically learned a great deal about homesickness. The word got a new meaning from me. It’s palpable, familiar. I not only know it, but I feel it. I can almost hold it in my hands. In my native language we call the feeling of missing something or someone “dor”. Dor is my favourite word from all those that I know. It’s a word related to both happiness and pain, just like living abroad, away from home.
In these three years the longest period I have not been home for a list a few days was six months. When I finally landed home I have experienced one of the happiest moments of my life. Although I was still in the plane and I could barely even see the runway through the window, I felt finally home. I knew I finally made it home after being gone for what seemed ages.
There is a song by Michael Buble called Home that I love since before moving away from home. But I started to truly understand it only after being away from home for a while. I can only imagine that there are others who understand it and feel it even more intensely than I do. Depending on the moment when I listen to it, the feelings I get are completely different.
When there is still a long time between the moment I listen to it and the moment I will be home I feel an incredible longing and I can almost feel all the kilometers between me and my home. I can almost feel the weight of the days that are still to pass on my shoulders. I also see, in my mind, a map with a red dot marking my position and another marking home, united by a line that is way too long.
But when I listen to it when I am on my way home, or soon before, it makes me ecstatic. There is a line saying “But it will all be alright, I’ll be home tonight, I am coming back home” that sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. Even writing it now gives me that feeling. And it has that effect because it speaks a great truth, you truly have the feeling that everything will be okay just because you are home. Similar to that feeling we got as children (or still get now) when hidden under the covers nothing bad could touch us.
In terms of how I deal with all this homesickness, there are various ways that I have discovered with time. Sometimes they are very effective, other times they barely help but nonetheless, at least there is something.
First one is to remind myself that I am lucky. There are people dreaming of seeing more of the world, dreaming of discovering new cities and new people, of accessing a new culture. Regardless of the city you live in now, there are probably people dreaming to see that city one day, even for a few hours. Many times we forget this because we are so used to the city we live in and we take it for granted.
Speaking of things we take for granted I did not know how unappreciative I was towards by home city until I left it. I was just so used to it. It was so normal to wake up in that city, to go and walk its streets, to admire its building and meet its people that I did not realise that I am lucky to feel so comfortable, so at ease in a city. So, another way to deal with homesickness could be to think about the incredible feeling you get when you are back home. Of course, sometimes having these thoughts can make the homesickness even worse but other times it relieves it partially. Use it with care and at your own risk.
Yet another way to deal with homesickness is to remind myself why I am where I am in the first place. We leave for a reason and that reason is must be very strong if it made us leave. Nevertheless, sometimes that very reason, whatever it is, seems pale and insignificant when compared with the desire of being home. It’s down to us to change the balance.
As sad as it may sound at first, it’s beautiful to be incomplete in the way we expats are. Incomplete because we leave a part of ourselves at home and we fly away to a new place without it. Despite our initial belief, when we go back home we find out that we are still incomplete as another part of us remained in our new “adopting” country ( or indeed, countries).
Being away from home teaches you to accept the feeling that “something is missing” and to move on with it. It also teaches you the value of time and the importance of savouring the magic moments in your life. When I go home for a week I live every hour with such intensity that I make more memories in a week than I sometimes do in months.
Last year when in spring I went out with my friends first thing after landing, as I always do when I get home. When our meeting ended and everybody went home, one of my friends told me “I’ll see you tomorrow”. I was so astonished that I needed to take a few seconds to think before finally saying “Yes, I’ll really see you tomorrow”. The realization that I will see them the next day made me incredibly happy. I would have never known to appreciate a day so much, and perhaps not even my friends so much, if I would not have lived away from home. The memory of that moment and the prospect of such moment being repeated the next time I go home keeps me going, despite the extreme homesickness I experience sometimes. As well as the knowledge that I am lucky to be incomplete, a complex puzzle with pieces spread around the world, sometimes placed in the hands of incredibly different people.
Alec is a full time writer, dreamer and art lover. He took to writing at age 14 and his latest novel is called A hospital for souls.