I’ve been lying to myself for awhile now and it’s time to come clean. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, my boyfriend did. It was about a week before Thanksgiving that Dani told me, “Heather, you’re homesick.”
What? Me? No way! Don’t you use the “H” word with me! Sure, I miss my family and friends like anyone would – moving abroad is incredibly hard – but I love my job and my life in Spain. I moved here because I wanted to. How could he know what I was feeling better than I did?
But he was right. When I stepped back and took a better look at myself, it was undeniable that all of the signs were there. I’d been lying about what my emotions meant for weeks. First, when I felt stir crazy and needed to get out of the house for a cup of coffee or a walk, I chalked it up to boredom. Then it was stress from teaching too much and not having enough free time to blog or read or workout. But then when I did have free time, I was too tired and just binge-watched series online. By the night of Thanksgiving Saturday, a full-blown meltdown was right on schedule.
Homesickness works in mysterious ways. As long-term travelers and expats know, it’s inevitable that we will all go through it from time to time. Still, it can be so difficult to admit. But why? Why is it embarrassing to miss home? We’re not afraid to venture into the unknown anywhere our travels take us, but if there’s even a whiff of homesickness, and we try to avoid it like the plague.
I’m a repeat offender of this. When I studied abroad for a year in Murcia, I used to pride myself on not getting homesick – like missing home is such a bad thing. I was having the year of my life: School. Siesta. Travel. Beach. Party. Repeat. I could see homesickness on the faces of my friends and in their comments that “In America this would never happen!” or “Why isn’t Spain more like America?” but I never let it get me. I didn’t have the time. Even when I returned home after the year, I was ready to do anything to move back for longer.
Now I’ve lived in Galicia for 15 months, and it’s not like what I thought. It’s been so much harder. Before my year abroad was fast-paced and go-go-go, and this time around I’m working to make a life and home for myself here. I’ve had to learn what it is to be homesick. But more importantly, I’ve had to learn that that’s okay. You can’t accept the good without accepting the bad. Missing home doesn’t mean you’re weak, and it’s definitely not embarrassing to feel that way. If you decide you don’t like everything about where you’re at, it doesn’t mean your whole trip is a failure. It’s always risky leaving that you-shaped hole back home to see what other parts of the world have to offer. You’ll never know unless you go.
So that’s where I’m at right now, learning as I go. Eight more days and I’ll be back on U.S. soil to visit for Christmas – a little family time to cure this holiday homesickness. I’ve tackled some hard times during this last year, and I’ll accept the new ones as they come. I know Galicia will have some great things in store for me this new year. Happy holidays everyone!