How to Deal with Feeling Homesick Abroad During the Holidays

Today is my first Christmas away from my family at home. I’m sitting in bed relaxing, listening to Christmas music, and wondering what I would be doing if I were home in Toronto. I know my mom must be getting ready to go over to my brother & sister-in-law’s place for Christmas dinner. I guess I’d just be getting ready as well!

Christmas in Colombia is a bit different; celebrations happen on Christmas Eve rather than on the 25th, but the 25th is a holiday so everyone is still relaxing and enjoying time with family. I went out to the grocery store earlier with Elena and was shocked to see how empty the normally traffic-ridden street was. It was a beautiful day, sunny and it got up to 21, so I was walking in a simple t-shirt, thinking damn, this isn’t Christmas weather at all.

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I’m more used to weather that requires this type of apparel in December. (I can’t believe I’m putting this on the internet!?)

 

The part of me that hates the cold was super satisfied at that, but the part of me that loves Christmas felt pretty homesick. Where’s the snow? Where’s my jacket that goes down to my knees?

Even surrounded by family here and after a fun Christmas evening, I can’t help but feel a bit of longing for home and what I’m used to.

Perhaps you’re abroad as well and are also feeling homesick. Everyone has different strategies to cope, but here are a few that helped me along this December:

Christmas Carols

I’ve been listening to the same few Christmas playlists on Spotify ever since my cousins and I returned home from Peru. Lots of them were new Spanish songs so I could get into the Colombia Christmas spirit, but on days when I felt more homesick, I made sure to go for the classics. It made me feel back home, where carols play pretty much all December.

Note: Singing along is recommended, but not required.

Movies & Shows

Ever since I’ve been in Bogota, I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls in Spanish to practice my language listening skills. The past few days, I’ve reverted back to watching it in English to give myself a break. It’s helped! I also watched a movie that made me happy, Chicago. I’d never seen it, but I watched the broadway show in New York with my mom so it reminded me of her and our trip!

 

Retail Therapy

Malls are pretty much the same everywhere in the world. I never really noticed how true that was until I spent a bit of time in the nearby mall almost everyday this past week. Kids playing in the Santa area, people rushing all around, long lines. I’m normally not a big fan of shopping but I found the familiarity of the environment soothing. Buying gifts for my family here, too, was a fun distraction.

 

Eat what you love

Food not only fills the stomach, but the soul! I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate and sweets these past few days. I always do around this time of year, so being abroad was no excuse to stop! I also love the Colombian Christmas foods of buñuelos and natilla, so made sure to have my fill of those. *Nom nom nom.*

Colombian buñuelos - basically fried cheesy balls of deliciousness, & natilla - a sweet custard-type dessert.
Colombian buñuelos – basically fried cheesy balls of deliciousness, & natilla – a sweet custard-type dessert.

 

Skype

Skype is of course a great way to keep in touch with friends and family that are far away. I’ve found it especially useful these past few days. Chatting with friends and family face-to-face relieved a bit of the homesickness and made me feel like I was hanging out with them back home. Well, not really… but it’s the next best thing!

 

Enjoy the festivities in your host-country

Christmas may not be the same here as it is where I’m from, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing! I actually loved seeing how the season is celebrated here. There were lots of lights in the streets, with clusters of decorated trees in parks and malls. There was also a really cool light show that happened in Bogota’s main square. I went to see it with Elena, my aunt Consuelo, and her family. A chilly night, with lots of street vendors selling Christmas goods, it got me more into the holiday spirit.

 

Pay more attention to detail

While out and about in the city, I tried to pay more attention to the details of the city. The buildings, the people, the nature, the sky. Focusing on things I hadn’t noticed before made me appreciate more where I am. It’s not home, but it’s still pretty amazing!

On a recent trip to the botanical garden, I was able to marvel at all the pretty flowers and trees that grow here.
On a recent trip to the botanical garden, I was able to marvel at all the pretty flowers and trees that grow here.

 

 

Talk with locals 

I’m fortunate to still be with family here in Bogota. Chatting with my cousins, uncles, and aunts here always makes me feel loved and at home. I know a lot of travellers may be totally solo in a city which makes things a bit tougher, but I found that even small exchanges with strangers in the streets or in malls can be nice. My cousin and I took a bus one day but had no money on our metro cards, so asked if anyone on the bus could use theirs in exchange for cash. One man used his card for us, but didn’t take our money after. It was so nice of him that we felt like there was definitely some Christmas magic in the air.

 

Sleep as much as you need

After Peru, I was perpetually exhausted for a while. For the most part, I’d go to bed early, wake up late, and take naps in the day. The part of me that feels a strong need to be productive was appalled at how much time I spent sleeping at first, but then I just let go. I started feeling better after I allowed my body the sleep it needed. Being tired and cranky is not a good combo with homesickness so make sure to get those Zzzzzs. 

 

Do something silly!

I spent 10 minutes singing and dancing in front of my cousin’s cat yesterday while I was getting ready for the evening’s party. It allowed me to let loose and laugh, making me feel more relaxed and less homesick. The cat, on the other hand, didn’t seem too amused.

This is the cat, Pascala, looking at me with her staple unamused look.
This is the cat, Pascala, looking at me with her staple unamused look.

Do you have any more tips for fighting homesickness abroad? Let me know in the comments or send me a message!

Thanks for reading, and wishing all a merry, merry Christmas! I hope you’ve spent it doing exactly what you love, wherever you are in the world.

Lots of love,

L