Dealing with Homesickness

Vagrant Violet

Oct 4, 2009
Hi, everyone,

I've lived in Buenos Aires for a little over a full year now (though I have been living overseas since Sept. 2008). Right now I have the luxury of writing from my hometown in Ohio, as I am seeing my family for the first time in almost a year and a half!

On one hand, it's so incredibly wonderful to see them (we've always been super-close). But in the back of my mind, the difficult part is that I know in less than 2 weeks, my time here will have to come to an end. And I'm really, REALLY dreading it! :( And then, for a split-second, I hesitate and wonder sometimes if I'm doing the right thing in the end.

Despite the love-hate relationship I tend to have with Argentina (and who doesn't, it seems?), I really do like living in Buenos Aires, and have already invested a lot of time, money, energy, etc. I can deal without all the little luxuries of living in Middle America, speaking my native language 24/7 without a headache, etc., but it's just that above all, it's just so daunting to think that I'm going to have to be so far away from them again, and I won't know for how long.

How do you deal with being away from you loved ones? I know it's probably a mind-over-matter thing more than anything else, but there are times here and when I'm back in Argentina that I just feel blue and lonely.

As always, any words of wisdom are always welcome.

Thanks for reading.
You don't say why you live in Buenos Aires when it looks like your family and friends - your support network - are all somewhere else. Has your employer seconded you to a regional office, or something? My friends and family are scattered all over the globe so I'm always near someone, always a long way from the others. I try to be mentally close to all of them all of the time so that where I am spacially doesn't seem to matter so much. Email and cheap internet phone calls can be great for shrinking distances too but for me (and at the risk of sounding too 'sixties') it's where you are in your head that really counts.. :)
When it comes to family - there is no mind over matter. I kind of feel the same way. I love my life in BA but Christmas was so hard here without my family - my daughters especially - that I've decided to pack it in early here and go home. I know I'm going to miss BA terribly and will want to come running back.

I suggest you just immerse yourself in whatever it is you love to do wherever you are. Stay in regular touch with your loved ones, journal (or see a therapist) re: your feelings. Feeling lonely is normal and be okay with it - even tho it sucks it's part of being human.
Hi Lauren - I'm sorry to hear that you are feeling so down and scared about leaving your family and returning to BA. I am certain that I'll have the same feelings when I make a visit home later this year and I've been dreading it, too.

I don't know about you, but I constantly struggle with the two sides of my personality - the homebody part of me that wants to live close to my family and the adventurous part of me that wants to live in new places. I know that I can't entirely fulfill both parts at the same time, which means that I'm constantly making a choice between them.

For now, I've chosen to fulfill the adventurous side of me because it's much easier to do it now than when I'm older. It sort of feels like the logical thing. I'm young, single, my parents are in good health and I'm at a place in my career where it's possible to pick up and live halfway around the world. The older I get, the harder will get, especially because my desire to "settle down" near family continues to grow each day. And this is an important experience that I want to have. If I don't do it to its fullest, when I "settle down," I will have regrets. I will feel like I missed out on an important life experience, on seeing the world. So, here I am, having that experience, and I'm not leaving yet because I'm still in the middle of it and I'd have regrets if I cut it short.

I'm not sure what brought you here, but I imagine you had your own justifications and reasons for coming here and staying, too. Reminding yourself about those might help. It might give you a purpose for returning. Perhaps write down those reasons that you came here, along with the goals you had for living in BA, and then write down how far you've gotten on each thing. Did you accomplish what you came here to do? Is there more that you could make a renewed effort to work on? This would define your purpose, which may help you feel better about staying here in the face of such a big sacrifice. (Because it IS a sacrifice.)

It's possible that going through that process (evaluating your reasons for living here) might bring you to the opposite conclusion, too, and you'll decide that it's time to go home. And that is OK! It sounds like you'd have a wonderful place to go back to. But I'd suggest that you not make that decision until after you've returned to BA and given yourself a few weeks to readjust. Right now, you're looking ahead to a big transition (leaving your family) and it seems really big and scary, but I'll tell you, the anticipation of the transition is usually worse than the real thing. Human beings are resilient and we have an amazing ability to make the best of what comes our way. If we're feeling bad, we make changes to our situation in order to feel better, and our brain adapts to it in ways that we don't even control. Things that we're forced to experience, which seem awful at first, start to not be so bad because our brain adapts on its own.

However, when we're anticipating something bad, we can't make changes to improve it because it hasn't happened yet! And so you're kind of stuck with that feeling of, "Oh boy. That is really going to SUCK."

So, the anticipation of something bad is usually worse than the thing itself for that reason, but also because humans are not the best predictors of how a series of events will make us feel. We tend to overestimate how good or bad something is going to make us feel. That's not to say that you won't feel shitty when you say goodbye at the airport, or when you walk back into your apartment here in BA. But that you will probably get through those sad feelings easier than you think you will. You have the ability to deal with them, and you will. And before you even know it, you'll be back into your BA routine living your BA life - still missing your family and having moments of loneliness and homesickness (I'd guess that most of us do), but overall feeling good about continuing your life here.

And if that doesn't happen, for some reason - if you're still feeling like shit after you've settled back into your routine for awhile, and your desire to be with your family has overcome the positive things about being in BA - then that probably means it really is time to go home. And so you can. It will always be there for you. You don't need to rush to make that decision right now, when you're right in the middle of all the emotions that being home can stir up. Agonizing over it for the rest of your visit home is not going to help you decide what to do. You need to wait until you're back in your regular life to assess your feelings and make your decision. Vacations are deceiving, because they feel so wonderful and great and we want them to last forever. But you and I both know that at some point, the honeymoon ends, and real life is there waiting for us. So, if you can, you should make your decision when you're in a "real life" state of mind, not when you're in the middle of a break from it.

So, I'd suggest you allow yourself to think through this a little more - maybe do that writing exercise I mentioned, read the advice we leave for you - and then set it aside to tackle once you're back here. After a few weeks being back, you'll have a much better understanding of whether you can handle living here anymore. And if you decide that you can't, that you're done and you want to be with your family, then you already know what you will do.

What I've written has gotten very long and I don't really have time to edit it, so it's sort of stream of thought, but I hope it can help, a little. I'll also share with you a couple of links that helped me a lot when I was hit by devastating homesickness last month. (A couple of questions that I asked about it.) It's a different situation, but there might be some pearls of wisdom that speak to you, too.

Best of luck with whatever you decide. :)
Well, no one is going to live forever with his/her family. I know a lot of people in Europe who live 200-300 km from their family and they see each other twice a year...what is not much more frequently as you can do it!
Now you have the time to think about being homesick, but once you are immerse in your own life i.e. working, hanging around with friends, participating in a piquete, insulting those disgusting Boca fans, laughing at Kretina's sex theories, etc you will be fine!
If you are homesick just go home. If you then miss Buenos Aires, come back.
Skype calls with video helps a lot! I've been here four years and see my family once a year for a few weeks, but being able to see their faces and talk to them definitely helps cut the distance. Also, it's completely normal to feel overwhelmed and sad about leaving home - it always happens to me and to my friends who have lived here for a long time. Come back, try it out for a couple months again, and if you really cannot handle the separation then move home (if that's feasible). I generally get right back into BA life after about a week of being back and feel foolish for considering staying in the US.
I have to say that Video skype is the best thing for homesickness. My husband & I bought everyone in our family (each household) and our close friends inexpensive webcams for Christmas just before we moved from the US to Argentina.

We video skype with almost everyone at least once every two weeks (if not more for our mom's) and it really keeps you in the loop and at least able to "see" everyone on a regular basis.

Little things really help close the distance, like my niece was able to give us her entire science project presentation (with visual aids). It meant a lot that even though we wouldn't be there at the science fair, we got to participate and see what she was working on.

For holidays when everyone is all together it's even better, there is just a few hours we set aside & tell everyone skype us between 12-2 pm (or whatever time) and they skype in and everyone takes a turn at sitting in the "hot seat" to chat with us face to face.

Give it a try!