There’s no place like home…

Even though Italy has always felt like a second home to me, I still feel nostalgic and homesick for Toronto.  I get the strong need and want to see my family and friends and all the familiar places that hold so many memories for me.  People living abroad know that it isn’t always easy to just hop on a place and visit your family, especially when you’re flying from Europe to North America.  The prices of tickets can get pricey and you may not have many opportunities to make a visit given the fact that when someone travels overseas anything less than 10 days is pretty much pointless.

Overall I’m really happy with my move to Italy.  I was fortunate to find an amazing job that I enjoy very much.  I feel a struggle sometimes between my strong desire to live here and the void in my heart that only my family and friends can fill.  Nothing could ever replace my family and my friends back home.  There are times when I miss them so much I question what I’m doing and why I’m putting myself through this.

We are fortunate in that we have so many technologies available to us that allow us to connect with our families abroad more easily.  Everyone’s life (including my own) is constantly moving forward and it’s so great to see photos on Facebook of my friends and family enjoying their lives but then, if only for an instant, I’m reminded how far away I am from them and how it’s all happening without me.   And then, I feel alone.

Living in the south of Italy, it’s extremely difficult to meet anyone who is a native English speaker so intelligent conversations are pretty much a rare event.  I miss the intelligent conversations I would have with my friends back home.  And sometimes, it’s difficult to truly express myself.  My Italian has come a long way in the year that I’ve been here, but it still becomes frustrating when I can’t fully express my feelings and opinions.  I am lucky that my family is so supportive and they listen to me unload all my frustrations.  Without that I’d be a ticking time-bomb just waiting to explode.

Even though I’ve been living in Italy for almost a year now, I still get a bit depressed, lonely, and homesick for home.  There is no “cure” for homesickness but there are things you can do to help  push past those feelings so that they don’t cripple you or lead you to make a decision that somewhere down the road you may regret.

Here are some things I do to help battle the blues:

1.  Photos, and lots of them!
One of the first things I did when I moved into my apartment was purchase some picture frames and place photos of my family and friends around my room.  Sure, I have tons of pictures on my computer, but to have those smiling faces looking at me every day always make a sad and lonely day a bit brighter.

2.  It’s a Skype Date!
We all have busy lives and hectic schedules.  The 6-hour time difference doesn’t help the situation.  So, I try to set up Skype dates with my family and friends.  We pick a day and time to log-on and chat away.  It’s such a wonderful tool to fight those feelings of homesickness because it’s free (aside from internet costs) and you get to see each other.  Skype dates are the things I look forward to the most.

3.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
I’m not a fan of Italian television and the last thing I want to do to wind down at the end of a long and busy day, is concentrate on Italian telefilms or talk shows.  I had a few programs that I watched regularly in Toronto and I make sure to stay on top of all of my “American TV Programs” every week.   It makes me feel less out of the loop especially when someone asks “OMG! Did you see what happened on *insert various television program titles here*?

4.  A Taste of Home.
Italy is full of incredibly delicious and wonderful foods and I never imagined that I would miss certain foods.  You can pretty much find anything here but there are still a few things that you just can’t find (and there are no suitable replacements for).  For example, about 6 months after my move, I found that I was really missing American coffee.  I can hear you all gasping in horror, but it’s true.  So, on my last trip to Toronto I made sure to allow adequate space in my luggage for a pound of my favourite Starbucks coffee (Sumatra for those who are wondering) and a French Press.

5.  Breathe In
Sometimes, it is incredibly easy to let these sad and lonely feelings just take over.  I find that Yoga has helped me greatly.  I am able to take some time away from everything around me and focus on me.  With Yoga, I am reminded to take deep breaths.  It calms me and clears my mind of all the clutter so I can remember why I’m doing this and how much I’ve learned and grown from this experience and how much there is still left to accomplish and experience ahead.

I think it’s important to realize that feeling nostalgia for home is natural and everyone experiences it at varying degrees and points during their time abroad.  For this reason, it’s important to find the things that work best from you and expand on them whenever and however you can.  It’s not easy sometimes but you aren’t the only one feeling this way.  I try to remember the reasons why I left and the wonderful opportunities I’ve created for myself by doing this and it helps.  I will always miss “home” and the people there but I can’t forget all the beautiful moments and experiences that I’ve had and will have living here.

Are you living, studying or working abroad?  What do you do to battle homesickness?

  1. Cheryl Howard

    June 10, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I’ve been following your blog for a while. I am also from Toronto and after visiting Italy for the first time last September came home wishing I could make a home there. Although I love Italy (will be there on holiday next week) I made a home in Berlin instead.

    I’ve only been here for a week but certainly understand how you feel. I already miss my family and friends yet at the same time am insanely in love with Berlin and Europe in general.

    I wonder … will anyone ever understand my pop culture references and jokes? Will I ever learn German well enough to have an intelligent conversation with them? Will my family and friends forget about me?

    Thanks for this post … I hope these tips will help me as I adjust to my exciting new life

    1. LuLu

      June 14, 2011 at 6:29 am

      @Cheryl – What made you choose to go to Berlin? It’s definitely not easy moving halfway around the world without our family and friends nearby but the experience of such a move is definitely one that not many have the oppourtunity to take. I try and remind myself of that whenever I get lonely or stressed adjusting to life here. We should definitely keep in touch. It’s nice to know another Canadian is out their exploring a different type of life! 🙂 All the best, and if you ever need someone to vent to that can understand what it’s like living abroad, you know where to find me!

  2. Susan Priano

    June 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Be patient with your life and your choices. I understand the loneliness you feel after leaving your family. Think how so many of our ancestors left Italy or their respective homelands with no means to travel back. It is a constant theme of those who leave their homeland, never intending to stay, always hoping to return home.Yes, airfares are high, but we are grateful to tools like SKYPE that allow us to be “almost” home.
    After most of my life wanting to get away from Western NY I finally left at the age of 28, sadly missing the family and having a desire to return. I have been in California now for twenty years and have finally decided this is home. Now after getting my Italian Citizenship, I wonder if I could live abroad…

  3. leanne in italy

    May 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Let’s plan something. I will check what hours I am doing this week as they are changing soon, and then let you know. We are so close it would be a shame not to meet. And my hands are more than full at the moment, but when I am at work I am there all day and have no baby to steal my attentions away!

  4. leanne in italy

    May 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    If you ever want to catch up, even just for a coffee or something then I am here! I work just off Corso Mazzini now, full time so there most days with an hour or so for lunch. Are you still in that area? Do you have a lunch break?

    1. LuLu

      May 24, 2011 at 2:03 am

      @Leanne ~ I would love to catch up. I’ve been wanting to get in touch with you to meet up but I know you have your hands full with work, baby and wedding planning. I usually have an hour or so off work between 1:00 and 3:00 on most days. Since you are near Corso Mazzini, we could easily grab a quick bite or something there because my school is also near there.

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