Homesickness: The Chronic Illness of an Expat

I just booked our summer vacation–a week in Scotland followed by a long weekend in Germany. I am Excited.

We’ve been to Scotland before. And we loved it. My father’s parents immigrated to the US from Scotland when they were teenagers. Even at 99 when she passed, my Nana spoke with a persistent Scottish brogue. The Scotch pride is thick in my family, and I have wild memories of our family reunions, complete with Scotch meat pies, folk songs, and a caber toss. I treasure my Scottish heritage.

This year’s trip will be especially exciting as my entire family will be going–my parents, brother and his family, sister and her family, and my dad’s cousin, Stewart, who is something of a family historian. There will be six children under 7, and it will be the first time all of these cousins have been together. We have rented a house in Ayr, where one of my dad’s cousins lives. It’s about an hour from Glasgow, where my Nana and Pa came from.

After some of the initial shock of my oldest sister’s unexpected death in 2009, my parents declared that they wanted all of us to have a family vacation every year. Scotland has been the dream trip.

Starting with Kirby, who lived in Mexico, we have been a scattered family–Mike and I in Toronto, my other sister now in the Dominican Republic and Mexico before that. Unlike in some families when people leave home to get away from something destructive or painful, we scattered for love and adventure, secure enough in the strength of our family to trust that the connection would remain despite distances. And it has. We are still a close family, made even closer by the tragedy of loss.

But despite feeling secure in that family bond, I still get pangs of homesickness. Some of the homesickness is about food or places (New York pizza, how I miss thee), weather patterns and topography (really, it’s terribly flat here), familiar routines and shared culture (did you know that Canadians refer to kickball as soccer-baseball? Yeah…) But the strongest pangs of homesickness are for the people I’ve left. While Facebook and FaceTime mean I can see them daily if I want, a picture or choppy video never quite fills the space where a constant refrain of “I miss them” pulses.


Mike and I with my parents in Scotland a few years ago.

For me, this is the greatest drawback of an adventuring lifestyle. Whether you move away permanently, take sabbaticals, or travel frequently, it’s true that there is much to gain from seeing the world. But there’s also a lot to lose. I regret friendships that have faded as I’ve moved on. I regret relationships that never had a chance to deepen because I left too soon. I regret milestones I have missed because I can’t fly home for every wedding, baptism, graduation party, funeral.

And there it is. Home. Perhaps it’s because I still don’t necessarily feel settled in a place, maybe it’s because the years spent there still outnumber the years spent elsewhere, or maybe everyone who leaves feels this way, but “home” to me is still that place where I grew up.

The house I grew up in.

The house I grew up in.

It almost seems silly that booking a trans-Atlantic flight makes me reflect on my homesickness. But I guess the moral of the story is obvious–I am excited for this vacation I will spend with my family, because the home I really miss is them.

Did you leave your hometown? Do you feel homesickness often?




136 responses to “Homesickness: The Chronic Illness of an Expat

  1. Ah, yes. I know the feeling of homesickness. Although I live much closer to home (I live in Toronto and I grew up in Montreal) it’s still a very real thing for me. I’m proud of your adventurous life-style, I don’t think I can live farther than a 6-8 hour driver from my hometown.

    • Haha, we live in TO, but my husband is from Montreal, and that was my first Canadian city when I moved here. So I feel homesick, too, for Montreal–especially the food!

      Yeah, I’ve never been out to Vancouver, but part of me is afraid I’d fall in love with it out there—but it’s just too far. I’m about 8 hours from my hometown, and it’s a lot, but you can still do a long weekend road trip.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Yes, sometimes I think one of the benefits of being away a lot is that you quickly realize how much it’s the people and not just the place–and then you appreciate those relationships so much more! Thanks for reading.

  2. Yes I also can relate to your feeling. Just a few weeks ago a had one of this homesickness flashes… and it was hard because my boyfriend was “home” at that time which made it worse in some way as I had one more reason why I wanted to be there. I can also relate to your story about that you feel homesick while writing about booking a transatlantic flight. I just came back from a visit to my sister and my mum and my boyfriend were there as well so we were all reunited and that was almost as good as being back home because the most important people were there anyway. I really like your writing!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting (and complimenting)! My now-husband and I were long-distance for a while, and yeah, that definitely elevated the homesickness.

  3. Yah, I feel the same way too. Coz at this moment I’m not in my hometown and I’d just really miss what I left back home. My family, relatives, friends, the food, culture, people, surroundings, the half of my life. Really felt the homesickness.

  4. Fascinating article…I’m curious what your ideas are on a different topic- the abuse of women, actually! I’m at…I wonder you agree with my Peruvian-influenced project? -Julia from Protección Para Ella

  5. Hi Jean,

    Yes, I do feel homesick at times. Or, rather, I feel that I long for somewhere which isn’t where I’m living now (I live in London and I’m dreading the experience, since 2011!) but that isn’t my hometown either. I left my hometown a good 9 years ago to study and I’ve never spent more than 5 consecutive weeks in there ever since. Plus, most of my family and friends are either moving or passing away, which is kind of watering down the affective association – and increasing the emotional burden associated to each return.

    So, at the moment I still don’t know if there’s a place I truly long to, somewhere I’d always be happy to return to!

    • Hi, thanks for reading! Place is such a complicated thing. If you read through my posts, I’m a little obsessed with the concept as well. Just today for some reason I had a flash of the street my aunt and uncle lived on for most of my life growing up. So many fond memories there, but they’ve moved on now and I got quite sad thinking that I may never see that place again.

      I feel like you. I’m not sure I’ve found my new forever home, or if there’s even one out there for me. I love exploring and adventuring, and in some ways feel more “at home” on the go than in any one place. That’s exciting and sad at the same time.

      Thanks for commenting. Good luck finding your place 🙂

  6. Lived as an expat for more than 10 years now in 3 different countries, I can relate to how you felt and I have made it a point to regularly keep in touch to help me deal with homesickness

    • Yes, keeping in touch with friends and family is so important. It definitely helps to know what’s going on in the lives of your loved ones, even if it’s hard to hear what you’re missing out on. Thanks for reading!

  7. I’m moving to Florida for a year at the start of August and while I’m excited for the opportunity I have with this internship, I’m so worried for all of these same reasons. I’ll be missing so much in that year! My home is just an hour drive from the college I went to. If I stayed home I could go back for homecoming, recruitment week, to see my boyfriend. Instead I’m going away! It’s a hard thing to accept when the choice to leave was mine in the first place.

    • Yes, so many conflicting feelings when you leave voluntarily! I always figure that there are seldom totally “right” and totally “wrong” choices. In choosing to go one way, you’re turning away from a certain set of could-have-beens. But there’s definitely value in challenging yourself and taking opportunities. Good luck with your move and your internship! Thanks for reading 🙂

  8. I think your blog just made me homesick!! 🙂 I don’t allow myself that luxury (of bring homesick) very often. I had to choose between my family and my husband’s career. I do not dwell on my homesickness and I will not resent it because I made my choice. Now and then I do miss my family, but when I see my husband’s sense of satisfaction and happiness with his work, it makes it worthwhile beyond words!!

    • It’s great when you have something really positive like that to ground you in your move. Our last move, from Montreal to Toronto, was ultimately about work, as well. It took us away from friends and family, but it has paid off and we’re also very grateful for the opportunities we’ve had here. There’s definitely a balance!

  9. I have moved quiet a few times (I live in the UK) and the last two times I moved to different towns I got homesick. I now live 12 miles out of my hometown.

    • Oh I can totally see that happening–eventually settling down close to home, after you’ve gotten the adventuring out of your system! Thanks for reading 🙂

  10. I so enjoyed reading your post. I live just 60 or so miles from my home city so I’m not an expat but I know exactly what you mean. I was only homesick for a few weeks after we moved here. That faded quickly because I don’t have any family back there. Everyone I love is here with me. I still have wonderful memories of the place I grew up in but they are just memories. Make the most of being with your family and have a wonderful holiday.

    • Thanks for commenting! Yup, it’s really the people that make the home. It makes it much easier to settle into a new place. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  11. Totally get all of this. I work with my partner on a yacht. fabulous lifestyle but apart from being hard work, which I don’t mind, I miss home too. I miss England. BBQ’s. Gardening till 10pm. Little things. Food! Like you I too lost a family member recently. My wonderful mum. Thats the biggest hurt of all. I miss her every second of every day. I know that doesn’t change if i’m here or back at home, but at home I can sit in her garden, or go places we went together. There are things that are familiar about her and us. I can go and sit with her for a while. Here I have a photo, her jewellery and a card she sent me. cherished items. xx

    • Oh–I was always in awe when I met people who worked on yachts–very interesting lifestyle, and what a cool way to see the world! I could see that being very challenging for dealing with homesickness, though, since you’re not really able to “put down roots” when you’re really, constantly on the go.

      In a way, though, it can be hard dealing with a loss when you’re immersed in them. Comforting, yes, but the constant reminders of them can weigh you down. I have some of my sister’s things here in our house now–some artwork, a few pieces of furniture, etc. I love having little “pieces” of her around that have now become part of our home. I’m sorry for your loss. It’s very tough!

  12. This topic is something that often occupies my thoughts. As you you eloquently writes it is a “chronic illness of an expat.” So thank you for putting it into words. It is always a wonderful thing to find you are not the only one feeling a certain way.

  13. Hi, I enjoyed reading this. I have only just become an expat myself and despite never really having felt settled in London, where I spent the last eight years, now that I’m not in the UK I am so conscious of everything I’m missing out on and it’s really hard having to miss the milestones and special occasions. I have been feeling especially homesick this week, having been sick this week without nearest and dearest to look after me has made me question why I ever left the UK. I agree Facebook is a great way to stay in touch but its also a daily reminder of so many things you are missing out on. Hope you have a great trip in Scotland and enjoy the family get together!

    • Ugh, being sick when you’re away is the WORST. Whenever I’m sick, I miss my family so much, wishing they lived nearby so I could pawn off my toddler!

      I think it takes time to get settled in your new place. Soon, though, as the newness becomes your everyday, you’ll start to feel more at home. I now know that even when I do go back to my old home in NY and I soak up the familiarity there, I miss things that I’m now accustomed to in my new home! And oh man, every time I try to buy fresh tropical fruit here, I get so “homesick” for Thailand, where I spent just a couple of years! We collect the details of these places–one of the blessings and curses of moving around a lot!

      I hope you’re feeling better. 🙂

  14. This was a great read! I really know the feeling having been an expat all my life. It’s hard missing out on relationships and letting friendships grow, but it’s worth it when life becomes one big adventure. It’s more exciting this way :).

  15. I feel constantly homesick
    for a home I haven’t found yet.

    Saying this, I really liked Your post. And I like what You say:
    ” I treasure my Scottish heritage.”
    What a beautiful way to say it. I could never really explain or grasp my homesickness or better say find the right words for it. This is just perfect. Thank You!
    I was born and grew up in Germany in a greek family, greek heritage.
    Never felt German. I am not. And this country doesn’t give me the feeling of belonging here, either. I never really felt home.

    Home is where the heart is?
    I never lived in Greece, but been there so often. Every summer holiday as a kid, and for many weeks and months as an adult. Now, that summer is coming my homesickness gets worse. To go to Greece. But Greece isn’t my home either.
    My family is scatttered in Germany, Greece(most of them), France. Not too far away from an American or global view, but still needs time and money for traveling.
    When I meet with part of my family and especially when I leave again, I came up with a thought: We are constantly saying hello and goodby. Painful.
    But still, everybody wants to live where she/ he wants and can..
    The rest I wanted to write I just forgot… Maybe there is no conclusion. Just the thought.

    And btw: When I went to Scotland and Ireland, too, it felt like Greece for me. I was always wondering…till my friend told me about the historic Celtic and Greek trade connection in Ancient times. So lots of mix up. I must have felt it? Also the beautiful combination of mountains and water! Ah!!

    Thanks for Your article and all the best,

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Yeah, the first time I visited Scotland I had a weird revelation–my skin looked more beautiful there, in the damp, cool Scottish air, than it ever did in North America with its extremes of hot and cold and humidity (at least in all of the places I’ve lived in North America.) It was like my SKIN knew its origins.

      It really is a beautiful place. We’re lucky that the place we visit, Ayr, is right near the Isle of Arran, which they call mini-Scotland because you can find examples of all of Scotland’s topography on this island. It’s very interesting.

      I definitely think you can feel a sense of home in a place where you’ve never lived, for whatever reason and connections you may have with that place.

      All the best to you on your journey of finding “home!”

  16. You will wander (and wonder) until you meet that thing in life which engages you, totally and completely. It will make you want to say, “Here I put down roots. Here I find purpose and meaning.” And then you’ll be home. Truly home.

    • Yes, I think we really find that in family. The connection I feel to my daughter (20 months) is so profound that I know I’ll have a sense of belonging wherever, whenever I’m with her.

      It’s odd balancing that with such a strong sense of wanting to have a connection to a place. There are so many other factors now, than before I had another person to be accountable for.

      Thanks for commenting!

  17. Being away from home since starting college in 2010, I have often felt “homesick”. Each year I have only been able to go “home” three to five times a year. I can say I definitely get homesick but as I get older it’s harder and harder to go home between school and work. Which is sad since I am only in college. Life will only get crazier.

    • Yeah, I also didn’t go home very much during university, other than holidays (whereas some friends went home frequently). Over time, you gradually have fewer and fewer things at your parents’ house, and then one day you realize it’s just a box, because all of your stuff is now in Your Home. It’s kind of a quiet process, I think. Part of growing up, I guess.

  18. My boyfriend and I just moved to the Netherlands from Portland, OR about 6 weeks ago. There has been a big learning curve, but it has been an adventure for sure. I am originally from the Philadelphia area, and I certainly felt nostalgic the other day while we were out for a walk. There was a woman standing on the sidewalk a little ways in front of us wearing a Philadelphia Phillies shirt. It was unbelievable to see that in the Netherlands where baseball does not have a following. There is some comfort in seeing those little things that remind you of home now and then.

    • Haha, I feel compelled to introduce myself every time I see someone with an American license plate… and then I check myself and remember that there are plenty of Americans living in or visiting Toronto…

      That is super cool though, seeing such an unexpected sign of home! It’s definitely comforting and exciting 🙂

  19. As expats, I think we’re sometimes homesick for a time and place that no longer exists. People grow and change, especially the travelers among us and the pieces never fit together quite the same again.

    • I agree with Ciara. I’m an expat who misses the sensation of home you describe so well (probably because where I am now isn’t likely to be long term) but when I go back to where I’m originally from, things just don’t fit together as they did and the things I loved then simply wind me up and I long to be back in my temporary country…

      • Yeah, it’s such a complicated emotion–so layered with the ideals of memory and images we’ve held onto! I also often find that the excitement of being “home” quickly runs up against the desire to be back in my other place (which is referred to as “home” by the end of the trip!).

        Thanks for participating in the discussion!

  20. This post really resonated with me. I moved to Paris to be with my husband 3.5 years ago, but I still feel homsick and often long for the familiarity of “home”. It’s tough being far from family and friends and missing out on major milestones like weddings and such.

    • Yeah, I always feel so sad when I’m missing a big event. Paris, though… must be nice 🙂 It’s definitely on my list for sabbatical year possibilities!

  21. Exactly! I am living in Scotland right now – and decided to move back home to write my dissertation. Its funny how it took moving away to really appreciate my home. I miss it so much.

    • Yes, being away from home is such a learning experience–you really gain a lot of perspective (often positive and negative) when you’re away.

  22. I can relate. My husband and I moved away from all friends and family in Canada many years ago and relocated several times in the U.S. (career opportunities, corporate moves) before settling down in California 15 years ago. My heart pines for my childhood days spent at our family’s cabin on a serene lake in Saskatchewan. Being an “army brat” I also moved a lot as a kid. So, ya. I relate to your story… we have gained a LOT, but also have lost a lot. But we made our own way, and are happy for the experiences in our lives. Thank you for a great story. xo

    • You’re welcome–thanks for reading! It’s amazing how largely those childhood get-aways factor into our attachments to home. My grandparents lived in Sag Harbor on Long Island, and we spent a lot of time out there. I have such amazing, strong memories of that place, even though it was probably just a few weeks we’d spend there each year.

      California is lovely, though–I’m sure you’ve built a nice home there!

  23. Loved reading your blog and I am from Scotland on the east coast 20 meters from the beach. I am like you when I travel, I get very excited and sometimes can’t sleep due to my mind being over active. I like to travel, but homesick takes a toll on me and rush back to my little nest egg ( my house ) ….

    • I’m so excited to go back to Scotland–somehow I feel like a home there must feel so much homier than anywhere–it’s so cozy and beautiful. It’s great to have a much-loved home base.

      • Very lovely. What part of Scotland did you visit?? have you ever been up north? places like Aveimore, fort william, pitlochry?

        • My father’s cousin is in Ayr, so that’s where we go. When we were there last we did a drive up into the Highlands–we did go to Fort William, and then out to Mallaig. It was amazing!

          • Very lovely and I am glad you visited a few places, and if you visit any more places on your travels, please post them and let us all know. Alex

  24. The first time I moved abroad I was away for a year and a half. Man, there were some hard times, especially knowing I couldn’t just pop home for a visit (to the US from Thailand). But at the same time, (and maybe you feel this way too?) when I’m “home” for an extended period of time, I can’t wait to get out again. It’s a vicious cycle which, for me, will probably never end!

    • Yes, I get so restless! It has subsided a bit now since having a kid–she really keeps me in-the-moment. But oh yeah, I have a bad case of the wanderlust for sure!

  25. Of course!!! I am an indian expat living in South Africa. Even before I became an expat, I was living away from home on account of study and work. So homesickness has been a part of me since I was 16! But nothing can dull the pain…not the years, not the time, not even the adventure of beautiful lands and people. But life is all about gaining some and losing some. So that’s how we trudge along. Lovely post.

    • Thank you for your lovely comments. I guess I was never really at home longer than stretches of a few months after I went away for university. I guess the sensation of “homesickness” is really just that part of us that will always belong to that place. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  26. I was in the Peace Corps when I was younger, three years as a volunteer and a little more than one more as a consultant and a few months as working with refugees. During that time I missed home, the food and my friends. Sometimes I just wanted to get up in the morning and not worry about how to go to the bathroom. And, when I finally got home, I discovered nothing had changed. Home was exactly as I remembered. My friends patronized the same bars, had the same girl friends (some had become wives) that they fought with over the same issues, my parents were the same, my home town was the same. The problem was that I had changed so much I couldn’t stand any of it. I loved them all dearly, I just couldn’t be with them. The change in me was so profound that now when I travel it feels more like home than home does.

    • Your comment especially rang true for me. I’ve been around the world for a while now. At “home” things keep going and still fit together back where they belong, but you don’t exist anymore, at least not in the same shape, so the puzzle no longer fits together.

      • Yeah, I think you really go through a progression when you travel a lot and then return home. At first, I think you feel a little superior, realizing how everything is the same. And then you realize that you’ve changed so much, but that this doesn’t take away from the integrity of the home that no longer feels familiar to you, if that makes sense… I guess you just realize that things are allowed to be as they are, and it’s now just up to you to decide where to go from here.

        I felt a huge reverse culture shock when I first went back to my home after living abroad for 6 months when I studied in Thailand. It was such a strange sensation. And I, too, really feel in my element when I’m travelling–something I realized on my first real trip abroad when I was in high school. It was a true awakening for me.

  27. I had to leave New Zealand for England – two years later, it’s the little things that hit the hardest. A Skype message from my cousin who I can’t believe is nine already. Hearing a NZ accent on the radio. People posting stills from the Hobbit – I grew up less than an hour from there.
    Worst of all, I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to go home. I have to go wherever my parents get assigned next.

    • Yeah, it’s the little things that catch you off guard sometimes. Sorry you’re at the whim of your parents! Just remember how valuable all of the different experiences are! Thanks for reading 🙂

  28. I understand what you’re talking about. I spent a year and a half in Asia teaching ESL and between my two teaching stints, one of the other teachers and I travelled around SE Asia before heading home. She lasted 8 weeks, while I lasted 6.5 weeks. There were a few other countries we had planned on seeing before heading home, but both of us were so homesick that we decided to cut our SE adventures short to go home. I still regret not staying longer to complete our travelling, but at the time we were emotionally drained and needed the support of friends, family and familiar surroundings.

    • Yeah, travelling is hard work. I also taught English in SEAsia–Thailand. And I’d done a semester abroad there, as well. I, too, was SO eager for the trips home when they came. 6.5 weeks is definitely a long time to travel when you’re facing the end of your stay. I can see how you’d leave early!

  29. completely understand this. my husband and i moved out of our home country (for career reasons) and i feel we both have it in us for “one more big move” before actually going back. i used to feel homesick (worst part was the flight back to our host country, it got me sooo depressed). now i’m a bit more used to it… but the homesickness doesn’t really go away completely.

    • Right, I’m sure it’ll always be there at least a little bit. We definitely don’t feel like we’re done with exploring and moving–that’s exciting and scary at the same time!

  30. I can understand and feel for what you all have to say. I’ve uprooted myself several times and I’m here in Melbourne finally. At the moment it’s home for me but I miss my original hometown, family and friends. It’s never easy settling down in a new country.

  31. Your post hits home with me too. I am a US expat living in Melbourne, Australia. I love traveling the world with my husband and two kids. But I really miss my family. I hate that my parents, in-laws and brother are missing out seeing my children grow up and vice versa. I’m looking forward to going back home and seeing everyone. I miss the burritos and walking along the coast of California.

    • It’s amazing how big an impact the food can have on us. Things you forever took for granted–an egg and cheese sandwich on a hard roll, which can be obtained at pretty much any gas station within a 2 hour drive of NYC, for example–it becomes the best thing you’ve ever eaten when it’s suddenly no longer available. But we replace it with other things, right? I am a total convert now to Montreal bagels and Canadian beer. 🙂

      • Totally but I still crave it 🙂 I am now love a good coffee-skinny flat white. I hate percolated and starbucks coffee. Starbucks tried to set up a coffee shop and it went out of business here. Plus, I’ve become a beer drinker. Aussie beer is soooo tasty. They have a place here that pairs beer with your meal.

  32. Glad I found your blog; I feel exactly the same way. Switzerland is my home now and I wouldn’t live anywhere else for the time being, but that homesickness is always there. It’s always in the back of my mind that my parents and the town where I grew up are terribly far away!

    • Yeah, it’s really tough pull–you need to live in a place that’s good for you, if you have the luxury of choosing. But it’s so hard to leave family behind, especially as they and we get older.

      Thanks for commenting!

  33. That house looks just like a friend of mine’s from high school. Where I grew up could pretty accurately be termed any-suburb, USA. I’ve had my share of geographical restlessness. It’s a big world out there, I guess one of our biggest blessings is the freedom to choose whether to move around, or to set up camp and stay for a while.

    • Haha, yeah, I suppose my sort of homesickness is a total first world problem…

      We seem to be in the moving-every-two-years cycle. We’ll have been in our current house two years coming up this September. I don’t think we’ll be going, though, if we can help it. Still not totally settled here, though!

  34. We found the nomadic life of being an RAF family (moving every two years) was a great training ground for emigration. We got used to all our friends being distant and in sporadic contact. Both our sets of parents have moved away from their family homes, so there is no “home” to go back to. For us, and for our kids, the places we’ve lived have been nice experiences, but the people are the real thing, and they can be contacted or visited…
    We’ve been back to the UK twice since emigrating, and though it’s wonderful to see friends in person, I don’t miss the place at all.

    • Where have you emigrated to? Yeah, it’s fun in a way to have many places to visit. I love “collecting” new places that become accessible because of someone we’ve met, or a family or friend moving there. In fact, the Germany visit this summer is to see friends from Montreal who moved there. And I’m hoping to visit my sister in the Dominican next winter–not bad at all!

      • We’re out West, in Vancouver. Years of flying out here to visit my wife’s sister in Bellingham, WA left a good impression. We have not been disappointed by the reality of living here, either, which is nice.

  35. Hm. This is interesting. I do think there is a sad side to moving frequently or living abroad. It becomes most evident to me when I am in church, really, just because that’s a very community and family oriented place — and I am never in one place long enough to make deep connections.

    I also think just knowing you won’t be around for very long can affect things, and whether or not you inform people you meet that you’ll only be living here for X years or Y months. Who wants to open up completely, make a new best friend, etc. when they already know that person’s going to be torn away in a relatively short matter of time?

    Hm. Do I regret living this way? No, but I do hope that if my husband and I someday have children, we will be able to find employment and settle in the area he is from — because his family’s roots are almost all in one city, whereas mine are spread all over — and I think maybe our children would like to feel a connection to a place. The thing is I have no idea because I don’t have a feeling of connection to the place I grew up, even though I never left the state until I turned 18! I actually felt connected to a place only when I lived in Japan, of all places. I am back in the US, back in school, and now I am “homesick” for Japan.

    Eh, sorry to write such a long reply! It’s thought provoking though. Are you permanently in Canada, or a frequent mover? I ask because although I obviously see some down sides to relocating a lot, I also have a hard time imagining settling in one place for the rest of my life.

    • I think we’re permanently in Canada, though we’re always open to the possibility of going somewhere else if a good opportunity arises, and we do hope to do sabbatical years every 5 or 6 years. But I, too, don’t feel like I’ve found the one place where I want to live forever (my “love at first site” post talks about that, actually!).

      I always really appreciated the family friends we grew up with — the friends of my parents whose car we’d borrow when ours broke down, or whose pool we’d spend the entire summer in because we didn’t have one at our house. I want my kids to have that, and I know that that means trying to settle and making an effort to put roots down in one place. Since we have a baby now, I’m feeling that pressure to figure that out!

      Thanks for commenting!

  36. I suppose I’m a little different. Having grown up in northern N.J., family living was affluent but difficult. My father, as a stockbroker on Wall Street, would bring his problems home and self medicate. During much of each summer our family escaped that by driving north of the Adirondacks of upstate New York (Elizabethtown), where the family had a hunter’s cabin without telephone, but with the necessity of a roaring fireplace. Brook fishing alone as a small child in the crisp mornings strengthen me. In that atmosphere, my father was at peace, bringing peace to the entire family while up there. it was a place that my grandfather built when my father was a young man. So, that place became sacred to me. A special culture of friendship remains there.

    Thank you for taking me there again.

    • Oh, that sounds lovely. I grew up in Orange County, NY, and traveled through the Adirondacks a lot after moving from there up to Montreal. Such amazingly beautiful country. I’m glad my post brought up some of those memories for you!

  37. Hope you have/had a wonderful time in Scotland!

    ‘Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteáin féin’.

    An old Irish saying meaning ‘There’s no home like your own home’.
    Despite being the adventurous travelling type- my family have long lamented my inability to stay (happily) in one place for any long period of time, since my first solo flight aged 7- since settling in London last September, I find homesickness to be my biggest hurdle. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my grandmother’s singing or my younger brothers and their fights. In saying that, I am overjoyed to be living in London and have been blessed with many opportunities here that simply weren’t possible for me in Ireland. I’m pretty sure I will wander the world until retirement age, and only then will I consider returning to my home town for good. Until then, I treasure every spare week I have to fly back to my family. As you said yourself, the home I really miss is them.

    • Oooh London — I could definitely see living there for a time! Yes, we feel very happy about our decision to move to Toronto for the opportunities it has given us. I guess one positive of being away from family is that even the annoying things like brothers fighting take on a positive spin 🙂

  38. Not homesick – but last night I dreamt of the house my parents bought short before my mother’s death … Some things will never leave your mind.

  39. I did leave my hometown and I don’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would. What I do miss is the people and things associated with every place I’ve been and lived. If I could only have once place to tuck them all safely away.

    • Yeah, it’s funny–I always knew I didn’t want to live in my hometown, though I loved it. I still feel that way, despite the homesickness. But the people, definitely.

  40. So true! I still remember feeling perpetual homesickness when I went off to UK for my postgrad! My grandmother passed away during that time and I couldn’t be with my family because I was too far away.. I still think of that as the worst time of my life, missing my grandma’s funeral

    • Aw, that’s so tough. Yeah, I missed a funeral while away once. Luckily, my sister was visiting me at the time, so we missed it together, and the mutual support made it a lot more bearable.

      • Having even one person close by makes a difference when it comes to homesickness and the like. You’re lucky you had your sister with you 🙂

  41. Definitely! And I’m not even that far from home. We used to go back to Montreal more often, but it’s harder now with a baby. I get strong pangs of homesickness when I think that Max won’t see his little cousins often, that I miss how quickly my brother’s kids are growing up, that my parents don’t get to see Max whenever they want. But my family has always been a lot like yours – Vancouver, Toronto, Sherbrooke, Ottawa, Hamilton, England, an uncle on postings throughout North America, and so on, but whenever we see each other it’s like we never skipped a beat and we all have such interesting stories to share from around the world.

    It does allow us to start our own traditions, in some respects, but it also means we have to travel to Montreal a fair amount. I feel like the people that leave wherever most of their family is are often expected to do most of the travelling back. We go back often, even for non-special occasions, which puts a lot of pressure on us and makes it difficult to settle properly. We’ve started to cut back, though, and it’s been nice to spend entire weekends in Ottawa as a little family. Occasionally, I need a family fix though. Back in March we stayed with my parents for 5 days. It was nice to have that family support for a short time.

    • Yes, I really miss seeing my nieces and nephews regularly — they are always so much older and different each time we see them!

      I love and hate the process of creating new traditions. I get excited thinking about the possibilities, but then I also get sad thinking about the traditions that just can’t be recreated away from home. It’s tough.

      Thanks for sharing!

  42. In 1976 we ( me, my husband and two children under 4) moved to Maine from Queens, NYC. Wow, that was pure culture shock! So many less people, so many more trees, no lines, no traffic, no stores with locked windows. For the most part our families thought we had lost our minds…”back to the land” adventure? They asked things like…do they have movie theaters up there? New Yorkers are truly city-centric. We missed family so much. We focused on our own little family and the beauty of our new environment. We met many other ‘refugees’ from urban areas and new connections grew! The place we come from is always in our DNA…during our first couple of years up here, I actually would follow tourists at Acadia Nat’l Park in Bar Harbor who had NY accents because it felt like ‘home’. Roots are deep and family ties are strong..for all this we are grateful. Cherish it all.

    • Thanks for sharing your story! Ha, I love hearing a good NY accent walk by!

      I love the idea of focussing on your immediate family and your new environment. We have been trying to do this in Toronto. A few times we have picked a random town or part of the city to check out. I’m also hoping to spend some time down on the beach of Lake Ontario, and hopefully we’ll get up into the lakes region north of the city as well. All places have unique things to discover. It’s our job to explore!

  43. Boy do I get where you’re coming from. I wrote a similar post earlier this week. I get more sad for home during this time of the year. In the Northeast, things are still barren and gray. Back home, things are bursting with new life and color. It’s very much symbolic for me and my struggles with being so far away from my family. Especially during this phase of life. There have been numerous occasions where I would have benefited from having my mom or sister close by to help with S or just share in the little daily joys of being a mom… Anyway, I won’t get too wordy here…just know that you have company in your homesickness.

    • Yup, one of my links in here is your post from earlier! I think the end of winter has put us on the same wavelength!

      Oh geez, yeah–I didn’t even have space to get into how much having a kid has increase my homesickness even more!

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