About homesickness and other reasons to smile

I have never been the type to feel homesick. I started traveling alone from an early age and I moved out of home in my 16th year of life. I spent the past two years in another continent than the one where I was born and raised, and during the 11 months before this last summer, I did not go home at all. I was far from my family, friends, dogs and my whole childhood, but not even for a moment I felt homesick. My friend once called me “the queen of detachment” and I think that pretty much describes the way I usually take my life.

Of course I won’t say I didn’t miss home at all. If you know the word “saudade”, from Portuguese, then you should know that I certainly felt saudade sometimes. But apart from this occasional feeling of “oh, the past was nice”, my will of being at home had never been stronger than my will of being out there exploring the world. I never hesitated before embarking on a new interesting journey, it didn’t matter in which country or continent that was, I just had to make sure I was ready, and my way of doing that was by eventually going home and getting to rest, relax and recharge for the next adventure.

This summer was no different: I did go home. For a bit. And it was that bit that put me down.

Due to all the trips I had planned and a social project I organised in my region, I got to spend little time in my town. Time that I realised afterwards was too little. I tried to make sure I would enjoy every minute there – every minute, every person and every meal – but guess what? You can’t make up for months apart with a few rushed days.

There wasn’t much I could do though. The next journey was right there and I had to embark on it with all my energy, motivation and raw spirit, so there I went: California and then Senegal. Intense days of active learning and intense days of passive discomfort. Pure discomfort, everywhere. My comfort zone was far too reduced by everything happening around me and I couldn’t help but get defensive and afraid. I was down, I was sad, and I was afraid I wouldn’t manage this thing of being away from home, a thing I had been doing for so long.

When you are homesick, it is almost impossible to appreciate anything that is not culturally relatable to you. I knew that, and I knew I didn’t want to feel it. What I didn’t know was that feeling homesick could teach me so much in so little time, or that it could actually make me feel more grateful for being where I am. The next paragraph is a reflection I wrote to myself after getting over my homesickness, and boh, I just felt like sharing.

They say home is where your heart is, but they never tell you what to do when your body moves away, but your heart stays. Once distance gets on the way and a physical space keeps your physical being but not your passionate, loving and lovable self, you will realise you are at the wrong place. Everything will seem weird, illogical, wrong. Everyone will be annoying and every interaction you have to make will put you down, because things are just not like home, because strangers are just not like family or friends, and “fake it until you make it” is not a reality in this context. You will want to cry, text anyone back there, buy the soonest plane ticket you can find and do a surprise to your family by showing up at home with a bright smile and saying “Hey, I’m back!”. You will look at everything around and feel pity for yourself, feel the urge to find comfort in whatever can remind you of your good old days, and you will try to fix it by getting the closest to home you can get, and the furthest you can be from the uncomfortable outside world. The truth is that, at some point, you will realise you are at the wrong place. The wrong emotional, psychological and sentimental place. Getting your mind away from where you are won’t do much but make it harder for you to accept and move on. The more you try to live what is happening back home while you are not there, the less you live the incredible adventure that is to be in a place that is unknown to you, with all its stories, mysteries and particularities. You are missing out on a lot by trying to enjoy moments in which you cannot be fully present. You are missing out on a lot by not being fully present in the moments you can enjoy. If you miss home, but you cannot be there, you will certainly feel saudade, I know. But that is fine, it means there is something there to which it will be worth going back, something that has made you happy, and you can still be happy for its existence, be it in the past, present or future. There is a reason for you to be where you are now and wasting your experience on homesickness would be nothing but a mistake. Now put your head up, turn off your phone and get out of bed. Make the world be your new comfort zone and remember: your happiness depends on you to exist.

Wherever you are, be all there.