Back in June I wrote my first article on long distance relationships. At that point I had already been living away from family and friends for nearly two years, but had only just begun four months of living 4,650 km away from my new boyfriend. Since then I’ve learned even more about the trials and tribulations that come with living far away from the people and places you love.
One of the tips I gave in my last article was to schedule times to talk with your loved ones. This is helpful, since life often flies by and weeks can pass without talking to a friend or family member, but it has its limitations. While technology is amazing in its ability to connect two or more people who are so far away, but technology doesn’t (yet) have the ability to physically connect people. It’s hard to grab a virtual coffee and impossible to give or receive a much needed hug. Sometimes when I’m having a rough day all I want is to snuggle up on the couch with my mom, but I must resign myself to a quick conversation.
While I wish I could provide uplifting words, the fact of the matter is that there are moments in long distance relationships that can’t be remedied. Even the connection with home can be considered a relationship and homesickness truly aches.
I was hit with an unexpected bout of homesickness a month or so ago and found myself struggling to come to terms with it. Even little things, like not seeing pancakes on an all day breakfast menu, set me off. It took a lot of reflection to figure out why this was happening and how I could fix it. I realized that in so many ways I had separated my lives in Boston and Galway. There was no bridging the gap, and no matter where I was I still felt a sense of longing for the other place and people.
Between that realization and the realization that technology only goes so far, I began to develop a sort of solution. The two places must have some sort of connection, motifs, scents, images, foods – that blanket you in the comfort of home.
In order to feel fully connected to a place or a person from so far away you have to have something from all five senses.
Most people have this covered. Pictures artistically hung up on the walls and Facetime tick this box well when it comes to missing people. But when I was homesick the cute pictures of my mom and my dog only slightly helped. I noticed that there were specific elements of my environs I missed: Dunkin’ Donuts Drive Thrus at every corner, men and women wearing every type of Boston sports emblazoned clothing, and the familiar roads I grew up driving through. I know now to take motifs from the things I missed and incorporate them in my space. When I return home from my next trip I plan on proudly hanging a Dunkin’ Donuts bag on my wall. Not super chic, but super effective.
Easy, right? Facetime, again, has this one knocked out of the park. Until the hours where you’re wide awake and everyone at home is either busy or sleeping. Sometimes all you want is to hear the voice of a loved one. It might be kind of weird, but ask the people you miss most to record something on the phone. A message of encouragement, an I love you, an inside joke, whatever will do the trick.
Okay, there really isn’t a way to replicate your dad’s famous bear hugs, your mom stroking your hair, or your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s kisses. But what you can do is borrow something that feels uniquely like those people, or something from home. A blanket, a shirt, a scarf, a hat. Anything where a single touch can transport you right into their arms.
Food is one of the most important cultural pillars. It can be national, regional, or personal. Maybe your parent makes the best dish ever, that no one can replicate. Being away from these foods can take a serious toll until you slowly begin to acclimate. Even then foods from home transport back to comfort and safety. Whenever going somewhere for a long period of time, you should try to eat the foods you’ll the miss in the week before you depart. Then bring non-perishable items you can ration out during your visit. And if you have a family member or friend who is willing, request items for care packages to be sent over. If it’s something that can’t be shipped, try learning how to make the item yourself! Not only will it (hopefully) scratch the itch, but it will be a fun experience.
The olfactory scent is one of the most powerful. Ever smell something that immediately sucked you back to a faraway, forgotten, moment? Smell can be tricky, but I have a few tips that will make whatever you miss appear right before your nose. Laundry detergent is a big one. If you grew up with great smelling laundry like I did then try to get whatever scent or detergent your mom used to use. For me, it’s Lenor Unstoppables in the scent ‘Dreams’. My mom also wears a unique perfume that everyone she knows associates with her. She found little balls of lava stones that you fill with a scented liquid and place in a necklace. Now when I smell it its like being right next to her. These are great for any kind of smell including perfumes, colognes, and essential oils.
Living away from the people and places you hold dear is a challenging roller coaster of emotion. There’s no one way to handle the problems faced by keeping in touch or craving even an hour of life at home. There are only ways to cope with the passage of time that will at some point see you reunited with whoever or whatever you’ve been missing. Try and be patient with yourself as the time goes on. Hopefully these tips will make that wait even easier.
Still here? Check this out: Is Traditional Marriage Dead?