Homesickness is defined by the English dictionary as “longing for home and family while absent from them”. Homesickness not only has a definition, but apparently it has symptoms as well: grief, nostalgia (a longing or wistful affection for the past), depression, anxiety, withdrawal, sadness, agoraphobia (fear of going outside), and claustrophobia.
Sounds intense doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you that this phenomenon can make or break your travel experience. I have no doubt in my mind that every travel nurse has experienced homesickness at least once in their travel nursing lifetime. Because there is no medication to prevent it or treat it, I have researched a few methods to help combat it.
1.Research the city
Before you get there, plan your activities and fun sites to see ahead of time. Visit all of the touristy hot spots and fill in the extra time with your own beloved hobbies. If you did yoga, enjoyed hiking, went to the gym, or attended church every Sunday, then make sure those activities follow you to your new location.
2. Create a routine as soon as possible
If you can, follow the same routine you had at home prior to traveling. You might have more alone time in your routine so plan accordingly. Make your alone time productive. Learn a new language, read some books, or do a puzzle. Find a local coffee shop to sit in. Sometimes it just feels good to be around other people, even if you aren’t talking to them.
3. Take advantage of your new surroundings and try new activities
If you have been landlocked and are now by the ocean, take some surfing lessons. If you have been on flat land and find yourself in the mountains, go for a hike. Utilize Groupon and living social to help you find local activities at a decent price.
4. Seek out a group or even one person to hang out with
I know this may be challenging for some, but now is the time to exit your comfort zone. I have found the easiest way to meet people as a travel nurse is during orientation and at work. It’s easy to connect to other travel nurses because they understand your situation, they have similar schedules, and are usually willing to do touristy things with you.
5. Try to avoid staying too connected to people back home
I’m not saying cut them off completely, but distancing yourself from your friends and family will make it easier to enjoy new people and new experiences. I would recommend talking with friends and family from home maximum once a week, just to check in.
6. Limit your time spent on Facebook and Skype
I definitely noticed when I saw my peeps back home doing fun stuff without me, nostalgia started to kick in and everything else seemed bleak in comparison.
7. Bring home to you
Convince your friends and your family to come visit you in your new city. Sharing experiences with other people can help keep your outlook positive.
8. Make your living space your own
Having familiar household items that you carry with you to each assignment can make each new apartment feel like home. I carried my favorite rug, Christmas cup, towels and dishes everywhere I went.
9. Get outside every single day
Find a local place where you can go for a walk, run or bike ride. Sitting inside watching Netflix all day or night can lead to a very depressing day. You would be amazed at how motivating sunshine can be.
10. Watch your favorite home team
I made it a point to find a local Denver Broncos bar in every city that I traveled to. This is also a good way to connect with local people. You will notice that you become increasingly patriotic about your home state the longer you stay away.
Homesickness may seem unbearable when you are going through it and there are no guarantees that you will be able to avoid it. Like with anything else, prevention and education is key. Knowing the signs and symptoms allow you to understand that this is a natural way to feel and there are ways to combat it.
Becoming a travel nurse will single handedly make you the most independent person you have ever been in your entire life. Once you get the hang of being with yourself, by yourself, you will never be lonely again.
By Crystal Gustafson, RN
Crystal Gustafson is a Critical Care Registered Nurse who spent time as a travel nurse in various states including Arizona, Texas, Florida and California. She has recently accepted a system wide float pool position with Exempla Healthcare System in her hometown of Denver, Colorado and also has blog about prevention and education in healthcare. You can learn more about Crystal on her blog at http://grassrootsprevention.blogspot.com/.