Travel is awesome. Make no mistake. But, like anything, it has its low points. I haven’t written in a while because that’s where I’m at. I’m having an awesome time in Iceland, but sometimes I just miss home.
They tell you before you go on exchange that you will get homesick. And that it usually kicks in around six weeks. After about a month and a half in your new home, the newness and excitement wears off and you begin to realize you’re having withdrawals from your favorite hot sauce or understanding the cost of things without the mental gymnastics we call math. For me, that didn’t really happen. I felt homesick when I landed in Keflavik. I was hungry, and jet lagged, and incredibly bored. The waiting in a cold airport didn’t help the feeling of longing. Once I made it to Reykjavik, however, that feeling subsided a bit and gave way to curiosity. After a couple days in Akureyri, the curiosity also faded. I now knew how to get to school, who my roommates were, where to get food, I was even getting the hang of the money. But by this time I was starting to fall into a routine.
I know that some people feel routine is a sort of trap, and that it keeps you from progressing/improving/etc. and that’s fair, you can get trapped in a routine. But for me, routine is helpful. It’s certain elements of my day that are dependable. Knowing when I could catch a bus downtown from memory rather than having to compulsively check the schedule on my phone was a relief, because it meant that I was adjusting and that this new place, a continent and half an ocean away, was becoming a second home.
But alas, home away from home does not equate to suitable substitute from home. About 8-10 weeks in the homesickness got real. Well, maybe not homesickness, exactly, but something like it. With the weather getting worse and bank accounts growing thin, and nearby destinations being exhausted, there were fewer trips to attend. The semester was more than half over and people (including myself) had to buckle down and study more than we had. Daylight grew scarce. It was not all gloomy and horrible, but it definitely felt like a bit of a backslide.
For me, dealing with homesickness and whatnot turned out to be contacting people from home and throwing myself into things here in equal measure. Lots of calls and letters home, lots of making myself get out of the house and walk around here helped to remind me to make the most of my exchange. People often only talk about the pretty parts of travel. I know I’m not the first person to point this out, I’m unlikely to be the last, but it’s one thing to know this from hearing others say it, and entirely another to experience and understand it for yourself.
By the way, it’s very cold.