I had been traveling around Latin America for almost eight months when I was struck, seemingly overnight, with a severe case of the homesick blues.
One would think living across the street from the Caribbean ocean would alleviate sadness of any kind but seeing it only made me miss the nature I was used to being close to; lakes, rivers and mountains.
I felt as though something must be wrong with me, or that I had failed miserably as a traveler.
Dreaming of this lifestyle for so many years and then attempting to live my dream was emotionally draining when I thought of home and what I might be missing there.
I found myself pushing potential new friends away, allowing my sadness to settle lightly around me like a diaphanous cloak.
Instead of “being here now” I was stuck in my head, daydreaming about my friends and family, wondering things like what type of rosé my sister might be drinking with her dinner.
People told me it wouldn’t last, that homesickness ebbs and flows, but this had gone on for several weeks and I was beginning to question all my decisions about moving to a foreign country.
It took a teary-eyed Skype call with my mom before I realized only I could change the way I was feeling.
My mom, of all people, was the one who told me not to come home.
Her hypothesis was that if I returned, I wouldn’t be satisfied. I hadn’t finished my goals. I had set out to accomplish on my travels and perhaps I would regret coming home.
She told me I needed to get out, go meet people, and find a community to be a part of.
After that conversation I set out to battle my homesickness first by coming to easy terms with the fact that I live next to the ocean, the Caribbean ocean. It’s beautiful and wild here.
How many times in my life will I be able to roll out of bed and walk across the street for an early morning dip in the sea?
Last time I checked my hometown was pretty darn stationary; it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So I elected to be here now. How did I do it? I took my mom’s advice and searched for a community to be a part of.
Even if you are not an extrovert and striking up a conversation with a complete stranger makes you sweat uncomfortably, work on getting over it! Find something you are interested in and take part.
I started with taking yoga classes here and my closest friends are now people I met after lingering around at the end of class.
I also made a vow to try to speak to one new person everyday. This included a strange man at a bus station who was so excited I spoke English that had I stuck around long enough, he very well may have proposed to me. I filled my quota for the day though!
If you are in a country where English is not the first language, take some language classes. This is a wonderful way to meet locals and perhaps learn a bit about the culture in which you are residing.
Make plans with new people you meet and don’t cancel. Ask someone you met recently to have a cup of coffee with you or cook dinner together. Food is always an avenue to connect with people.
Learn to trust your instincts. When someone you’ve never met starts talking to you, be open to getting to know them. You’re only doing yourself an injustice by remaining closed. However, if you have a funny inkling or feel that perhaps this person may want to take advantage of you, pay attention to that.
Remember that you only have one extraordinary life to live.
Now go forth, get out of your comfort zone a little and find that community!
Bekka is addicted to conquering fear and stepping outside of her comfort zone by traveling. She sold everything she owned and moved to Latin America to teach English, learn Spanish and eat fresh mangoes and papayas. In every new town she finds a bike to ride, a yoga studio to practice at and a coffee shop to work in. You can read about her observations and adventures as a blond gringa traveling around Latin America on her blog: http://delabocadebekka.blogspot.com/