How To Battle Homesickness Abroad

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Hi lovies!

Happy Friday! I’m currently on my way to Salamanca for the weekend, but I wanted to share this blog post (side note: follow my Instagram or Twitter (both @wanderlustkait) for updates during my Salamanca trip! I always post pictures while I’m traveling!). So I wrote a post a few months ago about The Spain Struggle and cultural adaptation, so this is kind of Part II in the series. Now that I’ve had my fair share of culture adaptation and homesickness, I think I’ve finally figured out the key to beating it. I’m going to be completely honest when I say coming back to Spain after spending the holidays in the USA was harder than the first time I left. The travel itself was easier because I knew what to expect when I got here, but leaving my family, friends and Ohio was just a lot harder the second time around. Now I’ve been back for about a month and a half and while it might be that I have readjusted to the culture, I think there is one thing I’m doing a lot different than when I arrived in Spain in September that is making all the difference.

Instead of missing things about home, I am making Bilbao my home.

It’s as simple as that. Instead of missing everything about the USA, I am embracing more things about Spain. I also am beginning to realize that a lot of the things I was missing, I just needed to look a little harder for. For example, my little sister, Emily. It turns out she was living a few pisos down and I just wasn’t looking hard enough. JUST KIDDING. But little things like peanut butter, a yoga mat, a cafe that has to-go soy lattes, indulging in watching #TheBachelor, etc (so many #whitegirlproblems necessities). So if you’re abroad, lonely, homesick and reading this, here’s some simple instructions to get you started. First, leave you house. Go out and get something that reminds you of home. Anything. A book, music, a coffee, a candle, a food. Second, start building your own home in your current city. For me, investing in things that make me feel more at home, are actually turning Bilbao into more of a home for me. And lately, despite all the rain, Bilbao has been growing on me (I can’t believe I just said that!).

I think it’s important for people to remember that when you move abroad, you don’t have to lose yourself. I know all those pinterest quotes are like “LEAVE YOUR IDENTITY BEHIND AND JUST LOSE YOURSELF IN THE TREES AND GRASS OF EVERY CONTINENT AND BECOME ONE WITH THE WIND AND NEVER LOOK BACK” or something, but in all honestly, I think that’s far from the truth (And yes, I’ve probably pinned every single one of those quotes, in case you were wondering). I think the key to battling homesickness is bringing elements of home to you. And I’ve found, the more home I bring to me, the less I feel like I need it, and the more I can truly embrace living in Spain. 

**Note: A close second for the key to battling homesickness was giving someone a hug. Not even kidding. Hug it out. It helps. 

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Have you ever been homesick while being abroad (or just away from home)? What do you think helps battle homesickness the most? 

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The Spain Struggle

I haven’t been keeping up with the blog for a multitude of reasons. A few being that I’ve made some living changes, gone on a few trips to other cities, picked up teaching private lessons, all of which have left me with not too much free time. The main reason, however, is that I haven’t really felt like posting another blog post about a cool city I visited or how awesome living abroad is. Because sometimes, living abroad really isn’t that awesome.

So here it goes; my first post that doesn’t make my life seem like a fairytale. If you follow me on Instagram, it looks like a float around, trying new foods, drinking lots of wine and exploring European cities, which is true. But what I don’t post about is the times where I am struggling at the police station to get my residency card, or the times I am sprinting for the bus to commute to work in the rain, or the times where I head out into the city and realize it’s the siesta so everything is closed. Those times are what I like to call The Spain Struggle. I think The Spain Struggle has become more evident lately, as my honeymoon stage with Spain is officially over. The glamour of living abroad has worn off and I’ve quickly realized that living abroad is very different from traveling abroad.

Somebody posted this picture in the Auxiliares de Conversacion Facebook group under a discussion thread about “How to Battle Homesickness”, and I instantly realized I was living this picture:culture adaptation

If you every talked to me before I left for my trips, I had so many ups and downs it was uncountable. One day, I would be so excited for Spain and the next I was thinking “What the hell am I doing?”. Then, I arrived and Bilbao and it was amazing! New friends, new foods, cheap wines, traveling, the beach, etc…what could be better? I was in the honeymoon stage, and it lasted a solid month. What a great month it was! I went to Vitoria, San Sebastian, Paris (will write about it soon) and even wrote about my favorite things about Basque Country! So what’s my problem now? Why am I out of the honeymoon stage?

Well, it’s because the first month, I felt like a tourist. For me, traveling has always been a short term thing, knowing I was going to arrive back home in Ohio after “x” amount of days/weeks. While I did move away for college, I was only an hour and a half from home, so I could easily drive home for the weekend, or even night, if I wanted to. But here, I am across the Atlantic ocean, in another country. I can tell I’m experiencing culture shock because suddenly, I feel more American than ever. I want peanut butter and a coffee to go and jimmy johns to deliver and soy milk…..

Anyways, The Spain Struggle is definitely real, but I’ve learned the best way to combat it is to think of everything as less of a struggle and more of an adventure. Maybe I did have to go out of my way to San Sebastian to get my NIE card, but I also discovered an adorable cafe and spoke with the barista (in Spanish!) who encouraged me to move to San Sebastian this summer. I’ve also learned that while it is important to try to adapt to the other culture, it is okay to have days where I just want to watch Netflix, in English, all day and only talk to my American friends and hug people when I meet them instead of doing the “European kissing both cheeks” thing. Like everything else in life, adaptation takes time and is a process.

Thankfully, I do have American friends here in Bilbao that make me feel like everything I’m feeling isn’t crazy, and my friends and family at home in Ohio are amazingly supportive and make me feel like I never left when I speak with them. Even though some days feel like I’m taking two steps back and one step forward, I am learning to embrace the set backs and just allowing myself the time I need to adapt. I guess that’s one thing I have in common with Spaniards, giving myself as much time as I need. They always say here “calm” or “don’t worry”. So I guess in some ways, I’m adapting to the culture more than I think :) 

Adiós USA!

Tomorrow I’m leaving for Spain! I can’t believe it’s finally here! I have a layover in NYC where I switch airports from LaGuardia to JFK, which I’m dreading, but other than that I’m really excited. I skyped with the previous aupair of my host family today for over an hour which actually took away a lot of the nerves I was feeling about many things. There’s still a lot of things I really don’t have organized at all, but I learned with traveling you can only plan so much. Planning every detail is never going to work and can actually end up being really frustrating when it doesn’t go according to plan. Lindsay and I learned that early on during our Eurotrip in Ireland with bus tickets. But if I did have 3 wishes prior to going, this would be them:

Wish 1: If there is one major thing I wish I had figured out, it would be my cell phone. AT&T wouldn’t unlock it because it is under contract until November which basically means I can’t buy an international SIM card and put it in my phone. So, I’m just going to take my iPhone and see if I can get it unlocked in Spain. If not, I’ll just buy a cheap pay as you go flip phone and use my iPhone when I have wifi.

Wish 2: I also wish the program I was teaching English through had more information. I kind of expected this going in because I read a bunch of stuff online about it being pretty disorganized, but I would like to know my teaching schedule and when/where our orientation is. I’m only supposed to be teaching 12 hours a week, but I’m teaching in a small town outside Bilbao which is about 40 minutes by bus. I’m hoping to only teach 3-4 days a week so I don’t have to make the commute as much.

Wish 3: Be fluent in Spanish. The struggle is going to be real in Spain with my sub-par Spanish speaking abilities….LOL. No hablo español muy bien….

Other than those minor (okay…major details), I feel pretty prepared! I’m ready and excited to take on this adventure! VOY A ESPAÑA!  

take a chance

What the hell am I doing?

Okay, so since September hit, the whole “I’m moving to Spain this month to teach English thing” got more real. It’s quickly become less of me daydreaming about my life in Spain, to more of me realizing that I will actually be on a plane, to Spain, at the end of the month. To be honest, I’m having mixed emotions about it. I have spurts of excitement, then waves of doubts go through my mind. I’ve actually gotten the hang of working full time and having a (still pretty college-like) post grad life since I graduated in May. The doubts I’m having are fueled by the fear of the unknown. This is possibly the craziest thing I will ever do in my life, and at 23, I still feel really young to be taking such a leap.

But when else in life do you get the chance to take such a leap? Never.

While moving to a foreign country is different than moving away from home to go to college, the emotions I am experiencing are very similar to the ones I experienced the few weeks before I left for college: everything you’ve been talking about and thinking about is finally happening, and all of the sudden you’re unsure you want it. But the difference between college and now is I’ve had that experience, and I know I want it. I learned a lot in college, but the most important lessons I learned were outside the classroom. The lessons I learned through each different experience, that no text book, class or professor could ever teach. With each new chapter of life comes new experiences and an opportunity to grow more as a person, which is why I know I want to move to Spain.

In the beginning college was a new, exciting adventure and after reflecting back to myself freshman year, I wish I could go back and experience everything over again. I wouldn’t change a thing, just relive those emotions. But now I’m realizing I have another chance to start a new adventure, and I couldn’t be more excited.

There is beauty in the uncertainty. There is beauty in having no expectations. There is beauty in adventure.

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