My first solitary trip abroad was a whopping six-month solo trip around Southeast Asia. I made many, many mistakes in that first month that I’m astounded I still travel today. I was scammed, I cried, I got sick, and I yearned for home so acutely that I planned on cutting my trip short.
Then something changed and I began to enjoy myself. After three weeks of travel through Malaysia I found my travel groove and I was excited, not nervous to see the next destination.
It’s pretty normal to feel how I did, especially when facing such a momentous feat of long term, low budget, solo female travel in developing countries.
But I can’t help but feel as though I wasted those first few weeks of travel in Malaysia. I was missing home to the point that I killed time while in Kuala Lumpur and Georgetown. I sat around in my hostel and read books, I didn’t talk to many other backpackers, I walked around the shopping malls, and chatted online to my boyfriend every day. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was suffering from a mix of homesickness and culture shock, and the effect on a travellers’ well being is not to be underestimated.
There was so much more to Malaysia that I never bothered to see. I could have gone to Langkawi Island, Malacca, the Cameron Highlands, the ancient rain forest of Taman Negara. Not once did I explore the best of Malaysia’s Indian cuisine or traditional Chinese food.
Loving travel took a little time. And if I’d given up during those first few weeks of loneliness and aimlessness, I’d never have this blog. Everyone that I’ve spoken to about travel has had a similar experience, especially when travelling solo. We all go through two to three weeks of crying and missing home and not knowing what the hell we are doing in this strange country.
Yes, I’m kicking myself now for using the majority of my time in Malaysia to shop, but I really needed to adjust to my surroundings. I needed to ease myself into Asia via the familiar. Another time, Malaysia, and I’ll be back to give you my full attention.
Tips for beating homesickness
Big adventures need to be eased into. Begin your travels in a country similar to your own before continuing onto the countries that will leave you culture shocked.
Seek out other solo travellers (hostels are great for meeting new people)
Skype home regularly, don’t feel like you need to put on a brave face, it’s totally okay to tell mum and dad you’re feeling homesick.
Do something familiar because homesickness and culture shock feed each other and make you feel worse, so the stranger the place, the more you’ll yearn for home. Go shopping, eat a burger, head to the beach – whatever makes you feel more at home in your new location
Exercise, because what is good for the body is good for the mind, and it’ll help you work out the frustrations.
Know that it’ll only last for a few weeks. It won’t feel like it now, but soon you’ll find your travel groove and you’ll love it.
If you’re travelling solo, embrace it! The time spent on your own is only temporary, so take the time to practise your new language skills with street market sellers. They’re always happy to chat.
Write in a journal - it helps to get all the dialog out of your head that you would normally tell a travelling companion
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What are your tips for curing homesickness?