Six months on the road and thoughts on homesickness

by Kim on November 14, 2012 · 31 comments

It’s been six months since we left our life in Oregon and three months since we left the U.S for South America. We’ve visited the Galapagos Islands, hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and canoed down a river in the Amazon Jungle. Our trip so far has been an amazing whirlwind of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I feel supremely lucky.

But I would be holding something back if I did not tell you that there are times when I am incredibly homesick. I miss the small comforts of home. I miss having a home. I miss familiar food in the grocery store, I miss walking my dogs in the autumn twilight.

Brian and I with our dogs right before we left Portland

I miss the small things that I used to take so much joy in: A run through the forest with friends, a bonfire in the back yard, even a clean house. Yes, I admit it, I miss cleaning my house, the satisfaction of finding everything in its place again.

I miss my sisters and my parents in a way that I never did when I lived in Oregon, though they lived thousands of miles away in Ohio. I miss the little things that make up a life: Lunch dates and birthdays and Christmas stockings. Back patios and neighbors and gardens and bookshelves.

Me and my Dad

I don’t mean to imply that I want to go home or that I am not enjoying traveling. I love seeing the world and I know our time to go home will come soon enough, even if we end up traveling for years. It’s just that traveling has shown me what matters to me back home. I don’t think I would have been so sure of these things had I not left them. It’s a gift that traveling has given me.

So this is the paradox of my life on the road: Intense moments when my heart aches for home and other moments where it aches just as intensely to move on to the next place and the next place and the next. I am just as divided as I have always been.This eternal itch has served me well, but I wonder, will I ever feel completely satisfied? (This reminds me of one of my favorite poems which you should definitely read here).

I can’t help but think that perhaps after all this wandering the road will lead Brian and I back to our families and that maybe, for the first time, I’ll be okay with that.

In the meantime, though, there is a whole world left to see and I am anxious to explore it. 

So here I am, checking in at the six-month mark, and traveling has been so much more of a journey than I thought it would be. As Miriam Beard said, ‘Travel is more than the seeing of sights, it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.’ This has certainly been true for me.

Six months on this unbelievable journey and I wish for us many, many more to come. It is a diverse, gorgeous, complicated planet that we have the fortune to live on and I feel incredibly blessed to roam it.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Gillian @OneGiantStep November 14, 2012 at 7:28 am

I love this Kim. I found that I never missed home but that, like you, I missed having a home. It made me realize that I am going to really like very-slow-travel where I can get caught up in the tiny routines that having a home provides but still have the adventure of being in a new place. Are you surprised by what you are learning as you travel? Are you learning what you thought you would or entirely different things?

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Kim November 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I am definitely surprised by what I am learning. I should write a post about it! I’m not quite sure what I thought I would learn before we set off, but I am learning a lot about what I want my life to look like. I think I am also appreciating the people I love a lot more.

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Carmel November 14, 2012 at 8:59 am

I only live 170 miles from my family, so I think I’m going to miss home a LOT while we’re gone. And the familiarity of things. Shawn and I are definitely home bodies. It’s funny to me that we even want to do this. But I know once I get over the initial anxiety, it’s what we want.

I like what Dalene has to say about the concept over home over on Hecktic Travels. I know where I am with Shawn, I’m home. Again, just have to get over that anxiety I know I’ll have about leaving! I don’t want to miss out on what I’m doing because I’m missing something that will pretty much always be there.

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Kim November 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I think part of my homesickness comes from the fact that I have only talked with my parents once in three months! They don’t know how to skype and when I call their home phone from my skype account (over my phone) the connection is bad. On the other hand, we skype with Brian’s family much more often and I feel much more connected. So, make sure your mom knows how to skype! Your sister too.

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Carmel November 15, 2012 at 7:24 am

We all have Apple products, so we can Facetime. Although I don’t really know how to use it, so I should probably figure that out. If my mom has her way, it’ll be every day.

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Maddie November 14, 2012 at 9:59 am

I’ve been having the same thoughts lately. I wouldn’t swap what we are doing for anything but I go through phases of chronically missing the people back home . I’ve daydreaming about the afternoon baking sessions I would have at the weekend and curling up under a blanket reading in the winter, just the simple things like you said.

I’m seriously worried that no matter what I have I will always be looking for something else. I said to Paul that the absolute dream existence long term would be to have a home base but be able to travel whenever we wanted, now what kind of job can I find to support that?! Slightly unrealistic methinks.

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Kim November 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm

OMG, I DREAM of baking bread and snuggling up on a couch to read a book.

My dream is to also have a home base but to travel as much as I’d like. The only way I can imagine doing this is to be a writer, where I can work from anywhere. It’s my DREAM!

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Rhonda November 14, 2012 at 11:52 am

So well written, as usual. I, like Gillian, never missed home but I did miss having a home and all those small things we take for granted everyday. As I read back over my journals from our RTW, when I was melancholy, I most often spoke of home cooked meals, comfortable beds, and true hot showers and I still give thanks for all of them on a daily basis!
I think that is partly why many people on the road do house sit or rent apartments for a few months at a time. The ability to cook and go to the market and get that sense of community that you give up when you’re on the road can become invaluable for keeping up the desire to continue the lifestyle.

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Kim November 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I think maybe you and Gillian never missed home because you still HAD a home… knew what you would be coming back to. I think that I would probably feel differently if that were the case for me. I wonder if you guys will feel different this time around? At the same time, you’ll have your home on wheels and maybe that will be enough. To tell you the truth, I am really shocked that I miss home as much as I do. I didn’t think my homesickness would be strong at all.

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Rhonda November 16, 2012 at 7:19 am

Actually we didn’t have a home..we sold the house, although you are correct in that we still had “stuff” here to fill a home when we returned. I never did miss the house, as it were, or even our stuff or..to be truthful, not even specific people so much. I missed the ease of living at home, the knowledge I could have anything I wanted for dinner any day of the week, the ability to sit on the couch in my pjs all day on a rainy sunday and watch movies…and, of course, the home cooked meals, bed and shower! What is that quote…something about I’d spend my whole life traveling if I had another to spend at home? It can be a difficult balance.

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Lucie November 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I think this is a really normal feeling and I feel the same way. When I live in France, I am happy to be with my friends and family but something else is missing, and ultimately I’m always longing for something more.
When I live abroad or travel, I truly feel happy but there is a part of me that miss family. I wish I could take all of them with me.
I guess I am just a big contradiction!

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Kim November 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I wish I could bring my loved ones with me too!! That sure would make it better :)

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Sarah Somewhere November 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Hey Kim, good on you for writing from the heart, as always! I’m sure your family (friends, dogs etc) miss you just as much, and will welcome the ‘Worldly Writer Kim’ back with open arms when the time comes. Big hugs, can’t wait to give you a real one in 7 weeks!!!

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Kim November 15, 2012 at 6:07 am

Thanks Sarah :) I can’t wait to give you a big hug in seven weeks too. It’s getting so close!!!

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Patti November 14, 2012 at 8:45 pm

This is what we are laying the foundation for as well. We have one more move in us, to move back east to live near our son. The goal is to have a small apartment to use as a home base and then travel when we want to and for as long as we want, knowing that we can return to home base when we need/want to. And like you, hopefully I can establish myself as a writer. As Dori would say, “Just keep swimming!”

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Kim November 15, 2012 at 6:08 am

In my dream world I would own a house in Cincinnati, a condo in Portland, and have enough money to travel between the two and anywhere else in the world. That’s the dream…

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Torre – Fearful Adventurer November 15, 2012 at 1:28 am

Uh! I so relate to this, Kim. I’m eternally torn between travel and home.

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Kim November 15, 2012 at 6:09 am

Me too me too me too. I don’t know what to do about it. I think it will just be a reality of my life.

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) November 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I have had similar feelings to you (surprise, surprise!) at many points along the way on this journey. For me, making the decision to travel long-term was surprisingly hard, mostly because it cast into such stark relief all the things about my then-current life that I really loved. As much as I wanted to see the world, I had to acknowledge that there were many great things in my life that I would have to sacrifice in order to do so.

Now being on the road, I am so glad we made this decision, but there are moments when I do think longingly of the life we left behind. Whenever we see an adorable dog, or we face another meal of plain chicken with rice, I wistfully think of the things waiting for us in the place we left. I miss things I didn’t think to fully appreciate before we left but will embrace with vigor when we return. But you know, even though there are days when we pine, that urge to move on and seek out the next big adventure is still rooted deep within me, and I suppose it’s just nice knowing that, like you, whenever this journey ends, my life will be full of many pleasures.

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Vicky November 16, 2012 at 12:38 am

Definitely know where you are coming from with this. We have been on the road for 2 months already and have traveled through japan, South Korea and are currently in China. With travel in China being incrediblt difficult to being with makes homesickness all the more prevalent. I think especially now with the holidays coming up it’s a time when we would both rather trade in a weekend traveling to be home with our families. I also have a food blog and normally at this time I would be testing our various Thanksgiving recipes and sharing them on the blog, but this year with only Chinese cooking classes as a source of new recipes I only have Asian cooking to share! Definitely will be missing Turkey and my all time favorite stuffing next week! Traveling and backpacking in general has definitely made me realize that it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. There are times when all I want to do is lounge around and watch some favorite rom-coms, but without a hostel room with even a tv this becomes impossible! Hope you are enjoying your journey!

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Ali November 16, 2012 at 8:46 am

Congrats on 6 months! How did that happen already? It makes sense to miss certain aspects of home. Living in Germany is not the same as long term travel, and I do have a home, but it’s definitely different. I miss friends and family, as expected, but the little things like certain things in the grocery store get to me too. I miss the familiar, as much as I love the new things you experience when you travel. I’m glad you’re enjoying traveling, and I’m sure your perspective will continue to evolve.

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Jessica November 18, 2012 at 12:27 am

I definitely identify with this! Traveling always reveals the most important things in life. I’m on the road now too, and staying with a sort of vagabond family. It seems they’ve got it worked out, they’ve found a way to have a home base in Indonesia half the year and then move around selling their art the other half. When I return home I’m hoping to figure out how to bring this value back with me, to live closer to my family and to spend more time with them while make a living at the same time. Family is so important to me, and everything is so fleeting. It becomes more clear while on the road. Yet the desire to travel far is also such a strong pull. I guess we’ll find a balance somehow eventually… and maybe it will be right back at the beginning again, home. :)

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Ayngelina November 19, 2012 at 7:03 am

That sounds just about right. I had my first major bout of homesickness in Colombia which was 6 months into my trip. Be prepared for one at 1 year as well. You start to realize it’s normal and just part of the journey.

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Richard Crest November 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm

I agree with your traveling thought, its how we appreciate other living things in different places.

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Elesha November 29, 2012 at 3:58 am

Hi Kim, Ive been reading – and enjoying! – your blog for awhile now :)

I really identify with this post…I had similar feelings whilst travelling and now I have returned home, again, a restlessness.

I guess what these experiences have shown me is to truly try and embrace every moment as it is – I have often struggled with the concept of being still… always pushing on to the next, the next and the next thing.

Often at the cost of missing out on the beauty of the moment as it unfolded.

I am realizing now that there will always be comings and goings. We will always be arriving or leaving, saying Hola or Ciao!, making plans or wrapping them up. Closing one door and opening the next.

I want a life full of adventure, of change, of challenges. I am learning to accept that the restlessness below the surface is simply part of the package that comes with wanting to live such a life. And not to see this restlessness as a negative – but when I start feeling it creep in, simply a reminder that, wherever you are –

‘hey, you are in an amazing moment RIGHT now – enjoy it’

Great blog. Keep up the good work :)

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Kate @ 30Traveler December 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I’m anticipating leaving on a long term trip in May and the only thing I’m really worried about is missing my Mom.

She had a major health scare a couple of years ago and since then I’ve felt differently about traveling away from her. We usually see each other once a week but she has been working the last few weekends due to Christmas. I keep having mini panics and worrying about her. She has just turned 60 and seems young and I don’t want to get back from traveling and for her to seem old, and feel like I’ve missed the last opportunity to spend time with her while she is still very active etc. Dilemmas! It does make me understand why people stay put in boring towns/cities to be close to family.

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