When the homesickness kicks in

Is volunteering always sunshine and roses? And how can you fight homesickness? Else Johanne, a volunteer in Netherlands, knows the best…

I remember just too well how people told me that a year of volunteering would give me both ups and downs emotionally speaking. How some days, weeks and months would be just amazing, but then how everything could fall apart. Longing for home, feeling done with working so hard for the pocket change we get as volunteers, and maybe even getting to the point where you don’t even enjoy what you’re doing anymore.

I was lucky, I went eight months with nothing but love for this, the first two months even felt like a vacation, even while working full time, but now, now it’s hitting.

I was home for three weeks during summer, and it was the greatest vacation, just being back home after all this time. But three weeks went fast, and suddenly I was back in the Netherlands, and it felt wrong, I didn’t want to be here anymore. I missed my home so much, the nature, mountains and my forest. My parents, friends and everyday life. And then I was suddently back here, without anything, and the homesickness just hit so hard.

I’ve always been so connected to my home place, and even though I’ve been living away before this, I could always go home. That’s not the case anymore, and you know what? It kinda sucks. But somehow you just have to deal with it, get through it, and find what brings you joy where you are.

I’m working hard on that at the moment. There’s obviously so much I love about being here, living and working in another country, but it gets a bit clouded by longing home. What I’ve “decided” to do is just to let it be. Let myself feel that longing, cause in the end it feels kinda good, right? I love my home, and want to go back. But I’m not gonna sit in my room crying about it everyday (just some days here and there) so I’ve learned to embrace the things down here that bring me joy.

I really started enjoying working out when I first moved here, and at the gym is where I find my peace of mind. Until I moved three weeks ago, it would take me three minutes to walk there, so unless there was anything special that would take my entire day, I would be at the gym every day of the week. And I love it. Altogether feeling better and getting healthier, but also just being in the moment and block everything out. I’ve learned to channel my sadness and homesickness into my work out, and it really helps me, always push myself just a little bit harder. This isn’t necessary something for everyone, but something that helped me out when I felt a bit lost.

Gym is obviously something I can do at home to, and because of that it might not always work to kick the homesickness. Then you have to find other ways to do it, and that’s where the city you live in kicks in. I love, really love, to just walk around the city, exploring and looking at this old and beautiful city. I’m not much for going out in the weekends, or joining set arrangements (which is also a great way to feel better, having something to do etc.) but exploring, that’s my thing!

For most of the volunteers, this is the only time you have to really explore and get to learn a new city in a new country as well as you’d like. Because after this year, or maybe even just after a couple of months, you’re going home and back to everyday life. When will you ever get the opportunity again? So it’s so important to take advantage of this year, the city you live in and everything it can give you, now!

This is something that most times give me total peace of mind if the gym doesn’t work out. Getting out, walking through every small street, having a look in all of the small an cute stores, or just walking through the neighborhoods. Exploring, and everyday find something new that you haven’t noticed before. For me, this is a gift, and it helps a lot. Yes, my own country and city that I miss so deeply is beautiful, but so is this, so embrace it.

And last but not least. Best way to kick the homesickness. Call your mother. Your father, siblings and friends. Facetime or normal call, doesn’t matter. Speak to the people you miss, laugh and have fun, or cry your heart out. Complain about work, or tell them about something great that just happened. Plan out your next vacation home, and look forward to it. It is hard being away from home and your family, but in the end, every vacation home, and every hour you get to spend with the people you miss is such a gift. And when you’re back at work again, use that to your advantage, and you’ll manage to hold on until the next time you see them.

It’s good to realize that such moments can come and it’s absolutely normal… If you find a way that helps you overcome it, then there is no more anything preventing you to enjoy your volunteering time to the fullest.

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