I live alone abroad. Here's how I deal with homesickness and loneliness.
18.11.2023 - 13:55
In 2021, I moved abroad to spend six months exploring Europe. I was looking for a change of scenery from New York City and to fulfill my dream of living in Europe.
The first city I lived in was Warsaw, Poland. I had a family connection to the country; my parents emigrated from there to the US when they were in their 20s, and I had spent my childhood summers visiting family in Poland. It felt like the natural choice to start in a country where I knew the language and could hop on a train to sit in my aunt's kitchen on a Saturday afternoon.
When I walked into my first apartment, I felt what I'd call disbelief. I couldn't believe that I had made it, that I had made a dream I'd had in my head for years a reality. But beyond that, as I wandered around the apartment, giggling like a child, I realized that it would be the first time I'd be living alone.
Before Europe, I'd lived in Miami and New York City. In both places, I always had roommates. Now I was days away from turning 30 and finally getting to experience solo living. I sat in my swing — yes, the apartment had a swing and a hammock — and let the pleasure of solitude sink in.
Fast-forward two years, and I now live in Vienna, a city I've called home since March 2022. I picked it because I found a place that allowed me to breathe easily while taking my breath away. I even brought my cat from the US to come live with me. Despite feeling very much like I've got my feet securely on the ground, I still get homesick.
I don't get homesick so much for the US but for my parents, sister, and friends who live there. I've been fortunate in that many people have come to visit me, and I've been delighted to show them my city, but they always leave — and it leaves just me.
My homesickness comes out of the blue sometimes, though I find it often creeps up around fall each year (which may be due to seasonal affective disorder). When I notice this feeling, I do my best to manage it — with a few tools on my side.
When homesickness hits, I'll turn to a blank page in my notebook and answer prompts such as, "What am I missing?" or, "When was the last time I felt at home?" Or I'll go buy some postcards and write notes to those I miss.
Hearing my mom's voice is instant medicine and always soothes my longing heart. While the six-hour time difference requires patience and makes scheduling tricky, I'm lucky my mom is an early riser and I can call her in the early afternoon.
Another one of my favorite tactics is to plan a trip so I have something to look forward to. Whether it's going on a city hike in Vienna, taking a day trip to Wachau Valley (my favorite) in Austria, visiting a new castle, or taking advantage of local events such as an art festival, these experiences help