Think back to when you last had a long holiday. After weeks of roasting yourself on a beach, exploring ancient monuments, being robbed haggling at a bazaar and wearing out your body during long nights of glorious excess, yes, after all that you realize that tomorrow is the day of your return to normality. How did you feel?
If you are anything like me, you might have felt eager to go home. You’ve had fun, no doubt about it. (You have a brand new tattoo to show for it!) Despite the fun, you look forward to return to the comfort of your own bed, the privacy of your own home and even the familiarity of your work. This is a mild case of homesickness, and it is perfectly normal.
For two months, I’ve lost my heart at Burning Man, visited old friends, made a whole bunch of new friends, explored a ghost town, competed at a rodeo and much more. It was the perfect start of my nomadic journey, and yet I felt homesick.
But hold on – a homesick nomad? That can’t be good. The general cure for homesickness is to go home. But what do you do when you don’t have a home to go to? Homesickness for a nomad is like the phantom pains of an amputee, and it is equally difficult to scratch.
Did this mean that my decision to become a nomad was a terrible mistake? Have I quit my job and sold my flat only to realize that these sacrifices were rash stupid decisions?
I spent a couple of days I stressing myself out with thoughts of green grasses and fences, but when the initial panic subsided, I took a deeper look at what it was I really longed for. I daydreamed of my old life, one aspect at a time, trying to figure out exactly what I was missing. I realized that what I was yearning for was the simple pleasure of being alone in my room, watching TV or surfing the web. I wanted to take a break from the adventuring and do something simple, mindless and relaxing. In short, I wanted to slow down.
Therefore, during my stay in San Francisco, I have chilled out. I’ve spent long days at coffee shops working on my laptop. I’ve watched TV with my hosts. Most important of all, I’ve silenced the insane voice in my head ordering me to explore San Francisco or die as a failed nomad.
It worked. The phantom pains are gone. Tomorrow, I will depart from San Francisco, and I feel great despite leaving the city somewhat unexplored.
The take-away point is this. As a budding nomad, becoming homesick is scary. First instincts will be to question your decision to become a traveller. However, take the time to pinpoint exactly what it is you miss, and find a way to incorporate it into your nomadic life. If you need a slower tempo, then slow down. If you miss the privacy of your home, then find a bedroom with a lock. If you miss your friends, then send them webcams and instructions for how to use Skype. Be creative, but remember that the first step is to know what lies beneath the homesickness.
It is a crime in most countries to throw out babies with bath water.