Restarting my life somewhere foreign has always been one of my greatest pleasures. In fact, I still remember the newness of my latest posed hometown. Since I claimed Baler as my residence, I’ve experienced some drastic changes in my life. There was the walkable beach, the breathable air, and the sustainable social life that I’ve always been deprived of in the Metro. But eventually, like all the other homes I’ve ever lived in, the town’s magic wasn’t enough to shield me from homesickness.
Back in the best days of Tumblr, I read a post that went something along the lines of this: I’m a writer — the people I love are always somewhere else. When I saw that post, I immediately clicked Reblog, as I deeply related to it.
I’m not sure if it’s the gloomy weather that’s suddenly triggering my nostalgia, but I’m currently looking back at that post. And now, I associate it with being a traveller: The places I love are always somewhere else. In retrospect, maybe the reason behind my frequent homesickness is because I’m a pseudo-resident of so many places.
A bad case of FOMO
In 2013, I moved to Baguio City to attend university. Unlike my roommates, I didn’t suffer from homesickness until months in, when I was struggling to do my laundry in the freezing cold weather. But before that, I’d already felt the fear of missing out (FOMO, as millennials call it) lingering inside of me. Whenever my high school friends would post photos of them reuniting, I’d always wish I were back in Manila.
Then I moved to Baler in 2018. It was but a short stay, about ten months, yet I fell in love with the town like no other. Since then, I knew I wanted to live there for the rest of my life. Still, staying there for a while made me yearn for more. Many days, I missed my friends, my family, my dogs, and my unlimited access to authentic Chinese food.
But I can’t say that all I needed to cure my homesickness was a return trip to my original hometown, either! Now, I find myself back in Quezon City. Again, I’m in the centre of the suffocating traffic of Commonwealth, in the midst of the stressful crowds of malls, and in the company of residents with an insane obsession with smartphones. I’m home, yet I’m homesick for the many other homes that I’ve already built while travelling.
Also read: An Open Letter to Manila — Love, Manila Girl
What is homesickness really all about?
Clinical psychologist and professor Josh Klapow said it perfectly: Homesickness is “not literally just missing your house. You’re missing what’s normal, what is routine, the larger sense of social space, because those are the things that help us survive.”
Homesickness is about yearning for the feelings of love and comfort that we can only find in familiar spaces. It isn’t just about “home,” and it certainly doesn’t mean you can only feel homesick when you’re away from your literal hometown.
Not only is homesickness an omnipresent condition, it also strikes at any age — leaving no one invincible to its power. It can be as gruelling for a first grader leaving for school as it is for an overseas Filipino worker. We all want protection. We all want security. And, we all need a proper transition through the places we wade through in life.
It comes in waves
After everything that’s been said, I’ve come to the conclusion that homesickness comes in waves. And right now, I’m homesick for so many places. I miss the sweet repose of Baguio City. I miss the roaring surf of Baler. This feeling is all too painful, almost paralysing, but I realise that this too will end.
Author and psychologist Tamar Chansky believes that homesickness is “a transition between two worlds.” She compares the condition to adapting to a swimming pool, which usually isn’t an easy process. At first, the water is uncomfortable, but it eventually feels good once you’re used to it.
This said, all it takes to battle homesickness is a good period of adapting. It’s easier to prevent homesickness once we’re already rooted in a destination. We only have to seek familiarity wherever we are.
Homesickness comes in waves, and the waves are carrying me away today. But maybe tomorrow, when I walk my dogs to the park, meet up with my friends for brunch, and catch a movie with my family, I’ll be reminded that I love being home here, too. Because while travellers have to battle with homesickness everywhere, at least we’re used to planting our roots in different places. And sometimes, that’s all the cure that we need.