A touch of homesickness

Russian Ridge 11-2011

Home is where the heart is.

It has been just over three months since I landed down under and while we are having a grand time in Oz, last week I had a touch of homesickness for the first time. The last time I was homesick was when we moved to Vienna, Austria in 1990 for the year. Back then we landed in winter, which was cold and dreary, weeks of grey skies. I barely spoke the language and all the food seemed to have vinegar in it. I was pregnant for the first time and while excited about having a baby, it felt like there were just too many hormones in my body. I had no clue on how to mother myself, much less a baby. The world seemed larger then. International phone calls were expensive, there was no such thing as email or Skype.

Now, 24 years later, we are in an English speaking country and organic produce is abundant; no more pregnancy (actually no more hormones, but that is a story for a post on aging). While the weather has recently turned gloomy: lots of grey skies that promise rain, I think my homesickness is due to something else, something more fundamental in me.

I know I am influenced by my environment. I have a strong need to feel at home and this means a home in which I feel comfortable. We have lived in rented homes and we have owned our homes, ownership is not as important to me as being able to make our house a home. Turns out that I am a homemaker after all. Nesting with my own things is central to my well being. Mothering myself means recognizing what makes me feel ‘at home’ and then creating it in our living space.

Please don’t get me wrong,  I enjoy traveling. I enjoy the excitement of going somewhere new and experiencing life in a different place. I like staying in hotels and eating in restaurants. Packing and unpacking doesn’t feel like a burden. But after about three months of traveling I hit a wall.

This isn’t about comfort, our life in Melbourne is comfortable: we are renting a condo with great views and lots of space. I can walk to yoga, an outdoor market with organic produce (the Queen Victoria Market is terrific). David walks to his office at the Melbourne University Law School. There is easy public transportation. And the coffee shops here are great, do I hear anyone saying long black?

I have made friends here. Our life feels full, but it feels temporary. And this takes me back to Vienna all those years ago. It always felt temporary, because I knew we were only there for a short time: one year then, 5 months now.

One of my friends, who lived in Melbourne years ago, advised me not to tell people I met that we were only here for five months. She worried that they wouldn’t be bothered for someone who is barely here. And while that might be the case for some people, the majority here have been kind, open-hearted. We feel embraced by the locals.

The real person I shouldn’t have told is myself. Because the heart of the matter is that I have been holding back in some ways, knowing that we are just here for five short months. Living ‘temporary’ is fine for me but at about three months it starts feeling inauthentic, temporary, like waiting for a plane and just killing time.

I hit the homesick wall because I know in five weeks, we will be ‘moving’ back to our stuff, closer to our kids, our friends, our family. I just started thinking about the trip back, unpacking our stuff, reclaiming our home. It feels like living in two places at once, but not really in either. Mothering myself means living in the present while remembering that all things are temporary.

Note to self: “Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Laugh. Play with abandon. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Practice wellness. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.”

Have you ever been homesick? Would love to hear where and when and perhaps why.

As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

8 thoughts on “A touch of homesickness

  1. Melanie

    The first time I was homesick was when I went to boarding school at age 11. I believe that’s just too young to be away from parents, unless there are special circumstances which in my case there were not, just in the UK it was “the done thing”. The second time I was homesick was an imagined homesick, before I left the UK with my husband to come to the USA out of choice, knowing I was choosing to be away from family for at least a year. That year became 35 years to date and I have made my home here in CA and there is no “homesickness” just a sadness that my parents did not have the relationship that I am lucky enough to have with my 3 children and soon to be 4.grandchildren who all live close by.
    We are currently renting our primary home and I don’t miss it, the home we rented for the past 2 years has become our home and we love it and are happy to be signing an additional 2 year lease. It is such a unique place that I can imagine feeling homesick for it if and when we have to leave, but home is where the heart is, so I will put that heart into wherever our next home is.

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      I agree 11 is too young for most kids to be away for school. I sent both of my kids to summer camp at about that time, but only for a a few weeks. For one it was fine, the other not as much.

      It is interesting to see the relationship our parents do/do not develop with our kids. I had high expectations for how great my parents would be as grandparents and while the kids do have relationships with both and their new spouses (they divorced when I was a young adult), their relationships are not at all as I would have predicted. A lot of the reason is due to proximity. I have enjoyed living overseas in some ways these past several months but there is no way I want to live this far from kids and future grand kids.

      PS: Good reminder that owning a house doesn’t make it a home, putting our hearts in it does!

  2. Rosalinda

    I did a similar thing many years ago. Not abroad, but living in NorCal waiting to move back to SoCal, we even bought a house, did research, all systems go, etc…But during my day to day, I intentionally did not make friends, and those acquaintances I did have, I kept them at bay…Why form friendships when we’re moving in one year. It was a little awkward and sad, but I kept my eye on the prize; moving. However, we never did. But once the decision was made, I was able to settle in and embrace my “new home.”

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      This holding ourself back is an interesting concept. I obviously do it but wish i didn’t. In general I am leaping before I look with a lot o things, but emotionally not so much. When I think of the missed opportunities and missed friendships I didn’t make because I was holding myself back I get regretful. Hopefully we are learning to be more open to those around us–even those who are there for very long.

  3. Julia

    Hi Heidi,
    I think you have done very well to have made it this far without homesickness. I know it’s a grand adventure, and it has sounded wonderful. But it’s natural to miss your family, friends, your pets, your things, your routine – even if you are somewhere wonderful. It seems you’ve been making the most of where you are, which is absolutely the right thing to do, imho, and I know you will continue to do so. But your CA friends will be very happy to see you again. It’s not long now. I wish you continued enjoyment in your current surroundings!

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you Julia, what a lovely comment. you are right, while I am in a wonderful place and we are enjoying ourselves, I miss my CA life indeed. With 5 more weeks to go and trips to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kakadu, The Great Barrier Reef and Bali it will take my mind off the call to come back home. The good news is that it is getting colder here in Melbourne, so I look forward to enjoying some beautiful northern CA weather too!

  4. Tom

    I like how this story shows that ultimately, home is where you are comfortable, or are used to, or where you have spent more time, or where your loved ones are, etc., not necessarily the idealized places in our imagination; even though those places can step in for a while. Also I like how this is relevant to so many
    — not just mothers — it’s a relevant message to everyone. Thanks Heidi.

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thanks Tom, glad that my goal to make this blog and my posts relevant to everyone is being accomplished. Mothering is an act of being present and nurturing, without smothering, that we (hopefully) do for ourselves, our friends and our kids, if we have them. Yearnings of the heart are an interesting subject, one that I hope to write more about in the future. We have lived in a variety of places in our 25 year marriage and in some I have felt at home, in others not so much. All of our homes have been nice and up until this last one, we even had almost all of the same furniture in each house. But what makes us feel at home in a place? Last March I visited the east coast and the moment I stepped off the train in NYC I felt at home, even though I haven’t lived there in over 25 years and was staying in a hotel. As you may know, I lived for 9 years in St. Louis and struggled to feel at home there, but since moving away 6 years ago, I have felt the pulls of STL because it was a good place for my family. I guess one of the messages other than home is where the heart is, is that we can run, but we can’t hide from our heart. Thanks for your support.


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