Becoming accustomed to a brand new culture and environment can be tricky. Health and wellness blogger, Lee Tilghman, also known as @leefromamerica on Instagram, recently returned from a two-week solo trip in Europe where, throughout her excursions, she expressed some serious feelings of loneliness and brain fog.
“Our identity is connected to where we’re from, who we’re surrounded by,” Tilghman says on Instagram. “When traveling, I am completely out of my element and at the mercy of many things out of my control.”
Some people struggle to actually get to the point of following through with traveling plans out of fear that they will suffer from the same feelings as Tilghman, but it is not until you step outside of your comfort zone and realize how refreshing it is to enjoy something new and unfamiliar.
Senior public relations major Lindsey Wade spent her junior year spring semester studying abroad in Florence, Italy and experienced quite a bit of culture shock and homesickness herself.
“I felt so homesick during my first few weeks of studying abroad because it suddenly hit me that if anything were to happen to me or someone in my family, I had no way of getting home in a short amount of time,” Wade says. “The idea of being somewhere far away was what scared me. I began to realize the opportunity I had living in Florence and knew that it was more important for me to focus on that than on people at home.”
If you’re looking to swim outside of your ordinary fish bowl, but are hesitant about following through, VALLEY has these traveling tips to help you overcome your subconscious worries.
Research the Culture
Knowing little to nothing about a country before you go can have some pretty unforgiving consequences. Know the local cuisine, what language is spoken, the economic standing and the socially acceptable public attire can put you in a far more comfortable position. Sticking out like a sore thumb, or especially as a stereotypical American, is not the goal in mind.
Tilghman researched the running culture in Rome that way she wouldn’t feel out of place jogging around the wrong place during the wrong time — turns out locals of Rome prefer running in the morning hours to avoid disturbance on sidewalks during the peak afternoon hours.
Plan When To Call Home
Although disconnecting from your at-home life can be refreshing, you may find that the only way to overcome feelings of homesickness would be to talk to family and friends. If you’re in a country with a significant time difference, plan ahead a specific time with family and friends that works for the both of you to talk on the phone or through FaceTime.
Journal, Journal, Journal
Sometimes expressing your feelings on paper can be a meditative and effective way to purge your emotions. You’re using this self-reflective time to release. It’s therapeutic and will help you further realize what you’re feeling and why. Not to mention, journaling is a great activity to adopt while traveling because you can record the amazing experiences you’re having and refer back to those excerpts in the future when you’re feeling nostalgic.
Adopt a Routine
Tilghman was big on this point. She noticed throughout her journey that when she gave herself a set morning routine, she had far less anxiety and brain fog and a far greater positive outlook and overall mood.
“I need to move my body to feel good. It gives me a sense of purpose, confidence and structure to my day,” Tilghman says on Instagram.
For Tilghman, the day started with breakfast, coffee or matcha, and some form of exercise — running, yoga or meditating. Giving yourself some sense of tradition or familiarity at some point in the day may help you conquer the outside essence of unfamiliarity around you.
When studying abroad, your classes will be a routine that you have to follow.
“Having a set schedule for classes definitely made it easier to adjust, and then after a while I completely forgot about missing home and was excited to experience this new place I was living in,” Wade says.
Put Your Phone Down
Yes, pictures do last a lifetime, and capturing the special moments of your trip are important, but digital detoxing yourself is the most effective way to truly absorb the culture around you. You see, hear and even feel more around you. Constantly giving your attention to your posts on social media will only take away from your experience and serve you at a disadvantage. While VALLEY totally understands and embraces the concept of “Instagram eats first,” maybe change up the dynamic for a day and enjoy your food and surroundings without the hassle of recording it all.
Overcoming these feelings is certainly not something that happens overnight, but putting forth a proactive effort to focus on your experience rather than your worries is the right mentality to stick to. Sit back and take it all in — after all, the best view you can possibly ever get is the one through the naked eye.