Amy & Andrew in London

Homesick? But we haven’t even left yet…

It’s a strange feeling to be so close to the very thing I’ve wanted for so long; to be on the verge of doing something that used to feel virtually impossible. I can’t believe that in 15 weeks’ time we’ll be out there travelling the world after years of dreaming, saving up our money and obsessively planning our travel adventure. I should be jumping-for-joy ecstatic, singing-from-the-rooftops excited – and don’t get me wrong, I am – but why do I also feel so incredibly sad?


Amy & Andrew in London
A few weeks ago I was sat on the tube, making my way home after a long day at work followed by drinks with friends. I was tired, I was a bit tipsy but I was happy – so why were tears welling up in my eyes? Why, suddenly, did sitting on a grotty tube train, watching the other passengers pretend not to watch each other in the way that only Londoners can do, make me feel so unbearably sad? As I got on the overground train home from London Bridge with all the other city people still in their work clothes, the students and families and groups of teenagers, I watched the lights of the city – my city – recede through the window and it hit me:

I am Homesick.

But how can I be homesick for a place I haven’t even left yet?  

Leaving London and Homesickness

I make no secret about it, I love London. I love its markets and monuments, the parks and the pubs, the Thames and the famous buildings; the festivals and free entertainment – I can’t imagine finding another city I love as much as this one. A place is a place though, right? It’s just bricks and mortar, a random collection of people and streets and buildings; so I guess it’s the life you build in that place and the memories you create there that make it special, that make it truly yours.

So perhaps I’m really feeling homesick for the life I’m leaving behind. Andrew and I have spent three years living in London; we’ve built a life here and made friends, we’ve found our favourite places and established our own little routines. We’ve attended film festivals and protests, carnivals, music gigs and theatre shows here. We’ve shared drinks and dinners with friends, shown our families around the city and we’ve moved from flat to flat.

It’s in London that I saw my favourite band perform five nights in a row, that I co-wrote and self published a book of short stories to raise money for the Mayhew Animal home; that we protested against the Pope’s visit to Britain; that Andrew got knocked off his bike and the place where we became zombies for the night. London is where I got my first paid writing job and met some of my favourite people. It’s where Andrew began his teaching career and where we finally filled a flat full of our own furniture – and even got infested by bed bugs.

Dealing with Homesickness

Leaving London will be hard. I know that even if we return, years from now, it won’t be the same place. Perhaps new buildings will have been built and old ones destroyed. The people we knew may have moved on and the places we loved will have changed – we won’t ever be able to step back into the life we have here, now. But that’s true of every stage of life and I have faith that the journey we’re setting out on and the life that we’re hoping to build when we travel will be even more amazing than the one we have here. There’ll be no more wasting time inside an office every day, staring at a screen for hours on end and wishing away the minutes when we’re finally on the road. I don’t know yet how I’ll feel when we’re finally out there travelling; who knows, perhaps I won’t miss home at all? All I know is that staying isn’t an option, our yearning to see the world is just too strong to ignore.

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25 Comments
  • Brendon @ Nerd Travels
    Posted at 19:04h, 30 November Reply

    I totally understand that feeling. I was feeling the same way before I left Montreal. It is hard leaving everything behind to go traveling. I still get homesick sometimes when traveling but Its usually not homesick for a particular place its more for that moment in time.

    I think your making the right decision to go traveling sure you might get homesick but I think the experiences you have while traveling will more than make up for that.
    Brendon @ Nerd Travels recently posted..Photo Of The Week: 3 -Rainbow Gathering WaterfallMy Profile

    • Amy
      Posted at 19:15h, 30 November Reply

      Thanks for the reassurance Brendon. If I do get homesick when we’re on the road then I plan on reminding myself about the horrors of commuting and being stuck in an office for 40 hours a week!

  • Jen
    Posted at 19:58h, 30 November Reply

    I found the hardest thing to do was leave; everything (especially moments with family and friends) became “over special” and in some moments it would have been easy to stay. Moving away to Australia (taking my guilt of leaving with me) was still the best decision I’ve made.

    I occasionally miss things that surprise me: music playing in pubs I had grown up with, super noodles, McCoy’s, Boots and UK architecture. Christmas doesn’t hold the same meaning when you don’t get to watch “the lights being turned on” or hearing Wham
    with the Andrex puppy!

    Ultimately, I’d go through the bitter sweetness of leaving all over again to have had the experiences I’ve had since. You two will have such an amazing time. Besides, you can always fly home for a holiday! Barge trip through the UK anyone?

    • Amy
      Posted at 20:31h, 30 November Reply

      Lol, thanks Jen. It’s good to hear from an experienced expat about this and it’s funny, but understandable, that you miss the small things – even if they are yucky supernoodles! I’m scared of not being able to get cheddar cheese and marmite when we’re away, I think I’ll also miss my small comforts like watching eastenders and lying on the sofa with a blanket when it’s freezing cold and rainy outside. Have you come back to the UK to visit much since you moved to Australia, and have your family visited you much?

      • Jen
        Posted at 22:54h, 03 December Reply

        Thankfully there’s marmite out here or I’d have been home ages ago 😉 We actually keep a jar of both vegemite and marmite in the house (vegemite being abuse in a jar and marmite being the superior spread!).

        After six years, a fellow expat just shared a link with me to see Eastenders, Corrie and Hollyoaks online. I’ll happily share it with you 🙂 Melbourne can be freezing, so I get the full pommy experience! It was 40 degrees a few days ago and is 11 today.

        My mum and brother moved out to Australia about 16 months after I did, so I am lucky enough to see them frequently (they live an hour away). Dad has been over a few times. I’ve been home twice – last year and this year. I live on Skype 🙂

        Andrew, glad to hear you are guilt free and just excited! 🙂

        Hope you’re both enjoying the lead up to Christmas and playing at being tourists in the UK before you go.

        • Amy
          Posted at 09:35h, 04 December Reply

          At least I can stock up on Marmite before we head to Asia then! Sounds like you’ve got a great set up with some family in Australia and others in the UK (so you have an excuse to come back and visit!) – I too have a feeling that we’re going to be spending a lot of time on skype. Thanks for the Christmas wishes – right back at ya! 🙂

    • Andrew
      Posted at 21:24h, 30 November Reply

      I have to say I don’t necessarily have the same guilt or sadness. There are too many things I won’t miss (inspectors with incredibly high expectations, school children with incredibly low expectations! The freezing cold mornings to name a few) I will of course miss my family and the friends I have made here. I may well change this point of view but I have to say I can’t wait! If needs be, I’m sure we could organise a barge trip! 🙂

  • Patti
    Posted at 23:40h, 30 November Reply

    The day/night before we leave on a trip, no matter the distance, I always get the jitters and if someone asked me if I wanted to stay home I’d say, yes, but I wouldn’t mean it. I have a difficult timing leaving, every time we leave and then once the “leaving” is over and done with, I always ask myself why was I so worried. You’d think I’d get over it, but it still happens and when we gear up to leave for Paris in January, I know I will be especially full of angst (partly because I hate to fly) because this is a big trip.

    Taking a leap of faith to travel the world is a big step and it’s understandable that you’ll start to feel nervous about leaving, but look at it this way…. your life will never be the same again and isn’t that an awesome thing?!
    Patti recently posted..A Dog’s Tale ~My Profile

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:46h, 01 December Reply

      Thanks for your comments Patti and the reassurance – I’m glad to hear others feel the same and manage to conquer their homesickness. I’m sure you will have a brilliant time in Paris too, I’m excited to hear your stories about it!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 03:04h, 01 December Reply

    Oh man! 15 weeks?!? The time is just flying and will speed up even more so!

    Don’t be hard on yourself about feeling loss as you approach this new phase in your life. When Tony & I were preparing for our big trip, I had a few major meltdowns because as much as I knew we needed to change things up and I wanted to get out there and see the world, I also was pretty content with the life we had built. Choosing a new life meant saying goodbye (or at least “see you later!”) to all the good things in our old life that I was really attached to and that was hard. Plus, it’s hard to leave a sure thing for the unknown!

    But once you’re out there traveling, you’ll realize the sacrifices you made – all of them – were worth it. Maybe not right at first (lord knows Tony & I had a rough first month on the road!), but eventually you’ll greet each day with a smile and you’ll only wonder why it took you so long to leave in the first place!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Choosing the Right Travel Camera Part Three: What I ShootMy Profile

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:51h, 01 December Reply

      Hi Steph – you’re right, the time is flying, I can’t believe it’s already three months since I started blogging about our preparations! Logically I know that things will be ok and we’ll have a great time once we leave (especially from reading stories of people like you and Tony), but somehow it doesn’t make the present any less easy to deal with. Some days I’m crazy-excited and can’t bear to spend another minute here, while the next I’ll be feeling nostaligc then I’ll suddenly be outright panicking at how much we have left to sort out! This is a very strange time!

  • Shane
    Posted at 18:04h, 01 December Reply

    I still miss London but it’s the time rather than the place we will never be able to return to. Even had we stayed things would have changed anyway in the far less perceptable incremental way. The friends we made in our street and the local pub were beginning to break up as they moved away or returned to the places they came from – one of the disadvantages of living in such an international place that sucks people in from around the UK and the rest of the world. With luck the tube or the roads will be packed on the way to Heathrow and it will be raining when you leave. It won’t feel so bad when you are lounging around in a hammock by the Andaman Sea.
    Shane recently posted..WorldWideWorker: Caitlyn O’Dowd, Tour GuideMy Profile

    • Amy
      Posted at 18:12h, 01 December Reply

      You’re totally right about London sucking people in – it’s such an addictive place. Now, when I go anywhere else in the UK, it feels like going back in time – everything is so slow-paced and lacks excitement. You definitely get stuck in the ‘London Bubble’ which is probably another reason to get out now while we still can!

  • Iconic Buildings in London
    Posted at 16:45h, 09 December Reply

    […] trying to deal with these strange feelings of homesickness and nostalgia by taking our new travel camera out to photograph all my favourite places. As well as […]

  • Christine Black
    Posted at 21:10h, 10 December Reply

    Hi

    I think you have answered your own question. Going away is more important to you than staying where you are; and that just means that you can do whatever you have to do to achieve your goal. Free help available at http://www.problemgone.co.uk. Good luck and enjoy yourselves.

    • Amy
      Posted at 17:42h, 11 December Reply

      Thanks Christine!

  • Elizabeth Burrell
    Posted at 15:52h, 12 December Reply

    Just found your blog and re-living those exact same feelings. I left on my big adventure 22 years ago. Sold my house, quit my job and left the best friends ever to travel. First to Australia and then New Zealand solo. Onto to the US and Canada and I have not been back to live since….. Now married to an American I met in New Zealand and living in Maine. Only this time we are planning our travels once the children have left for college…. 3 years from now we may be off again…But I am often homesick even after all these years, little things set me off, not that I am unhappy but it is memories. But going is the right thing and good friends will always be there; I still call special friends in Engalnd about once a month and whenever we do get together it is as if I never left. Homesickness is healthy and just helps put all things in perspective. Enjoy your trip and I look forward to following your travels.

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:03h, 12 December Reply

      Hi Elizabeth, sounds like you’ve had some amazing adventures! Maine is the place I would most love to visit in America too, I hope we make it there someday. Do you ever come back and visit England at all? It’s reassuring to hear that you still keep in contact with friends from back home – I hope it won’t be too difficult for me to do the same. Thanks for reading!

      • Elizabeth
        Posted at 16:56h, 18 January Reply

        I try to get back once a year, not always possible but… If you find yourselves in Maine then get in touch. Always room…

        • Amy
          Posted at 21:54h, 18 January Reply

          We definitely will – thanks Elizabeth!

  • Ananasa
    Posted at 15:32h, 18 July Reply

    We can relate to this feeling completely, as we feel the same being expats. It is partially one of the reasons we created Ananasa.com- “A Home For handmade”. An e-commerce site that deals in handmade items from the US, London and the ME. Being far away sometimes is not easy and while owning a piece of handmade may not be the solution it does warm your soul in a different way. Owning a piece of home in your new home with a handmade item made with love can sometimes give you a sense of comfort. Some of the simple pleasures in life that can make us smile…

    • Amy
      Posted at 17:17h, 18 July Reply

      Thanks Ananasa!

  • Liebster Blogging Awards
    Posted at 10:15h, 17 September Reply

    […] has been experiencing a bit of pre-trip homesickness, which we weren’t expecting. Leaving London and going through our ‘last’ […]

  • Leia
    Posted at 14:51h, 18 July Reply

    I can definitely relate! I’m not from any beautiful city but instead live in plain old Western Australia. In exactly two weeks from now I will be moving to the USA for exchange for eight weeks. I’ve been incredibly excited for ages and have been planning this basically my whole life. But right now I’m lying in bed wondering if I’ve made the right decision to leave home for so long! All I can think about is how much I am going to miss my family, pets and even the curtains on my windows. I feel like I should cancel but I know that would be stupid. I need to figure out how to get past this pre-departure home sickness..

    • Andrew
      Posted at 11:28h, 20 July Reply

      Hi Leia, your trip sounds exciting! One thing we noticed after coming back from our first leg of travelling is how there had been so little change at home. Sure, there will be a few little changes, but most things stay the same, and that was after 15 months! I’m sure your 8 weeks will fly by and you’ll be back too soon. Enjoy your time (in the USA and before you leave) and don’t worry too much; there’s always Skype! 🙂

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