My mother gave me some pretty good advice before my first study abroad experience. She said that if I felt homesick to just head to my nearest museum or major tourist attraction and soon enough I’d feel better. She was right.
Her thinking was that if I went to a place where other short term visitors went I would 1) be around people from all over the world thus potentially diluting the concentration of the culture I was feeling homesick in and 2) I’d feel like a tourist too for a couple of hours and escape whatever was stressing me out. This advice has worked for me a couple of times when the homesickness really hit hard.
After a particularly tough few days in Utrecht I headed to the south of side town to the Utrecht Centraal Museum. Van Gogh and Rembrandt are probably the most well-known Dutch painters, with perhaps Mondriaan right behind. But at this museum I was introduced to Charley Toorop. She was a part of the Het Signaal movement (something I hadn’t heard of before). I particularly liked her self-portraits. I enjoyed her so much that when I was at other art museums in other cities in the Netherlands, I would look for more of her pieces.
Learning new things by going to the museum, and scoping out the surrounding neighborhood helped to alleviate some of the homesickness I was feeling. I felt like a traveler again aka unstuck. It got me out of my house and my head for a few hours. I was rejuvenated to deal with whatever the next day would bring.
When I was in London, my go-to spot for comfort was the steps in Trafalgar Square looking down passed Nelson’s Column and its lions to the Westminster Clock Tower, the home of Big Ben. The square is usually flooded with tourists being at the crossroads to many London sites. It is right in front of the National Gallery and close to Leicester Square. Westminster is a quick walk down the road and the Mall up to Buckingham Palace is also a spoke off the square.
What I love most about this view to Big Ben is the thoughts of fairy tales it evokes. Be it the distance from the steps to the tower or the London fog, but the tower always seems a bit hazy and soft around the edges, mystical. Both Peter Pan and Mary Poppins made trips to this icon of London. And with the way the road descends from the square down to Westminster, sitting on those top steps puts you at level with the clock face making the whimsical and nostalgic seem tangible for a little while. I always left this spot feeling anything was possible.
Going to a museum or a favorite tourist spot was straight-forward and easy to do. At these tourist locales it was nice to be surrounded by other visitors, just like me, and to feel not alone. But, I think the real key to my mom’s advice was the getting out of my own head for a bit and these places facilitated that. Once out of my own head I could re-appreciate where I was and why I was there.