First World Homesickness

I’ve been fighting off a feeling of homesickness. It’s my fourteenth year away and it feels ridiculously overindulgent. “Didn’t you just go home?” said a girlfriend who hasn’t been home for over a year. I nodded, offered a somewhat embarrassed shrug of my shoulders, if I could control it I would. I know from experience that it will pass  – I’m just homesick right now, in this moment.

A friend had a problem with his Instagram account this morning, I know because he shared it on Facebook. “My Instagram keeps crashing” he was wondering if anyone else was having the same issue. “First world problem” a caring friend replied. His response had me smiling “Given I live in the first world, I guess I am often going to encounter first world problems.”

I am surrounded by people with much bigger problems than mine. Migrant workers with the appearance of having just left a coal mine, who sit row by row on dusty old busses. Looking exhausted they often lean their heads on each other’s shoulders at the end of a long and laborious day. Women who leave their home country to work as nannies in Qatar. I watch them shuffling stone faced behind women with designer handbags in malls, there for the sole purpose of carrying the shopping. At the end of my street I see a group of workers pile into an over cramped bus after a full day of working outdoors, their hands are calloused, their faces worn. I drive past them on my way to a conference where I will sit with well dressed women and discuss our busy lives, our stress, finding our balance.

After a miserable fight with G, seeing a stunning picture of the river that runs through my hometown, and hearing a familiar song from our beachside Australian summer playlist while I was stuck in the mumdrums of a Doha day – I find myself homesick. Guilt ridden, but homesick.

An Aussie girlfriend who recently had a baby here in Qatar has just said goodbye to her parents, they’re on their way back to Australia, in a few months she’s moving back to the UK with her English husband. My heart sank as I read her message.

“13 years away, it still doesn’t get any easier saying goodbye to my family”.

It will all pass. We know that life somehow picks us up and takes us on a joyride only to then sweep down into darker territory before landing back out in the sunshine again. It’s a ride we all take in varying degrees of comfort, we all have our turn at stopping at points we don’t wish to. It’s a more comfortable ride for some than others.  I know all of this: how spoilt I am, how lucky I am. All of those annoying hashtags #blessed #loved #grateful.

But right now, I’m homesick.

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  1. Hugs.

    I love that comeback to First World Problem. Stealing it. x

  2. Melissah says

    Me too.

  3. Dominique says

    Yes yes se this is me today!! Hubby myself and two year old girl jumped ship to port Vila Vanuatu one year ago and started a business. I totally get every single thing you are saying here. I have my days usually once a month. It’s tough I don’t know how you have done it with 4 kids for all this time! well done to you. Love your writing and this post hit home for me.

  4. Sarah-Jane says

    The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned – Maya Angelou –

    I love this saying and often wonder where our kids will ache for later as their childhood has not been spent in one place like mine was. S x

  5. You are one amazing & resilient woman Kirsty. Such a joyous mother & supportive wife, a natural nurturer. I don’t know how you’ve managed to do that for so long & still stay strong, empowered & happy. We have just moved to Hong Kong with my husband’s work with 3 young children under 6 in tow. It took everything I have to move away from my beloved Sydney which I adore so much & leave all my closest friends & family. I am so glad we took the plunge to embark on this oriental adventure with our family as we will be able to spend so many beautiful moments together without any outside influence & we will be able to have some amazing enriching holidays nearby whilst we are here. We are growing together as a family. However, I am even more grateful & appreciative of how fortunate we are to live in Australia & I know that the true expat life is never going to be for me. I’m ok with admitting that I will never enjoy moving around, setting up a home, making friends & saying goodbye to do it all again. I feel lost & need to have roots for our family. Open spaces, natural surroundings, friendly multicultural mix of people and most importantly the right to breathe fresh, unpolluted air are the reasons why I love Australia and it’s breathtaking beauty. Everything sparkles in Australia & the c sun lights up my life. Luckily this is a short 2 year adventure & we have our house & school to move back to so I feel that we will make the most of our opportunity here. I really admire you & think you are fantastic to embrace this expat life into the unknown. Your thoughts always inspire me. All the best to you & your beautiful family x

    • I can completely identify with your post. I just posted a simialr respons myself. I can see the beauty, but it’s not for me. After five months, the homesickness gets even worse for me. I want to be in my own country too, where there is such nice and crisp air, where my child can play outside without being in danger, where I can get my bike and run some errands, where I have my close friends. Take care and I hope you do get to create the beautiful memories.

      • Hi Micah, I do think this experience will make us stronger! I am determined to make the most of it for our children & my husband as if I’m not happy, no-one’s in our house will be happy! But it is brave to admit that this lifestyle is not for us, I know we would always be homesick whereever we go except home & our children will always be saying goodbye to friends. I’m not convinced that lifestyle offers enough long term stability for our family & I don’t like the idea of always being homesick & unhappy. So glad we’ve tried it otherwise we would have always had regrets! Keep strong & positive & good luck! X

        • haha, we’re getting in a bit of a private discussion here. But thanks. I have been feeling awfull over the past couple of days and I knew I needed to get myself together. I am not being the relaxed person I used to be, living here, being homesick. I will pull myself together and make the most of it. At least I’ll try, with ups & downs, no doubt. All the best for you too. Hope you will have a wonderfull time abroad, if not now exactly, then at least later on in retrospect :-). X

    • My brother and sister in law have also moved to Hong Kong this year and she too is missing her beloved Sydney. I loved your comment, and your honesty about how the experience is for you. You’re right, everything does sparkle in Australia. xxx

  6. I am at home now because of a skiing accident. Guess how many people care? It’s our 15th year away from home and everyone probably thinks, that’s what you get for being away all the time. I feel alone, more alone in my home country than at my guest city where no other expat women live and where I spend my days alone. It’s sad but it doesn’t fell like I am welcome here anymore. Next time I am homesick I will think back to this last 6 weeks.

    • Ruth Harper says

      Oh bless you Angela. I feel the same way! When I’m homesick or feeling lonely I think no one will feel sorry for me because we decided to move 6000 miles away from our family and life long friends. We did this to ourselves etc etc. Don’t be hard on yourself and reach out to someone. I bet you will be surprised by their response 🙂 Take care and heal soon x

      • Thank you Ruth. My neighbors invited me over for a glass of wine. So nice. Soon I can sit on a plane again, I miss my hubby…..I need to go “home”.

        • Oh Angela, I was out last night and have just seen your message this morning. I am so glad your neighbours invited you over for a glass of wine. I was home for 6 weeks without my husband and kids last year when I needed to have an operation – I was in a different position to you as I actually locked myself away and didn’t want to see anyone (my 2 catheters made life a little restrictive). I can imagine that you are really missing your husband, I hope the time goes fast and you get back together soon. Big hugs xx

  7. Ella Leimbach says

    It’s funny how on some days, without warning, homesickness can hit you like a wave and nothing seems to take it away. I’ve tried to swim against it, but found that I just have to go with it and ride it out. I’ve thought previously how lucky you are to be able to go home a couple of times a year and how jealous I am of your beach house – but it’s all relative. I get some kind of homesickness feeling before, during and after each visit home – all because it’s just a visit and there is too much to see and do and savour and what about all the things I won’t have time for and what about that feeling you only get from putting roots down…. I love the Maya quote in the previous comment – will write that one down!

    • I love the Maya quote as well. I feel very lucky that we have the beach house. When we lived in North America we couldn’t afford to go home very often and when we did it was a quick trip because we were both working and couldn’t take extended holidays. I dreamed of the beach house in those days and I still now have to pinch myself that we have everything I’d hoped for. Thanks for the reminder Ella, you took me back to another time this morning, you may have done it unintentionally but you’ve actually made me feel very grateful. Thank you. xx

  8. Sarah Derrig says

    I go through the ups and downs of homesickness. I haven’t lived in Sydney for over 10 years and there are times when I go back home and I feel like a tourist and that makes me sad but in another way it’s lovely to see your hometown through the eyes of a tourist. I’m a glutton for punishment though whenever I’m feeling really homesick I kick it up a notch by watching Australian TV shows and looking at another house to buy just to really rub it in!

    • Andrea Hamann says

      Ha, I do the same when I’ m travel sick…I look at overseas property and blogs like this one.

  9. I am away now for five months and my homesickness gets even worse by the day. I am definitely not going to be someone traveling around the world, living here for a couple of years and living there for the next couple of years. I am getting my husband to look into possibilities to go home a year earlier then planned. I can see the nice things about expatlife, but it’s not for me.

  10. Therese Oxholm says

    The last time I was homesick, was last week, when my lovely
    best friend from home took her hubby and kids on holiday to visit us in

    The moment I felt homesick, was when I was on FaceTime with
    my mom while my best friend and her family was in our home here in

    My mom was on the verandah, showing me that spring had finally made its way to Norway. On the screen, I could see both my mom and my best friend´s house in the background.

    Now what was those annoying hash tags again? #blessed #loved #grateful.

    I relate. Thank you for another lovely post.

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