I’ve spent my whole life feeling home-sick for somewhere….

As part of a trailing spouse link-up this month we have been asked to write about home-sickness. At the moment, I am home. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get home-sick. For all my life I have been leaving places – and people – behind. And even now I still get a pang for countries that are so far in my past I can hardly remember what they feel like.

A friend of mine has recently returned from a posting in the Philippines. On her arrival back in the UK, she posted a set of photographs – set to some stirring song or another – of her time in that beautiful country. As I watched the pictures flick across the screen in front of me they not only showed me what a fabulous time my friend had had, it also brought back my own memories. And suddenly I was there again – the smell of Frangipani on a humid tropical evening; the excitement of arriving at our favourite beach resort at the start of the weekend. Diving from the top board at the Army and Navy club – and the agony when the perfect arc turned into a belly flop. Eating pizza at Shakey’s. My first sleepover, at a Korean friend’s house. Birthday parties with the rich children from school at the Country Club. Running barefoot round the corner of our gated village to my best friend’s house….

Maya maya pic

The Philippines in the 1970’s

The feelings are fleeting but they are still there. Another example: I recently met someone who is about to be posted to Venezuela. I spent some very formative years of my life in that country – we were posted there when I was 15 and left when I was 19. I was at boarding school for much of that time but spent most holidays in Caracas and then a year there between leaving school and university.

As we spoke about what Venezuela was like (sadly very different from the country I knew – so safe I was able to go out at night on my own, finding my way home via taxi’s or lifts from strangers I met in bars; now it’s all armoured cars and close protection teams), I remembered trips to the Llanos, swimming at the base of the Angel Falls, endless cinema outings to watch the latest 80’s teen movie. Terrible clothes shops. The blandness of arepas, but the wonderful beef. These memories are deep but they haven’t gone away.

Yes I get homesick all the time – for all of these countries and for more. For verdant New Zealand, with its stunning views and laid-back people. For Jamaica, where I met my husband and we spent the weekends underwater. For St Lucia, with its beaches and its pools. Even for Pakistan, a strange three-month interlude in my life where I barely touched on getting to know the country but nevertheless gained so much.

Jamaica wedding

Jamaica wedding

But all of those will still pale into insignificance when I move abroad again this summer as I know the one place I will always miss more than any other is this one.

I wasn’t born here – that honour goes to Cuba – but I have always known the UK is home. Maybe not even the UK, maybe more significantly England, or perhaps even west England, where I live now. We always had a house in this country and family. We returned here between postings and I went first to school and later to University here. I have lived and worked here – in Kent, Hertfordshire, Essex, the Midlands, the west, and of course London. I know the people, I know the humour. There is no other country that does better television. We have our radio and our music. Our culture and our history. The NHS. Marks and Spencers. Cheese rolling and Morris dancing. We have the diversity of Birmingham. We have the beauty of the Cotswolds. In my opinion, having travelled and lived in all four corners of the globe, there is no better country in the world.

The view from our kitchen window

The view from our kitchen window

So why do I keep leaving it? This is a good question – but maybe one of the reasons I love it so much is because I do keep going away. This gives me a different perspective on this place, I can see it from a different angle. And while others might see ambulance queues and GP waiting lists, I see free and universal healthcare open to all. Where others complain that our politicians are corrupt, I see freedom of speech, freedom to wear (almost) whatever we want, freedom to complain openly and voraciously about those politicians. And where others moan about immigration and foreigners taking our jobs, I see an open and generous country.

But of course I won’t just be homesick for the country as a whole, I will be homesick for the little things, the meaningful things, the things that really mean OUR home. The autumn blackberry picking. Chats with other mums on the school run. The girls running outside to play with their friends in front of our house. Being able to walk into town and buying sausages from the local butcher. Reading the Times on Saturday afternoon with a coffee. Looking out of my window at the oh-so-familiar view of the road, trees, houses and play park in front of our home.

All of these things are what I miss. All of these things are what home means to me. And all of these things will be what I most look forward to when it’s time to return.

 

Read more about other trailing spouses’ experiences with homesickness:

• Elizabeth of Secrets of a Trailing Spouse shares how homesickness wasn’t what she expected
Tala Ocampo writes about the Life that Was in the Philippines and how she would still say yes to the trailing spouse life
• Yuliya of Tiny Expats relives the sensory experience of being back home
• Jenny of My Mommyology explains why we become homesick in the first place
• Didi of D for Delicious talks about her love-hate relationship with her home country

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23 thoughts on “I’ve spent my whole life feeling home-sick for somewhere….

  1. Great post! You made me chuckle when you said about England having the best tv in the world, I have to tell you that South African DSTV is not very inspiring at all, so many channels and still nothing to watch. That said the weather is so glorious all the time, there is less need to ever watch TV! Living in johannesburg has also made me have a new found respect for the NHS.

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    • Yes, TV overseas is almost always a disappointment. I alwyas struggled with the crazy number of ad breaks on American channels (which is what we got in the Caribbean, as well as the local offerings). So even though Americans make good television, it was impossible to watch unless back home in the UK! I agree about the NHS – you don’t know what you’ve got until you experience what the reality is elsewhere….

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  2. Pingback: A #TrailingSpouse’s Village | My Mommyology

  3. Wonderful 🙂 NHS is great indeed – paying for insurance elsewhere definitely puts it in perspective. Russian healthcare system is also free for all, but you often find that you need to go to a private clinic to get things done properly :S And don’t get me started on corrupt politicians.. I hope, you’d still enjoy South African adventure, even though you might miss your home at times 🙂

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  4. Somehow I think (as you said) that after you move and move back several times, it’s the little pieces and parts of the places you left that make it home to you. And no matter where you go (or go back), you’re never the same after. Loved this!

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  5. I agree that moving away gives you a different perspective on your home, or maybe it’s just that you have different things to complain about when you move away! I have only lived in Brunei for three years, but there will be things that I will miss and want to take away with me: the friendly and welcoming locals; the laid-back approach to life – which sometimes drives you mad but which you soon adopt yourself; and the peace and quiet are all things that I will miss when we leave. And I miss things from the UK which I had never even considered, like you said the things that you perhaps take for granted,

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  6. Hi, I’m a relatively new expat and just randomly found your blog. I really agree about UK tv!! We had a trial run of cable here in the U.S. during our first two months and it’s so expensive for such rubbish channels!! Made us appreciate our freeview box in the UK! We now just watch Netflix and stream some UK programmes online.

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    • Welcome to the world of expats! The Internet has certainly improved things for us tv-deprived Brits overseas, although I’m not sure the service is going to be fast enough for streaming in South Africa! I’m thinking of stocking up on a few box sets before we go. ..

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      • Thank you! I’ve really enjoyed reading through a few of your posts, It’s comforting knowing people think and feel the same way about things!! South Africa will be an amazing adventure I look forward to reading all about it and hearing how you’re adapting.

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      • Agree. I’ve just commented on your blog (which I’ve been enjoying reading when really I should be getting out of my pyjamas and taking the children out! ) how many good points you make about the realities of expat life. Who knew you would need to visit three supermarkets to buy rosemary in the States!

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      • I am doing exactly the same its 2.30am here and I really should be going to sleep but instead I’m reading your blog haha.
        The supermarkets here are my biggest gripe but thankfully its getting a bit easier now that we’ve stocked up on most things!

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      • That sounds exactly like here! Most weeks I can get everything in one shop but the the past two weeks there’s just been one remaining thing on my list and they we’re basic things too, it drives me mad!!

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  8. Just found this when searching ‘I’ve been homesick my whole life’ to see if there is anyone out there that can relate to how I feel. I have moved back and forth between England and Canada at various times in my life: moved to Canada when I was 5 and spent my whole childhood and teenage years desperately homesick for England, vowing to move back as soon as I was ‘grown up’. Sure enough, I packed up my teenage bedroom and moved ‘home’ to England, on my own, when I was 17. Spent the next decade gradually missing Canada more and more and more. So this time I sold all, packed my kids and husband and took them ‘home’ to Canada. Lived a wonderful 6 years there, but once again my heart ached for England. So did my English husband’s and my kids’. So yet again, a sudden exodus back to England and so far we’ve been here 3 years. Once again I miss all things Canadian. I have spent my whole life missing the other place and never quite feeling that I belong ion the country I’m in. I wish I knew how to conquer this and just feel settled wherever I am.

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    • You sound like a typical Third Culture Kid (TCK), which is someone who has spent at least a part of their childhood in a country other than their original home country. There is an increasing amount of research that shows the effect this sort of life can have on us as adults. There are resources out there, I really enjoyed a book called Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere which helped me a lot. Another good resource is the Facebook forum I Am a Triangle, which is aimed at people who feel they don’t really fit in anywhere.

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  9. Pingback: Making a new home abroad – my journey back to trailing spouse-land. |

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