On being homesick

Sunset in my hometown of Stockholm 

There's one thing that I feel no one ever talks about when discussing moving to a different place to live. Everyone is quick to give tips on how much money to save, where to look for a flat and a job and even where to meet people. But the one thing that for some reason is never talked about (maybe because it's somehow implied) is the undeniable fact that you will feel homesick.

I first left home at nineteen, eleven years ago, to move to Los Angeles. As excited and happy as I was, leaving my family and friends was so difficult that when I think about it now, I still feel a ball of pain in my chest. But evidently it wasn't enough to scare me off - I proceeded to move to Florence, Milan, and now London. If you discount the one year I spent living in Stockholm doing internships in 2009-2010, I have now lived out of my home country on and off for almost ten years.

 When I moved back home after uni in 2009, I took David with me. Born and raised in Milan, moving to Sweden for a year was David's first time being away from his family for a long time, although he'd spent summers away working before. In 2010, we moved back to Milan and now we're close to celebrating a year in London, so he's lived outside Milan for three years. I guess it takes a while, because he's not half as homesick as I am.

After I finished uni in Florence, I moved back to Sweden because I was homesick. Every day in Florence, I missed my childhood friends (we're still thisclose), my parents and my sisters. Especially my sisters. My heart broke for them every single day and sometimes just thinking of them being far away was enough to make me cry. But once I had made the decision to move back, something shifted. I got scared. All of a sudden, I remembered all the reasons why I'd spent my teen years counting days, weeks, minutes until I could get out of Sweden. How tiny everything feels after a while. How excruciatingly long the winters are. How isolated from the world and all its excitement I felt. How painfully limiting life in a small capital can be sometimes. The night before my plane left, I called my best friend in tears. "I don't want to go," I said. "I really don't want to anymore".

Sometimes I wish I had listened to that voice and stayed in Italy. The year we spent in Stockholm turned out to be hard. It was the coldest, longest winter in twenty years. We had a nightmare landlord and had to move flats four times, ending up in my father's old house that he was selling at the time, back in the sleepiest, most horrifically boring Stockholm suburb - the one I had longed so much to get away from. I was back where I started and it felt like all these years of struggle to stand on my own two feet had been a waste of time. But I also got my Cosmopolitan internship, leading to the freelance career I have today. David learned Swedish. We had a beautiful summer that year. And I got some precious time to spend with my friends and family. 

These days, every time I'm on a plane landing at Stansted or Gatwick, it doesn't feel like home yet. However, I do feel like I'm where I am supposed to be right now. My chances and opportunities are here, even if my loved ones (except David) may not be. But it hurts. It hurts a lot. Every day. Not all day every day, but every day. My childhood friends, the ones with prams, wedding bands and mortgages, refer to my life as "exciting". And it is I guess, in some ways. But it comes with a hefty price tag, and I'm not only talking London transport costs! Homesickness and loneliness are real; they're palpable. Sometimes they can consume your whole being and you wake up crying at night, asking yourself what the heck you're doing here. Is it worth it? 

Yesterday David left his phone at home when coming to meet me at the Kensal Green tube. He was supposed to play guitar in a pub. His train got delayed, he was running late and didn't have his phone. I stood alone in Kensal Green, looking at people with colourful umbrellas and cheerful smiles walking by and it hit me: David's not answering his phone and I've got no one else to call in this country. No one. Superficial contacts, work colleagues, mentors, flatmates: sure. But actual friends? The ones you can call when your boyfriend's not answering his phone for an hour and you're worried out of your mind? Mine are all miles and miles and oceans away. And they don't tell you that in the glossy "Take Charge Of Your Life: Move Abroad! You Can Do It!" articles. That sometimes living by yourself in a brand new city can get, well, lonely.

Even so, the last thing I want is for advocates of the stay-put lifestyle to take this post and go, "see? She's unhappy! It's not worth it." Because I AM NOT going to use homesickness and loneliness as an excuse to cave in, give up and move back home. I love living here. Aside from the loneliness factor, I am very happy. I love everything about London. I love waking up and knowing that new chances and opportunities may come my way today. I love waking up to a career that I have chosen myself. I love, love, love my upcoming project - it's all I think about and it would never have happened in Sweden or Italy. But, you know. It's not the easiest.

...this is why little gifts like this one makes me happy! My mum and sister send me Limoncello candy and Marilyn earrings - not to mention a cute postcard that is now on my moodboard - from their holiday in Greece. Does make me feel a little bit closer to them!


  1. Beautifully written. Love your "thisclose" wordplay. Thank you for always sharing so very much!

  2. When you hear people talk about "what a small world it is" sometimes, many times that just isn't true. When you are vast distances apart from those you love you can feel very small in a very big world. I remember when I was 21 and living in California and a relative couldn't understand how I didn't want to spend the rest of my life there. All they saw were palm trees, hot weather, the ocean and the land of opportunity, but for me, at times, all I saw was miles and miles between me and those I loved. I missed birthdays and weddings; sad times and happy times. So I totally understand how you feel.

  3. I <3333333333 this post!!! I'm 32 and moved to the U.S. from Shanghai when I was only 9. It wasn't because I was looking for an adventure. And the uprooting hit me by the 3rd night when I realized I wasn't going to see my grandmother or great-grandmother, or play with my cousins (I'm an only child) for a veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery long time. I nearly choked from my tears. To this day, I still miss the childhood and life I might've had had I never been transplanted. But everyday, I realize I'm also very lucky. But you're SO right that it is INSIDE of us EVERYDAY. Sometimes I wish for one earthly day, I could just have everyone I love in ONE place. How crazy?!

    I hope you'll make some great friends in UK while you're there :-) I'd like to think it's never too late to make friends. Although it does get harder :-(

    As for me, I naturally gravitate to those people with international backgrounds. Their lives are just so rich and full of stories :-)


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