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A Tale of Homesickness and Wanderlust

Wanderlust, noun: A strong desire to travel.
A longing for places you don’t know.

Symptoms: Stimulates your imagination and makes you daydream of foreign places. Wanderlust sneaks up on you when you think of an upcoming journey, see the flickering effect of sunshine on the horizon or an airplane in a clear blue sky. Warning: Can make you chronically sick.

But there are worse things than wanderlust. Homesickness, for example.

Homesickness: The Penultimate Time

I can very well remember that last time I felt homesick. It wasn’t only the first but also the penultimate time. I was in fourth grade and on a school trip. It was the first time that I stayed away from home for a couple of nights in a row. It also was my tenth birthday.

On the morning of that birthday I woke up and I wasn’t happy but very sad. Even though I had all my best friends around me. Even though they came to my bed in the morning and woke me up with a birthday chant.

My mood only improved when my Dad came for a surprise visit in the afternoon.

After my tenth birthday, I didn’t suffer from homesickness for many years. The strange feeling of being alien and alone was replaced by another odd feeling: Wanderlust. Wanderlust is just as strange as homesickness. No, it actually is stranger because it is vague. Wanderlust is homesickness for places you don’t even know.

Wanderlust is the inexplainable need to discover and explore unknown places. It is not dependent on seasons or weather conditions and it is exceptionally persistent. Wanderlust accompanies me wherever I go. It manifests itself through itchy feet, a fascinated gaze and a lump in my throat that says: „I won’t go away unless we head into an adventure right now, wherever that might be!“

It overcomes me every time I see a beautiful picture, read a travelogue, watch the sky or view the horizon. It sneaks upon me when I see train tracks or endless roads, or airplanes on take-off.

Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote MIchael Palin - Homesickness and wanderlust

Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote. And there are only two proven methods to ease the symptoms of wanderlust. One of them is to fight the longing for the unknown with travel documentaries. The other – in any case preferable – method is traveling itself.

Once you have been away from home long enough, chances are that homesickness will overcome you in return. Not so in my case. At least that’s what I always assumed. After all, I gave homesickness many opportunities to defeat me. I hit the road often and I have been away for long periods of time. In Panama, in Sri Lanka, in Australia, in the USA, in Iceland, in Vietnam and in Thailand. It didn’t strike in any of these places.

But then homesickness got me almost exactly a month ago in Berlin.

Homesickness: The Last Time

I can perfectly remember the last time I felt homesick. I was in an unfamiliar apartment in Berlin. It was the first day of spring in the city. The sun was shining, it was actually warm in Germany for the first time this year and in fact everything was more than perfect. I had plans for the day. I knew I wasn’t going to spend it alone but meet a bunch of cool new people at ITB. I hadn’t been in Berlin for quite a few years and it was exciting to be there again. Weeks ago, I had been looking forward to traveling alone once again.

But on that morning which I spent alone, sitting on a guest bed in an unfamiliar city, observing the sunshine outside, I wanted nothing but to pack my bag and immediately go home again. I didn’t want to meet new people and I didn’t want to see anybody. I didn’t even want to leave the apartment. I just wanted to be at home, in a familiar surrounding and with the people most important to me.

I always though that as a kid with a severe case of insatiable wanderlust I was immune to homesickness. In Berlin, I realized that I wasn’t.

I didn’t go back home, of course. Also, nobody came for a surprise visit this time. I managed to fight homesickness on my own that morning. And after that I had a brilliant day.

Even though it didn’t feel great in the first place, I am glad I was homesick once again. Because it showed me that no matter how long and how far I travel, I still have a place that I can call home. And even though I spend most of my time at home dreaming about faraway places, I know that I will always be happy to return there.

When did you feel homesick for the last time?

Photos: Unsplash, edited by: Anemina Travels

About the Author

Anna loves travel, photography, and writing. All at once, everyday. She collects entrance cards, plane tickets, and old atlases and has been searching for the perfect globe for some years. Follow Anna on Facebook or Twitter!


  1. This really struck a cord with me. When I’m travelling I’ve started to crave the familiar – something I never felt on my first three month backpacking trip aged 21. Now, I’m sat in an office craving pastures new and unsure when I’ll next get to explore. It’s a funny old world.

  2. Madaline

    Ironically the last time I was homesick (for VA) I was sitting on the 10 in LA crying to myself in my car. Now that I live in Italy, quite a bit further then CA, I am never homesick. Sitting in that car that day I made the decision to change my life – and I realized nothing lasts forever – even where you live. So I moved to Italy. Now I embrace that I might not always live here and to enjoy every single second.

  3. Nice post, Anna. I am so in tune with the Michael Palin quotation.
    Homesick – once – and it was only when I was interstate for two weeks on a management training course. It was so rugged I just wanted out half way through, but after a phone call home, I saw it out. We later learned that some people had found it so stressful that they had indeed quit.

Your thoughts are welcome!