I have been living abroad for more than a decade, but there are still some days of the year when I feel a little homesick. Usually, it coincides with family's birthdays, Christmas, Easter and summer days. This is because I have so many great memories of those times since I was little: the 4 hour lunches, the hot afternoons on the beach, the town's summer festivals, getting ready for the Church, the lamb roasts, the freshly picked flowers from my grandparents' terrace...and these are only off the top of my head. Maybe it's the distance that romanticizes those memories.
Living abroad has taught me many lessons, but the most important is growing a bigger sense of identity. Ironically, the further I live from home, the stronger the attachment to my own roots. I had to move out of Milan, study, work and live in London and then in the US to fully appreciate what I had left behind in Italy: a loving family and a great country. Yes, Italy is in a right mess economically and politically, but who isn't nowadays?
When living abroad, it is very easy to fall into the trap of dreaming of the past and to live in a constant comparison with your home country. Example: in Italy there's so much more history, the education system is way better, pasta is al dente and salted, etc... my list is endless :)
The problem with comparison is that you'll never be happy, because it's an attitude that draws your attention to the "half empty glass". It draws negativity out of anything.
Instead, I have a few little tricks I've learned to cure homesickness. Today so many of us live far from our families or friends and sometimes we all feel nostalgic and want to shake that sadness off.
Take your traditions wherever you go
Easter is a great example for me. In the past five or six years, due to study or other commitments, I haven't had the chance to celebrate it in Italy. In my family Easter is a big event. Easter morning starts off with a beautiful and very traditional breakfast at my grandparents with prosecco, coffee, hardboiled eggs and a homemade bread very similar to Panettone. It's been the same breakfast menu since my grandma was a little girl. After the Mass, we have a feast for lunch: roast lamb and another traditional cake from Tuscany. While it'd be too much work to reproduce everything, I have found ways to adapt the traditional breakfast and lunch. Instead of making the panettone type of bread, I buy pastries from a good bakery and for lunch we do lamb chops on the barbie. Take the little things that are close to your heart, adapt them and make them your own. Not only will they be a way to remind you about your loved ones in another part of the world, but you'll create your own traditions from which your future generations will get inspired.
Focus on the unique experiences
Although I try to keep Easter meals healthier and smaller than the original ones, my husband and I end up in a food coma by 2pm. One thing Los Angeles offers pretty much all year round is sunshine, beach and hills. Tuscany in spring time can only guarantee you beach and hills. So, we make the most of the gorgeous weather out here and go for long and beautiful walks in our neighborhood. Rather than crying over what I miss in Italy, I focus on the positive and unique experiences that a new place has to offer. Actually, make a list of the things you want to do while in a new country/city and tick them all off by the time you move somewhere else. You might not get the opportunity to do it again.
When in Rome...
While I find Little Italys around the world pretty cute, at the same time I find them a dangerous place to spend my time: my brain goes into "nostalgia" mode instantaneously. Personally, it doesn't help me with dealing with homesickness, actually it worsens it. It's so much better to submerge yourself with the new customs and make an effort to interact and build relationships with the people who live there. They'll show you the beauty of their place and you might start to look at it with new eyes too.
Missing home, your family and friends is not a bad thing: it means they are the world to you. Embrace this feeling and channel all the emotions into living your life in the most fulfilling way. Don't let your memories ruin your present. Go and connect with new people, learn from them and all the beautiful experiences life throws at you. Make the world your new home.