Back When I Was a Homesickness Expert

Back in the 1990’s at Camp Greystone, I slowly became an expert in helping homesick campers adjust to camp. Two techniques worked the best:

First, the number one intervention that helped these campers was this: the next day’s schedule. When I could excite the campers about what was coming next and remind them of the predicable and fun schedule, they became almost immediately more comfortable. I’d say, “I know you miss home, but tell me about what you’re doing tomorrow. Did you sign up for swimming? For ceramics? What time? Oh! How fun!” I kept going back to the schedule of what was coming next at specific times. I’d tell the homesick girl to keep thinking about how much fun this or that thing was going to be at this or that time. The technique combines hope with predictability. You will have fun at this time. Then, at this time, this will happen.

The structure helped.

Second, I had to teach the campers that it’s OK and even normal to miss home. You can miss home and have fun at the same time. What a revelation to these campers that they could hold these complex emotions together in the brain! Laura Hollowell–our great leader at camp–taught homesick campers this profound truth: they didn’t have to choose between their love of home and their love of camp. Both are true, and the stress of feeling like you have to choose which place makes you happiest makes the homesickness worse. It added to the confusion. I learned to tell homesick campers they can miss home and also have fun.

Remember the hopeful schedule.

Remember you can miss home and have fun at the same time.

I remember this when I travel or vacation for any duration of time. Even adults can become debilitatingly homesick when they travel. They often don’t talk about it because it’s embarrassing and confusing. Isn’t homesickness just for children? No! Anyone can become homesick when traveling (even on the best, most glamorous vacations). You’re longing for familiarity, and you miss your home surroundings, especially pets. You miss familiar foods, sounds, and smells. These homesick feelings can nearly ruin a vacation you’ve planned.

Do what homesick campers learn to do: Put a daily itinerary together that includes the kinds of fun things you know you’ll enjoy. List out actual times and the events you’re looking forward to. The structure often helps immediately. Then? Remember you can miss home and have fun at the same time.

What works for homesick campers at Camp Greystone works for adults, too. Happy travels!

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