Homesick? Maybe not.

Friends from the Guatemala City zoo.

I’m prone to feeling homesick when I get to a new place. In my hotel, the people down the hall stopped playing their loud (but well-curated!) playlist very late so the rest of us could sleep. Of note, I chose a hotel without a microwave or free parking. For my first time since Coronavirus and doing my monthly travel, I see I’m out of practice. This was my initial thought after reviewing my astronomical rental car agreement. My feelings of my travel ineptitude continued through the late afternoon.

My first time feeling homesick was the summer before my senior year of high school. That was an epic summer; I went to this thing called the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine, and a week later went to the U.S. Naval Academy Summer Seminar. The Forum on Medicine was a ten-day program at the University of Chicago for kids interested in studying medicine. In case you didn’t know, every college-bound kid with immigrant parents considers studying medicine at some point, the way middle-class people consider dumping money into college funds for their five-year-olds. It’s just what you do, although it might not be right for you. I remember arriving in my dorm room, meeting my chubby Asian roommate, and for the first night or two, I felt myself in a distant place and very remote, with a hallow pit in my stomach. This was before cell phones, by the way. Of course, this feeling disappeared after a couple of nights, and I ended up having a superlative time. I learned things about medicine like open-toed shoes are not allowed in a laboratory, and cadavers’ faces become smooshed and disfigured after lying face down. I also came away, having forever ruled out a medical profession for myself.

The U.S. Naval Academy Summer Seminar thing was different. Since the organizers treated it like a boot camp, I had no time to sit around my room, thinking about how I didn’t know anyone, especially once things picked up. I ended up enjoying the Summer Seminar and showed up to the Naval Academy as a Plebe two summers later. Perhaps that’s something I love about the military: there is no pressure to make friends because you get grouped with people to make your little unit together, for better or worse. As a junior military person traveling with the military, I rarely felt homesick.

But every once in awhile, when I travel by myself, I remember that I’m prone to feeling homesick. Part of that is missing out on the creature comforts and family time at home, but the other part is the drudgery of living out of a bag. Last year I lived in a hotel for two and a half months. It sucked. Maybe if I just figured out how to build a routine for when I go away and learn to “live well” from a hotel, including not eating tuna packs for consecutive dinner/breakfast, maybe I’ll find that I don’t mind being alone all that much. Perhaps I’ll see that I’m not homesick after all.