Trying to feel at home while exploring Brighton’s busy city center. Image by Jill Robinson.
It’s been just a few weeks since I landed in Brighton, England, and I’m reminded of the challenges of navigating the in-between of staying some place long enough to have mail delivered but not so long that I feel settled enough in a community of my own.
The allure of this sort of travel is that I can explore new places while feeling a perpetual sense of awe and excitement. Every English cottage is picture-worthy; sugar cubes in a bowl complete my morning; and I can drink in REAL, ENGLISH PUBS that offer cask ales!
While this opportunity makes it much easier to get up in the morning, not having a long-term home base has me feeling clumsy and unsure of myself.
To create a sense of “home” no matter where we find ourselves, I’ve come up with a few key points to help any Wanderful traveler feel settled during her next long-term travel adventure abroad.
1. Get settled by creating a schedule.
The first few days after my arrival were filled with a vacation-like sense of excitement, but once I realized I didn’t have to fit everything in at once, I was able to settle into a schedule. This has helped me with more than just getting over jet-lag.
With a schedule, I’ve been able to cook meals, get work projects finished, and not feel overwhelmed that I have to fit in long days of sightseeing.
Knowing what you need to be your best self is important as you meet each day. While being able to adapt as a traveler is critical, it’s helpful to leave space for at least one personal necessity to help you settle into a routine and feel grounded in a new place.
2. Know what your body needs.
While I love observing life from a café table or taking in a good view, I also need to be active. As a runner and biker, I’ve realized the hard way that if I don’t move my body in some form of exercise, I quickly start to feel scattered (and agitated).
Even if you only have 20 minutes, make a commitment to find an outlet that will get you moving. Nothing eases the mental strain of figuring out a new language or cultural norms than being present in your body. Not to mention, all those endorphins will boost your mood AND your immune system. This is also a great remedy for those days when you feel a bit homesick or exhausted from culture shock.
3. Connect with your new space.
Honoring your personal needs are important while traveling, but it’s equally important to get familiar with your community to start feeling like a local. This can be done in many ways.
For me, activating my SIM card was a major victory in finalizing my move abroad. Having an international number made me feel like I belonged. Being able to talk with my friends here in England, as well as being able to look up maps, bus schedules, and locations of good pubs gave me a feeling of independence I didn’t realize I was missing.
Aside from connecting with friends, it helps to research local publications, social media sites, and travel bloggers who write about your community. This will give you a sense of what is happening outside of the tourist track.
4. Take public transportation.
Once you have an idea of what’s happening in your area, you’ll need to be able to get there. In my case, “there” was a local exhibit on English Pleasure Piers. (I giggle every time I read that phrase.)
Since the museum wasn’t within walking distance, I had to brave the Brighton bus system. Knowing that I can now hop on the bus and go anywhere in the city has given me confidence to explore beyond my neighborhood.
Experiencing your area’s public transportation system also allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture. It’s people watching at it’s finest.
While traveling is a chance to escape the normalcy of our day-to-day lives, being able to feel settled during a long stay abroad can offer a deeper cultural experience without the burnout of being in unfamiliar territory.
These are just a few ways I’ve tried to create a sense of normalcy while traveling, but I would love to hear your tips!