As I was driving through the drizzling rain today, a song I didn’t recognise began playing on my Spotify station. The lyrics hit me right in my heart. Just in the spot that is so homesick I want to turn the car around and head straight for the airport. A tear rolled down my cheek as I carried on driving while raindrops fell on this foreign place I call “home.”
And it’s 2AM in Tokyo
And I’m way too far from my own home
And I’m tired of this hotel room
And the building site it backs onto
Oh these noises I don’t recognise
And lights too bright for you and I
It’s not hard for one to feel alone
No and I have heard there really is no place like home
You see there’s something most expatriates living internationally aren’t openly talking about. You won’t see it splashed across their instagram feeds, competing with sparkling tropical waters, ancient temples, foreign foods, and unrecognizable streets. And they most likely aren’t telling you when you ask them “how’s life in (insert the “amazing” place you’re living in)?”
But it’s there. To some degree, everyone abroad feels it.
The days when my partner has been at work for 16 hours, the building site behind the house has been pounding with excavators since sunrise, my friends and family on the other side of the world have drifted to sleep, the bars on the windows cage me in, and the wings I used to get me here don’t want to fly – that’s when I feel it the most.
“You must be so lonely,” one of my closest friends said to me the other day. I felt it so strongly, but my pride didn’t want me to admit it. To feel lonely seemed ungrateful.
That’s what most expats are shielding from the rest of the world. They’re not talking about loneliness. It doesn’t get brought up in conversation much. It almost feels like if you’re feeling loneliness then you’re not doing something right.
For me, loneliness comes in waves. Some moments the waves are crashing into my heart with such forceful impact they knock me down. Other moments the waves gently roll in and remind me how lucky I am to have loving people in my life to miss.
If you know someone living abroad, perhaps next time you speak to them, ask them how they’re feeling. How they’re really feeling.
If I’ve learned anything from writing this (and you’ve possibly learned from reading this) feeling loneliness isn’t something to shield from the world. It is perfectly okay to feel it. Feeling loneliness doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong or that you’re ungrateful for the adventurous life you’re living. It just means that you miss the comfort of familiarity. And who doesn’t?
For now, “my own home” is right here. And some days it will be lonely. And some days will be filled with so much love that loneliness couldn’t find a wave into my heart.
Check out the song: