30 Jan Homesick for a place you’ve never been?
Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.
― Judith Thurman
While at first reading this quotation may seem ridiculous, but stay with it a little longer. Isn’t there somewhere you’ve read about that you desperately want to visit? Wouldn’t you go there in a heartbeat if conditions were right?
For several years now I have puzzled and worried people by telling them I want to live in Portland, Maine. “But it snow there!” is usually the first response. Gentler souls will ask “Why, have you been there before?”. When they learn I have not been closer than New Hampshire they look puzzled, but from all I’ve seen seen and read of about the Portland area, I think the Yankee “Can do” mindset and miles of coast line make it a very viable option. Yes, I’ll go and visit before upping sticks and moving there.
The other place I was hankering to visit, and having been there, want to spend yet more time, is the tip of Cornwall in England. Again it has a lot to do with the wonderful coastlines, the welcoming of artists, and the slightly slower pace of life that captured my imagination. I find myself feeling homesick when I see photos of the coast and small cottages I could see myself calling home.
With the internet we can so much more readily Google a destination and look at the streets and people caught in the act of going about their daily lives. We can go to realtor’s sites and look around homes for sale and start to imagine what it would be like to be present in that place. At the same time, I have long wanted to visit places I read about in books, both real and fantastic, because the images I created in my mind seemed so much more interesting than my everyday life.
I think that our ability to travel so much more easily than in the past has made us more aware of all the places we could go to. Television tells us how easy it is to get to a new location and how to live like a local, so the fear factor is appeased and calmed. What would have been a major planning campaign is now the work of a few clicks and having a current passport.
What the television and Google Earth can’t show us is how we’ll feel in a new location. We all have gut reactions to places when we are there that significantly color our impressions. We can encounter friendly folk who help direct us, pass on advice that makes our visit more pleasant, or simply make us feel welcome. We can also encounter bad weather, missed connections, or luggage we didn’t anticipate having to take around with us for half a day, that begins to make us feel less kindly disposed to the location, when in truth the feelings are ours based on what has happened to us.
So how can we prepare for a visit to a place we pine to see so we don’t feel let down by it? Listen to those who have been there, those who can describe the place “warts and all” so your rosy vision is tempered with more realistic expectations. Then open yourself up to the experience. See what there is to see, talk to the people you meet and ask them what they would recommend you see and do. Be willing to get lost, don’t plan every last minute so you are free and ready to have an adventure – get lost down a little side street, catch the wrong bus – these adventures may be the moments that live on in your memory long after your tan has faded.
If this sense of longing persists, then I see it as a sign that you need to go and visit the place you are homesick and hankering to see. There is a reason for your desire, your homesickness, that may have been fueled by a television show or book – or it may just be your heart’s call to visit the place of your dreams. What do you have to lose? Are you also homesick for a place you’ve never been to?