Many of us do our jobs close to where we live. We’re able to return home after a full day of work, spend time with family or friends, and sleep in our own beds. Our lives might not be predictable, but at least we have company in the people we love.
But some workers do things differently. Whether willingly or by economic necessity, they choose to work hundreds or thousands of miles from home for long stretches at a time. They are long-term business travelers, temp-work specialists in higher-paying fields like healthcare, people who work at remote job sites like oilfields and mining or logging camps, and seasonal workers who follow opportunity wherever it leads.
These workers face stresses and pressures unknown to homebound types. “Hotel gloom,” a common business travel malady identified by The New York Times, is common among people who travel frequently for work. True homesickness, which can have long-term negative effects on mental health and relationships, affects people who spend months away from home at a time.
Because jobs that require workers to remain away from home tend to pay well and offer the promise of career advancement, they persist, and we’ve learned to adapt to them. If you are thinking about pursuing a career that involves living away from family and friends, or you already do work far from home and find yourself struggling, use these strategies to stay positive and productive until you can return.
1. Bring a Few Reminders of Home
With limited packing space, you can’t go overboard. But you can certainly bring a few choice reminders of home, like a small framed picture of your family to put on your desk or a piece of jewelry that you don’t wear often but that holds special significance to you. (Be sure to use your in-room safe if you’re staying in a hotel room.)
2. Make Time for Virtual Activities With Your Loved Ones
Calling and video chatting are great ways to keep in touch, but you need more contact with your closest loved ones — especially your spouse or romantic partner if you have one. This Lovenet post on making a long-distance relationship work offers some helpful ideas: watching movies together, playing music, even making time for multiplayer gaming together.
3. Exercise Regularly (Or Just Take Walks in Your Temporary Neighborhood)
Regular exercise is a mood-booster with proven mental health benefits. If the weather permits, it’s also a wonderful way to explore your temporary surroundings on foot or bike. No matter how you prefer to work up a sweat, set aside several blocks of exercise time each week.
4. Keep Up With Your Hobbies
If you and your loved ones don’t share any hobbies that you can participate in by phone, video, or email, at least make time for your solo hobbies, whatever they happen to be.
5. Schedule Phone Calls or Video Chats With Close Friends and Family Members
Working far from home often means being active at different times of day, especially if you’re several time zones away. To keep in touch, schedule weekly or daily phone calls or video chats with the people closest to you. You can even use the opportunity to reconnect with friends you’ve lost touch with over the years.
6. Start a Text Group (or Several) With Friends and Family at Home
We can’t always make time for long chats. Keep up frequent, casual contact with people at home by starting a group text or several — maybe one for your immediate family, another for a wider group of relatives, and still another for your friends.
7. Set Aside One Day a Week to Explore
People who work far from home often work long hours and have demanding jobs. If you don’t have much left in the tank when the workday is done, set aside one of your days off to explore your new home region. If you love the outdoors, scan this list of national parks in the United States to find beautiful spaces within driving distance (and don’t forget about the far more numerous state parks, national monuments, and national and state forests too). And if you’re working in an urban environment, make time to experience the culture and flavor of your temporary home base.
8. Connect With Colleagues and Fellow Travelers
You’re likely not the only far-from-home worker in your hotel or camp. Look for opportunities to connect with colleagues and fellow travelers whenever you can, whether for a quick drink at a local watering hole or as part of a more formal team-building session on the weekend.
Don’t Let Homesickness Get the Better of You
Even road warriors get homesick. Instead of ignoring the signs that something is wrong, people struggling while working far from home should recognize and accept the fact that they’re lonely, even depressed, and work to address their feelings. If you’re living in states like Maryland, you can start combating anxiety and depression naturally by getting a medical marijuana card online in order to demonstrate that your use is medically warranted. The ultimate goal isn’t to conquer homesickness entirely, but to prevent it from getting the better of us.