Spending Thanksgiving Away From Home

A year ago today, I woke up on Thanksgiving morning excited to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my dad. We made New Orleans-style beignets for breakfast (our tradition) and got ready for lunch at my grandparents’ house. A year ago today, I was wondering what next year’s Thanksgiving would be like. Where will I be living? Will I be able to come home for the holidays? Is this my last Thanksgiving in Cincinnati? I didn’t know the answers so I made sure to cherish every second of that day.

A year later, it’s Thanksgiving morning and I’m living in Brussels, Belgium. Instead of watching the parade with my dad, I am on my second cup of coffee, desperately trying to finish my Dissertation Proposal which is due tomorrow. I’m making myself pasta because I’m too lazy to make actual food and I can’t figure out how to live stream the parade. Please excuse me while I throw myself a pity-party.

Sometimes missing the holidays is just something that happens when you become an adult. It’s hard and sad but it’s just reality. If I were in Cincinnati to celebrate with my family, that would mean I wasn’t pursuing my dreams in Belgium. Since Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have, I’ve decided to focus on the good. While the list is endless, here are 10 things I’m grateful for in this moment:

  1. My incredible friends and family
  2. Technology that allows me to stay in contact with the people I love
  3. Having the opportunity to pursue an education
  4. Getting to live in Europe
  5. Hazelnut coffee
  6. An internship at a great organization
  7. The two cats that I’m currently cat-sitting
  8. Christmas music
  9. The pasta that is on the stove (I am lucky to have food to eat!)
  10. I get to come home for Christmas!

Like I said, the list is endless once you start writing. So if you can’t be home for the holidays and find yourself feeling down, try to focus on the good in your life and the things you would be missing out on if you weren’t living your current reality. Wherever you are right now, there is a reason for it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

A Word on Homesickness

Some days I really miss Ohio.

I miss my family.

I miss my friends.

I miss good Mexican food.

I miss little conveniences like 24-hour Walgreens and the infinite possibilities within Target.

And of course, I miss my dog.

Before I moved to Brussels, the longest I had been outside of the U.S. was two months. Obviously, I had never experienced real homesickness. So when I started feeling homesick the first WEEK I was in Brussels, I panicked.

Something must be wrong, I thought.

Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be here.

Maybe I made a huge mistake leaving my beautiful life in Ohio.

It was scary to move to Belgium with no friends and no knowledge of French. I like adventures and challenges, but this?

This was another level.

The homesickness I felt during those first few weeks was intense. It made me question my dreams of traveling the world. It made me doubt my abilities and my career choice. Homesickness is different for everyone. But over the past eight months, it has given me a new perspective on many aspects of my life.

Missing my home does not mean I shouldn’t travel. It means that I have something beautiful to go home to. And that’s something for which I am very grateful.

It also doesn’t mean that I can’t handle the challenges of living abroad. Sure, being able to speak the same language as the cashier at the grocery store is convenient, but learning French through trial and error is challenging and can sometimes even be fun.

Even on days when I really miss my family, I have to remind myself how much easier it is to stay in touch with them through technology. Whatsapp is a godsend and allows me to talk to my parents every single day, just like I would do if I were living in the U.S. I mean, when my dad studied in Ireland, he had to walk to use a payphone in the middle of the night when he wanted to call his parents. If he could do that, I can sure as hell live abroad with access to the internet

Most importantly, on days when I long to be back in the U.S., I remind myself that this time in Brussels is temporary. Soon, I won’t have access to the amazing history, the great beer, and the waffles that are to-die-for. I won’t be able to hop on a quick train to Paris or grab a cheap flight to Italy for the weekend. This homesickness has taught me so much about staying in the present moment and soaking in the incredible life that I’m currently living. Because before I know it, I will be homesick for what I have right now.