It’s been a little under a year since I started living in Southern California, 2,711 miles away from my family. Previous to that I was living in Boston, 1,471 miles away from them in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. I’ve had several years’ experience trying to get the most out of trips home to visit. I usually say that I love my life, but one caveat is being so far away from dear family and friends. I’ve made mistakes in my relationships throughout all my trips home in trying to make up for lost time and mixing up my priorities in my relationships. In the age of social media and FaceTime it’s completely possible to maintain healthy, long-distance relationships. My own experience is highlighted here in the lessons I’ve learned about making the most of homecoming trips.
1. You Can’t See Everyone
This might seem like an obvious point, but what really needed to change in my heart was the guilt. I might make two trips home per year and if I see a certain special friend only one of those trips then that’s okay. I have even come to realize that if I don’t see someone for a year or two, that’s okay too! I’ve learned to lean heavily on healthy social media relationships with the people I might not be able to fit into a tightly scheduled or short trip home. It’s so easy to keep up with people now that there’s really no excuse for losing those few important relationships. Holiday trips are especially complicated due to the huge number of family members to see and many houses to visit. On those trips I have to choose to feel no guilt over lost time with friends because family comes first.
2. Enjoy the Everyday Stuff
When I visit home I’m the only one who’s really on vacation. My family might take a couple days off or an afternoon, but no one will have as much free time as me! So, if my sister has to open at the coffee shop in the morning, I’ll go and sit at the table next to the espresso machine and chat between customers. When I let go of some grand idea about fancy outings and everyone hanging out with me every minute I have a much better time. The everyday life is what I miss spending with my loved ones anyway. I choose to take pleasure in the small things like taking my parent’s dogs out or tagging along with my mom running errands.
3. Rent a Car
This one is so simple that my husband and I have overlooked it on past trips. If home is a place that doesn’t have great public transportation then it’s easy to be trapped or limited by the ability to borrow someone’s car or have someone pick you up. I have felt like I missed out on hanging with certain old friends because I couldn’t easily get to where they were. I used to think of renting a car was a prohibitive cost, but using a discount company solves this problem. We tend to use the same company and have found terrific prices through them. Let’s be honest . . . a Hyundai is a Hyundai no matter who you rent it from. Sometimes we pick up the tab, or sometimes we’re blessed to have parents willing to splurge on us, but for us, renting a car has become essential to having a full and complete trip.
4. It’s All Different and That’s Okay
I used to get depressed by trips home and then get mad at myself for being depressed because I was supposed to be on vacation. It was a vicious mood cycle. Anyone who’s moved somewhere different knows that the life you left back home continues on and people change. Other people leave and new people are added. It’s the way life is supposed to work. I used to feel miffed that people didn’t know who I was in a social situation or that people had made new close friends. It all came down to me being selfish and acting like the world revolved around me. We’ve all been there. By managing my expectations ahead of time, I usually have a great time.
By implementing these four ideas into my trips home, I’ve turned them from “Hey, this was supposed to be fun,” into refreshing and energizing trips. Now if only I could find a few extra bucks for those cross-country flights!