24 Years and I Can Still Get Homesick

Dublin (Picture from Wikimedia Commons)

I left my home in Dublin 24 years ago. I had just turned eighteen. This means I’ve spent the majority of my life living abroad. I stayed in England for over a decade, I also spent a year in Scotland, and took a brief sojourn in Saudi Arabia. I have been living in Thailand for the last 11 years. I love my current life and wouldn’t change a thing. I made the right decision to leave Ireland all those years ago, but despite this I still get periods of homesickness.

The Homesickness Bug

I’ve become used to these periods of homesickness. I know that each year there will be a few days when I’ll pine for the old country. I treat these emotions in much the same way as a common cold. I just sit them out, and I know that they will pass. These days there is wonderful technology that allows me to feel like I’m back in Ireland without leaving Bangkok. I can listen to Irish Radio and even watch Irish TV. I can even go for a walk around my old neighborhood with the help of Google maps street level views – one of the most fantastic tools available on the internet. This might sound like I’m wallowing in my homesickness, but it does help – it is not like this is something I do every day.

The Ireland I Left No Longer Exists

One uncomfortable truth that many of us long-term expats have to face is that the place we left no longer exists. Ireland has changed so much since the eighties that I can feel like a bit of a stranger there when I do visit. I will always consider it to be my home, but in so many important ways it is not my home any longer. I have a new life and Ireland has moved on without me.

I remember about twenty years ago talking to this old guy in a London pub – he had been living outside Ireland for decades. This old fella urged me to return to Dublin right away before it was too late. He warned me I was about to embark on a life where I’d always be a stranger. I would never completely feel like I fit in my adopted home, and I’d feel like a stranger when I went back to Ireland on holidays. His prophecy turned out to be correct, but there are some advantages to being an outsider. It has forced me to grow and challenge so many of my cultural assumptions. It made me who I am.

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9 thoughts on “24 Years and I Can Still Get Homesick

  1. I love that scene of the bridge…..Yes! Dublin has changed so much….years ago I never felt safety in the city….but starting back about 10 years or so..going back to visit relatives frequently, I felt completely save in the City…it seems to have become worldly…Galway City. too…not so much Cork. I love wandering Dublin, up and down all the streets…I especially love visiting the IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art). The museum is a first rate museum innovative as any in Europe or the states. Thanks for the short, but insightful article.

    1. Good to hear from you Eul. I remember going to the SFX in Dublin to see Howard Jones. Everyone thought that I was nuts for walking there from Tara Street – we used to call it a no-go area if you were from the South side. I’ve never been to the IMMA, but I’ll have to visit during my next trip.

  2. think your feelings are true for many of us, whether our home is an entirely different country, or just a place that we separated from by life and distance, some years ago. It is certainly true of me. And as I age, it is even more true. I no longer have any of my small family living there and my parents are no longer alive. As well, as with Ireland for you, the town has changed soooooo drastically as to be unrecognizable. There are some deep connections in my memories…but in actual, concrete life, they no longer exist. Like you, I also feel that my leaving, at quite a young age, has everything to do with the person I am today. No regrets.

    1. Hi Mary, sorry for my tardy reply – I meant to reply right away, but I got caught up in something else and I forgot. You are right about regrets. I am me because of all those choices that I made.

  3. Paul – Homesickness starts with having the balls to move away in the first place. Many of us haven’t got that, though in my case if the finance was there I’d give it a shot.

    Home is where the heart is and even if it isn’t then a plane ticket can be a wonderfuul cure. I’m sure if you moved back to Ireland you’d pine for Thailand soon enough.
    Martyn recently posted..Making Passes at Snakes With Glasses

  4. “I can feel like a bit of a stranger there when I do visit”

    Great post Paul. This is exactly how I feel too. Also, these days places change at a rapid speed so even a few weeks/months/years make a difference.

    When I was leaving New Zealand we got as far as Christchurch before our plane ran into technical difficulties (a plane that later had to make an emergency landing in Pago Pago). Told that we’d be stranded in the city a few days, I wanted to go back ‘home’ to Blenheim. My father nixed the idea with, “you can never go back to what was – even after this short time the town has changed forever”.

    At 14 I sort of understood what he meant. We’d packed up, said our goodbyes, and friends had already moved on with their lives.
    Catherine recently posted..Successful Thai Language Learner: John Boegehold

    1. I sometimes think it is sad, but it is also kind of exciting. I was moved around a great deal as a child, and I don’t want the same thing for my son. Still it is hard to ignore those itchy feet 🙂

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