I know it’s bad when the flashbacks start.
And they started a few weeks ago.
They come in slow moments. When I’m washing dishes. Stuck in traffic. At work, patting a child’s back as they nod off for their afternoon nap.
I mean, I’ve always had them. Especially since I moved out of home in Hawaii and moved to New Zealand, almost ten years ago.
They’re just a slideshow of little things.
But they don’t stop.
They start with my hometown, Kona.
Lava-rock beaches, turquoise water. Starbucks on Henry Street. Real poke bowls. The random corner of KTA where you used to get great doughnut holes. Makua Lani—the aroma of freshly-roasted coffee drifting across the old campus. Smelled just like burnt toast.
But the flashbacks don’t stop there.
They stretch their borders.
The muggy breezeway of Honolulu International Airport Departures. The clatter of train tracks across Newcastle city in Australia. The morning sun licking the tops of Himalayan mountains. Waiting in drizzling rain to get into the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Oh, I knew it was bad when the flashbacks started up again, a few weeks ago.
But I knew it was worse when I started looking up international flights, a few days ago.
Is it escapism? Well, yes. But do I hate living in my parents’ homeland, the country of my childhood dreams? Not at all. I’m more in love with New Zealand than ever. It’s been a pretty good place during a pandemic (tally of times I’ve worn a mask: twice).
What the heck is going on, then?
Oh, don’t mind me. Really, don’t freak out. Believe me.
I’m just homesick.
For Hawaii, yes. But that’s old news. I’ve balanced that grief for almost ten years—and I think I always will, in varying degrees. Grief is not always the result of death, but also from the loss of something you love.
And in the last year I’ve lost something—not just my hometown.
I’m homesick for the globe.
Flippin’ 2020. The first year since 2008 where I didn’t travel internationally. And 2008 was an exception in my 27 years of existence. Oh, I can still travel. I’m a dual citizen, American and Kiwi, which makes it even easier. But New Zealand’s managed isolation fees—as well as my personal mandate to pay off my student loan—means it’s a little more difficult.
So, I’m homesick.
For the fifteen countries I’ve been to, yes. But also for the places close to my heart, but I have yet to go—like Mexico, where half my family currently lives. Some days, I haunt that AKL-LAX route. I can’t wait to hear stow your tray-table and return your seat to its upright position... if only in my daydreams.
I knew it was bad when the flashbacks felt like they’d never end.
Yet as soon as they started, they stopped.
Washing dishes was just—washing dishes. Getting stuck in traffic was me looking out the window, smiling at New Zealand’s emerald-green hills. Patting a child’s back was remembering to pray for them again, being the teacher I’ve always wanted to be.
Well, I started writing about it. Talking about it over a cup of coffee. Whining about it.
Homesickness—and its healing—will never be linear. It won’t follow a formula. Dare I say, it may not “end”.
But taking time to face grief is the only way to get through it.
And that’s all grief wants.
Photo: Daniel Norris