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Lifestyle & Wellbeing

Actress and writer Michaela Bennison shares her top tips to prevent homesickness from striking on tour.

Whether you’re filming on location or touring around the country, at some point you will likely land a job working away from home. It can be a challenging time, and suddenly travelling to new digs every week can feel like a huge change.

Homesickness is the feeling of longing and sadness caused by being away from home and family, including physical and emotional symptoms linked to depression and anxiety. Most people experience it to some degree. Sometimes we miss our loved ones and sometimes we miss sleeping in our own bed. Even if you’re not prone to homesickness, working away after so long in lockdown may trigger it more readily.

There are several factors that can affect the likelihood and severity of homesickness. Some, such as your age and previous experience being away from home, can’t be changed. Others may surface during the job. Issues with work or in our personal lives can be difficult to manage when we’re away, and make our homesickness worse.

But there are some factors you can control. For example, believing that you will be homesick and that you’ll be cut off from any support will make homesickness more likely. If you often suffer from homesickness, being proactive in finding coping strategies can help reassure you that you’ll be able to cope with the feeling.

So, if you’re about to go on tour, or are already, here are five ways to help manage homesickness if it strikes:

Schedule in Time to See your Loved Ones

This will give you something to look forward to if you begin to feel lonely. Take a look at your tour schedule. When can you easily travel home? When can people come to see you (check with your digs hosts if they allow guests to stay)? Are you going to venues near people you want to visit? Are there friends or family you can stay with at certain stops? Schedule these into your diary and book any necessary travel ahead of time if you can. That way, you’ll prevent yourself from changing your mind on the day and regretting it later.

Pack a Few Home Comforts

You can’t carry your whole house in your suitcase, but make room for some small things that will give you a meaningful taste of home. This can be your favourite teddy bear or mug, a room spray or scented candle, or hobbies like a book, knitting or an instrument. Find the things that connect you with your sense of self outside of being an actor and that bring you joy, comfort and peace.

Create an Inviting Dressing Room Space

When you’re on tour, you typically spend most of your time either in digs or at the theatre. So, make your dressing room as pleasant as possible. You can mark your tabletop space with a colourful towel (on my last tour, I bought a zebra tea towel for my table which gave me so much joy) or decorate your area with pictures and postcards. Keeping your workspace clean and pleasant will help dispel any negative associations with not being at home.

Do Things Outside of the Show

It’s really easy to only spend your time at the theatre or in digs, especially if your performance schedule is really gruelling. But try to make time for activities outside of the show, either by yourself or with your castmates. Go for a walk around the town, do some window shopping at local independent shops, or visit some museums and galleries. Take time to be a tourist in the towns you’re performing in. It’ll help distract you from what you’re missing about home.

Focus on the Positives of the Job

Despite missing home, there’s bound to be things you can be grateful for. Are you playing your dream role? Are there members of the company you’ve become close to? Are you visiting places or theatres you’ve never been to before? Practising gratitude for these things can help you reframe your unhappiness, putting it into a more balanced context. Even if all you can think of is that your contract is ending soon, every cloud has a silver lining if you look hard enough.

Yes, being away from home can be a lonely experience. It’s harder to have the authentic social interactions we enjoy with those we know best, and being in a familiar environment provides a sense of security that we lack whilst working away. But hopefully these tips will give you some tools to help overcome homesickness and make the most of life on tour.

Michaela Bennison is a London-based actor and writer. After completing her music degree, she went on to train at the Royal Academy of Music in Musical Theatre Performance. Since then, she has performed in new musicals, Shakespeare, outdoor theatre and regional tours. Michaela is passionate about creating a more equitable industry where actors are respected and empowered. In addition to her published articles, she runs a blog on her website and a YouTube channel, where she shares her thoughts about the theatre industry and offers advice to new actors, based on her experiences. When not on stage or writing, Michaela can be found playing ukulele, working on crochet projects or watching space documentaries.

Headshot by John Clark

Main image by Scott Webb on Unsplash