Its nearly three years that I've been living here, and with the departure of my American friends, I am experiencing the intermittent homesick pangs. When I previously lived in Scotland, it was for 2 1/2 years and then, just like running, I got a stitch in my side that I could not push past and had to return home to live. That seemed to be spurred on by the birth of my first child at the time, which also sends you into the nest-making, longing for the familiar home-mode.
I have a second child now, and after her birth, those pangs were not as strong, however 18 months later, I am now having some; the comparison of cultures, the evaluating of quality of life, the greening of the grass..
I know that I will not be making any plans to move back for quite some time, I cannot. I realise, at least, that my mind is just experiencing dissatisfaction, the misunderstanding that things are better or will be better elsewhere. The secret is to stay in the present. Like the zen phrase that says wherever you go, there you are, at least I have understood that much by now, and know that I have indeed been equally dissatisfied at times in Chicago.
One can have memories and also long distance friends, and still stay present to the current moment, the eternal NOW. I think it was Shantideva (in his guide to a Bodhisattva's way of life) that said a Bodhisattva [or one in training] must leave their homeland. I understood that immediately, as stepping out of your comfort zone, sitting with your discomfort rather than being run ragged by it, expanding your compassionate net to those you don't know very well, or not at all. Its good mind training to live outside of the familiar, as the familiar is very much the heart of Samsara, in Buddhist terminology, the cycle of death and rebirth and suffering that all life is trapped in.
So living outside of my homeland serves to keep me more awake in daily life in many ways. Perhaps being here, examining my thoughts, sometimes struggling with my mind, rather than just easing back into my life of habit that takes over in America, will help me on the road to enlightenment. Of course this does not stop my mind wandering back and wanting the closeness of friends and the comfort of the familiar .. and of course the driving on the *right* side of the road.