Skip to main content

How to remain strong while being away from your family and friends?

Submitted by kgnadmin on

If you're one of the many people across the globe working at sea, then you're probably well used to working away from home. Working at sea can be exciting and an amazing career opportunity that can be both personally and financially rewarding.

But as any seaman can tell you, it can have an impact on the relationships you have with your loved ones. It can be a strange life to get used to at first: bouncing between working on a ship for any given number of months and returning home to your family before setting off again.

Relationships take work under normal circumstances, whether it's the relationship between a husband and wife, parent and child, or other partner or loved one.

Additionally, communication can be difficult when you're away working at sea, and you'll need to take extra care to nurture your relationships.

How to cope with working far away from home

Those working in seafarer jobs often find that they spend more time at sea than at home. This means that not only are you missing your family and friends on an emotional level, but you're also having to deal with practical issues and challenges from afar or in a shorter time when you're ashore.

And, of course, when you are back home on dry land, you want to be spending time, sharing special moments, and creating new memories with your loved ones.

Not dealing with issues at your kid's school, getting the car fixed, or dealing with all the life admin thrown your way when working away from home.

This can make small problems add up and seem larger than they are. These problems still need to be dealt with, but you also need to factor in time to de-stress and spend with your partner, parents, children, friends, siblings, and all the other people who want a piece of you when you're back on shore!

So how do you survive these challenges and make sure your (and your family's) practical and emotional needs are met? All in a relatively short space of time. It means that you need to build stronger bonds with everyone that matters to you back home.

It means building a partnership with your partner or spouse and helping your children adjust to a life where mommy or daddy is away for several months. It takes work - but that's relationships and family for you!

Challenges to overcome

Many people are employed in jobs that mean they're often working away from home.

But working on a ship comes with a unique set of challenges, and it can be hard to make the folks back home realize that.

Jobs at sea are often physical; they can be adrenaline-fueled, they involve battling against the elements, they demand 110% concentration and dedication, and they involve watches and shifts and broken sleep patterns.

On the other hand, your job is a massive part of who you are and what you do. And you may have a deep bond with other crew members onboard who understand the lifestyle you've chosen far better than even your best friends on land can.

And then you return home, and it's all back to that humdrum life of routine, checking the kids' homework, taking the garbage out, walking the dog, making get the picture.

The polar opposites of your life are really extreme.

Strengthen the bond with your spouse or partner.

But what you need to try and do is embrace these two extremes. Relish the time you have doing 'normal' domestic chores and the time you spend with your spouse or partner.

And appreciate that as difficult as it is for you to live this 'dual life' - it's not easy for them or your family.

That's why anyone working on a ship needs to pay extra care and attention to their relationships and ensure that the wife/husband or girlfriend/boyfriend who stays onshore to run your family's everyday life is also a true partner in every sense of the word.

You need to appreciate each other's strengths and be grateful for how you both manage this unusual life you lead together.

A strong bond will make communication easier for both of you and that your time spent ashore is well spent and doesn't fly by in a whirl of misunderstandings or arguments.

It's worth remembering that your partner at home is making compromises, too. Maybe they are a stay-at-home parent who would love to have a full or part-time job but cannot because of the children.

They're also dealing with all the little stresses and strains of everyday life you might not see because the kids are on their best behavior when you're home!

This can be emotionally draining - for both of you. But often, the practicalities of life cause issues when you're away working at sea. This is why strong communication and mutual respect for one another's roles in the family unit are so important.

Even if you're not a great talker, you'll need to learn how to open up to your partner so that issues can be nipped in the bud and solved before they cause real problems.

Spend quality time with family and friends ashore.

Life on a ship can be demanding. And it's for that very reason that when you head back to shore, you're looking for some real R&R. However, just because YOU have Rest and Recuperation on your mind, it doesn't mean everyone else will!

You probably know only too well that your so-called vacation can sometimes feel as if it's as hectic as working on a ship!

Not only do you have all the admin and general life duties to take care of, as well as your next contract to line up if you still need to, but extended family and friends will often want to see you, too.

And that can mean everything from taking trips across the country to catch up with a grandparent to endless nights out with your buddies.

While it's only natural that they want to see you - and for you to see them - if you do have a partner and children on shore, it's crucial that you make time for them, too. If you don't, this can lead to feelings of neglect and resentment.

Make sure you schedule 'date night' with your spouse or partner, and ensure there's plenty of time to hang out with the kids, too, whether that's a trip to the beach or the park or just helping them with school work.

Take time out: Jobs at sea are tiring.

It can be tempting to return home from life on a container ship and go in all guns blazing. Home improvements, gardening, taking the car for its annual check-up, fixing minor issues around the house...these things all add up.

Of course, if there are jobs that he or she can't do and you can, then this is your time to get involved and offer some support.

But you need downtime, too. Working away from home can be mentally tiring, and seafarer jobs can be physically exhausting. Plus, you may well be jet-lagged at first from your flight home.

You're on shore to recharge your batteries as much as anything. From an employment point of view, you need to be well-rested before you start looking for a new job or contract.

Plus, don't forget that being tired makes it easier to snap, shout, and be disagreeable. That won't be fun for your family, and it won't make the most of your precious time ashore.

The answer: build in some 'me time' and ensure you get a chance to do some things that help you chill out. Whether that's long walks, beers with buddies, seeing a movie, or hitting the gym.

Create a partnership for success onshore.

So, having time to relax, recuperate, and recharge is vital, as is spending quality time with your family and friends.

Work on the bonds that strengthen your and your partner's relationship, such as having mutual respect roles in the well-being of your family.

And remember to take an interest in their job, too, if they have one. Their work might seem less exciting than your life on a cargo ship, but showing interest shows that you care.

Keep on talking, and remember that the little bumps in the road (or the choppy waves!) serve a purpose and will create a greater sense of partnership and connection when you overcome them.

Working in seafarer jobs comes with many pluses. 

But, as with any job, whether you're on land or in the middle of the ocean, there can be the odd downside. And one of those, as some seafarers will tell you, is homesickness.

Of course, living and working away from home is a big part of working in maritime jobs. Indeed, it is in many jobs where travel or working abroad or in a different part of the country is a reality.

Many people working in logistics and maritime transportation know this, as do others, from charity and aid workers to the military and even actors and pop stars.

Whether your vessel's trading area is local to your home country or you're crewing in a far-flung destination such as the Caribbean, the result is the same: you're away from your family, loved ones, and friends.

And if you get bouts of homesickness, whether it's for your first few days at sea, somewhere in the middle of your contract, or right at the end when you can't wait to disembark and get home, knowing how to deal with it can bring real relief.

Crew Insights

Articles and experiences shared by crew members working on cruise ship. Find out more about ship life at sea together with tips and advices for first time crew members and cruise oldtimers.