The heart of homesickness

  • Serial
Artwork using collage.  The collaged elements are made up archive material which includes, vintage photographs, etchings, painted illustrations, lithographic prints and line drawings. This artwork depicts a man on the right hand side with his head resting on his hand. Forming a headdress on his head are pictures of a bed, two dogs, a house, flowers and an elderly man and woman. These elements are repeated on the left hand side much larger. In between the two sides is a rural and city skyline merged together. It the sky is an aeroplane and the planet Saturn and a large colourful bird in flight carrying a heart in its beak.
The complex longing for home. © Maria Rivans for Wellcome Collection.

Taking in epidemics of nostalgia in the 18th century, NASA scientists looking at homesick astronauts, and generations of homesickness in refugee camps, travel writer Gail Tolley considers why home – and leaving it – is a far more complex experience than is often understood. Inspired by her childhood experience of homesickness, she argues that the condition is being felt particularly acutely in the 21st century, and looks for ways of relieving some of its symptoms.

About the contributors

Gail Tolley


Gail Tolley is a travel and culture writer based in Edinburgh. She has twice been the editor of popular culture magazines: Time Out London (2017–19) and The List (2012–14). She has contributed to National Geographic Traveller, the Independent and BBC Radio 4. Alongside working as a freelance writer and broadcaster, she also works in TV development.

Black and white, head and shoulders portrait of Maria Rivans.

Maria Rivans


Maria Rivans is a contemporary British artist known for her Surrealism-meets-Pop-Art aesthetic. With its unique approach to collaging, her artwork intertwines fragments of vintage ephemera, often with reference to film and TV, to spin bizarre and dreamlike tales. She exhibits work throughout the UK as well as internationally, including Hong Kong, New York and across Europe. Notable solo shows include the Saatchi Gallery, London and Galerie Bhak, Seoul.