Going Home. Post Travel Depression
Post Travel Depression,
Going home after any trip is hard, the longer the adventure, the more traumatic the return.
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately, discussing it with a friends who have recently returned or are soon too.
It seems to be on everyone’s minds at the minute, maybe it’s that time of year. Nomadic Matt wrote a beautiful piece just the other day on what it feels like to go home after a trip, it all rang so true.
There is nothing in the guidebook that prepares you for going home, for the jarring reverse culture shock, for the life you left behind.
Fear not though! I’m here to tell you, it does get easier!
Here are my thoughts and I’ve asked some other travel bloggers their best tips for beating the post travel blues.
It’s coming up to a year since we set off on our last big trip, this ended up being a nine month adventure travelling by train to Vietnam (from Scotland) and spending the winter and spring in South East Asia.
The melancholy is setting in as I remember the excitement of the last few days before setting off last October.
We’ve been home for about five months now and this post is me reflecting on how I’ve coped in that time, has this return been different?
You see, I’ve been through this before. In 2009 we returned home, back to the UK, after a sixteen month round-the-world trip. I most certainly had post travel depression that time round.
This second return was so much easier and I’ll tell you why: I knew what to expect and I knew how I’d feel.
What did I learn from that first return home that prepared me for the second?
The greatest problem is that you have changed. That person you were, you left behind when you set off all those months ago. You may not even feel it at first; sure, you’ve seen the world in all its glory and rawness but you still feel the same deep down , right? There’s a very high chance that, imperceptibly, you have changed: you have a restlessness; normality bores you.
This, in itself, is not a bad thing, leading an adventurous life is far more rewarding than a dull one but the people you left behind haven’t changed. Life has gone on without you.
No one is really that interested in your travels. No, really! For many people, it’s not something they can really relate to.
They’ll ask how your trip/holiday (!) was but that’s it, back to conversations about the neighbours, tv shows, supermarkets deals, their all-inclusive week in Tenerife.
Go home expecting this and you’ll deal with things so much better! Rather than feeling a mass of disinterest from the people around you, find people who are interested.
The wonderful thing about travel these days is you can easily stay in touch with people you meet on your adventures: Facebook, Viber, WhatsApp, email, talk to your new travel friends, if they’re still on the road you can travel vicariously with them through their posts or discuss being back home with those who are.
No one can understand your restlessness better than those who’ve been through it.
Twitter has a ton of travel chats, almost every day of the week there is some sort of travel based chat. They are great for sharing your travel knowledge and experiences, and for talking to like-minded nomadic souls. A lifesaver for post travel depression and great fun!
Unless you have your dream career, going back to work is going to suck.
That first time returning home: I quit a job after just 4 days, it turned out I couldn’t hack the restricted hours, my loss of freedom, my ass of a new boss. The new me didn’t want a life in retail anymore!
The worst thing about going home after an extended trip is that you will most probably be skint, if not a little in debt too.
Some people travel knowing what work, or education, they will do when they go home, they may even have their old job waiting for them, many have no idea whatsoever. I was in the second camp on the first trip, I got a job (assistant retail manager) not long after getting home. I hated it, the new me couldn’t stick it and I quit.
We had a buffer this time round. We’d spent the last couple of years working as house-sitters and we ended up with a fully booked summer of house sits planned for our return. Obviously, this isn’t for everyone but having a loose plan, a little money trickling in and somewhere to live really helped us settle back into normality. Plus, I love house sitting, it wasn’t a chore to come back to!
You can’t fight the restlessness! Channel it!
I think I had the White Stripes version of ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself’ playing on continual repeat in my head those first few months of returning home in 2009. My god, I was restless, frustrated by the mundane life I suddenly found myself in. I sunk deeper and deeper into post travel depression, grieving the adventurous life I was no longer living.
What saved me? An open day at the local college. We both went along and ended up signing up for a full-time photography course, we even qualified for bursaries to fund the education.
We actually got paid to learn something we loved, how cool is that!
Focussing (please, please, excuse the unfortunate pun) on a subject I am interested in distracted me from my post travel blues. The coursework vented my creativity and suddenly I had a social life! I made some amazing new friends and fully immersed myself in student life again (hello student discount!).
I was able to channel my restlessness into my new-found creativity and friends, and the post travel depression quickly melted away. Hurrah!
Find a passion that you can throw yourself into: a night class, a course, a craft or book group, a running team or gym. Somewhere you can do something you love and meet like-minded people. Learn that language you always wanted speak (for that next adventure), a bake club, the local Am-Dram society, the community gardens might need a green-fingered friend. Anything is better than staying in and wallowing in self-pity.
This is a clean slate, a new start. You don’t have to go back to the life you once had.
Don’t rush into anything, take the time to settle back into home life then look at what you want to do. Indulge your passions in courses, classes, groups or volunteering and you never know what you might end up doing. This is an opportunity to restart your life, change direction, forge out a new career. It may mean going back to college or university but you are in a great place in your life to do it: embrace it!
A trip of a lifetime doesn’t have to mean once in a lifetime.
If travel is in your blood, it never truly leaves. There will be other trips, more adventures, better adventures; near adventures and far adventures. Take this to heart, keep planning that next trip, it will happen, you just have to make it happen. And when you come home, the pain of coming home is nowhere near as bad, I promise!
Those are my feelings, I opened the question out to the wider world on Twitter, they came back to me with some great tips! Be sure to check out their websites for lots of travel tips and inspiration.
Here’s how some fellow, well-travelled bloggers cope with going home and post travel depression:
Megan from Mapping Megan
Planning for the next trip is the best way to combat post travel blues – you get lost in a new sense of wanderlust and completely forget that you’re not traveling anymore. The anticipation of a trip can often be more exciting that the trip itself.
Emma from Africa Encompassed echoed that,
Always, always, always have another trip either planned or booked before you come home. Something to look forward to 😉
Emily-Ann from THEGROWNUPGAPYEAR
Don’t forget to have small adventures when you get home.
She wrote a great post about finding little adventures on your doorstep: Pop-Up Reading: an Adventurous Dinner
Megan from Pegs on the Line
1. Accept that coming home is most likely going to suck (there’s no use fighting it).
2. Keep reliving your trip by taking time to print and frame photos, or make a photo book (very easy to do). You’ll forget things very quickly, so do it while the memories are fresh.
Megan recently posted this humorous, and rather honest post, about how we annoyingly refer to our travels every day life – yes, we all do it! How Travel Makes Me A Wanker (her word not mine!)
Kathryn from Anti-Tourist Traveler
My best tip for combating post-travel blues naturally has to do with travel photography. Though I always have the urge to look at all my photos the moment I arrive back home, there’s a lot to be said for decompressing, waiting, and re-discovering where you traveled.
I typically spend months abroad at a time, so I’ll store my travel photography on an external hard drive. About a week after I’ve returned, I’ll finally start looking at my photos on my large monitor, and it’s the overlooked photos that I often love viewing most.
While my favorite photos are still various cultural portraits and landscapes, the ones I’ve forgotten about are special moments caught on film, short video snippets, or photos taken when I handed my cameras to others. For me, seeing trip snippets I virtually forgot about brings a smile to my face, not post-trip sadness!
I’ll look at photos over the next few days and even weeks (along with pen and paper journal entries), allowing myself private moments to reflect on the good and the bad. More often than not, I’m comforted by what I’ve come home to while still geared up for the excitement of my next adventure.
Every time I look at photos months or even years later, I’ll find myself missing a place but still excited for the next. For me, photos are a constant reminder of what I’ve done–and how much more I have to look forward to!
Why not share your photos and travel stories on #travelpics Twitter chat every Monday!
Dave from Global Culture Travel
My best tip is to never stop traveling! Or at least to never give up the travel mindset. The thing that makes travel such a joy for me is having an open mind, being excited about the new things I wake up to each day, and meeting new people.
Of course, all of us can do that in our daily lives back home too! Keli and I try to visit new museums, new restaurants, new music clubs, etc in our home town. A big part of it is a mental attitude – setting aside the idea of “I’ve seen all this before” and actively seeking out the new things at home. And being open and friendly to people as well.
Vanessa from Turnipseed Travel
I recommend fighting the post-travel blues by signing up for a recreational activity, like a jogging club, a yoga class, etc. The exercise is great for body and mind and the new friendships made can really help boost your morale.
I really hope these excellent and inspired tips can help you get through the unforgiving first few weeks/months of being back home.
As you can see, you are not alone. We’ve all been through it, and come out the other side beaming!
Do you have any great tips to beat Post Travel Depression? Share them below!