Going Home. Post Travel Depression

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.

Photo credit Tony Dilger

Off on another adventure Photo credit Tony Dilger

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.

Making friends on the road! Photo credit Emily Nanni

Making friends on the road! Photo credit Emily Nanni

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!

House sitting: dogs make everything better!

House sitting: dogs make everything better!

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.

Learning a new skill Photo credit CT Hodgson

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!

post travel depression

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 😉


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!

By Rachel A Davis   Follow on Bloglovin

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17 Responses

  1. Hi Rachel, thank you for this post. I am an American expat living in Zurich, so I’m on an extended trip with no set ‘end date’. However, I will be returning to the U.S. for the holidays. I had been abroad for a year when I returned to the U.S. for the first time last year. Although home is home and always will be, somehow it was different for me. You see that life really does move on without you, and you question whether you still belong. Although I have been feeling homesick lately (I recently posted a blog entry about it), this year I know to expect that home isn’t the home I once knew and that I don’t have to try to force myself back into the American way of life. I hope this will help me enjoy my time with my family friends a little more this year. –Jennifer

    • Rachel Davis says:

      That sounds exactly how I feel Jennifer, although I rarely feel homesick. For me, homesickness is a nostalgic feeling towards a very idealised home: more a yearning for crisp winter mornings, frosted leaves and fresh, clean air or the smell of newly cut grass in the middle of summer. Very rarely is this the reality!
      I hope you have a great time when you get home, revel in the warmth of your family and friends, of course things have moved on but remember: those people are genuinely happy and excited to see you!
      You certainly don’t need to force yourself back into that life, I definitely think knowing what to expect really helps returning home a second time. Rachel

  2. This was such a great post, thank you for sharing! We’ve been on the road for 10 months and will be heading back to the States at the end of January. Even though we still have four months left we have already begun thinking about what it will be like to be back home. Luckily for us we will have a few months bouncing around visiting friends and family before we get ‘resettled’ but I’m still torn between being excited to be back and worrying that we’ll be restless. I love the tips about finding things that excite you and we have plans to begin music lessons (something we’ve both always wanted to do but ‘never had time for’) and I am going to learn how to make pottery (something that will hopefully turn into a career).

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Thank you! I know that feeling so well, especially when you meet people who are heading home before you and the conversation starts and never really leaves your head. Our returns are always like that, catching up- bouncing around, it certainly beats diving straight back into work.
      The music lessons sound great, and the pottery! Wonderful new things and you are sure to meet fun and interesting people doing it! I like that you are already planning 🙂

  3. Bill Harany says:

    Hey Rachel
    Good topic & good suggestions. Yes, I find the culture shock on returning “home” worse than when I travel. Another suggestion I have is to host fellow travellers in your home. If your friends can’t relate to your travels, other world travellers can. Use Couchsurfing or whatever but hear their stories and tell them yours. I have also tapped into the free online course resource. Here’s hoping that we meet again somewhere on the road.

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Great tip Bill! It’s a bit of a problem living in a van but we’ve met up with a few people we’ve met travelling, who’ve come to the UK and shown them around, alas we have no couch to offer but a friendly face and some company.
      It’d be great to meet up with you again, who knows where!

      • Bill Harany says:

        Hi Rachel
        I usually don’t use Couchsurfing for a place to stay but rather as a way to meet local people. I just want some local advice on what to see and do, just a way to get the feel of a place. You could always state that on couchsurfing. We’ve met at almost opposite ends of the earth, who knows where the next time and place will be.

      • Bill Harany says:

        Another tip I read somewhere is to plan your trip so that the countries you visit are progressively more like home. That way you ease yourself into being home instead of getting a sudden jolt of homeness, and with luck less culture shock.

        • Rachel Davis says:

          hahaha, when we flew to Melbourne after Asia in 2008, from Japan, we hit reverse culture shock right there! It was winter, cold and so damn normal! The opposite ends of the earth yet it was all so familiar!

  4. Emily-Ann says:

    Such a great post Rachel and I think something we can all relate to. I must say I am so grateful for social media which has allowed me to connect with people all over the world who understand my constant wanderlust. So lucky to have you guys!

    • Rachel Davis says:

      I know exactly what you mean! Social media has allowed friendships that I made on the road to grow into wonderful things and I’ve connected with so many other travellers and bloggers through this platform and Twitter (and all those Twitter chats: #travelbookclub 😉 ).
      Great to have connected! We just need a real one now!

  5. Kirsty Maclachlan says:

    Planning and booking the next trip def helps. Once the trip is booked, I put a picture of the destination up as my work computer wallpaper to keep me motivated to earn the pennies!

  6. Emma Mann says:

    Fab post Rach! Great tips 🙂

  7. Megan says:

    “No one can understand your restlessness better than those who’ve been through it” Yes, yes YES!

    Not long after I’d been back I was chatting to a friend who travelled a lot during her 20s. She turned to me and said “do you find that people just don’t get it?” and it really hit home. It summed up a lot of the difficulties I was having being back in Australia. Most of the people in my ‘old’ life just had no idea what I’d been through, how I felt or why I wasn’t over the moon to be back around everyone I knew instead of plodding around a strange country by myself where no one spoke English. Now that I’ve decided to stick around for a bit longer, I’ve been making an effort to spend time with people who can relate because it does make me feel better. Perhaps I should have listed that advice too 🙂

    • Rachel Davis says:

      I know, I just didn’t understand why people weren’t interested, how could they not be!!!! Now I’ve realised, only if you’ve been through it, can you possibly get it. By far, I think it’s the best tip of all: find those people who get you, it will make you so much happier!
      Thank you so much for your tip Megan 🙂