There’s no way around it; coming home after traveling sucks.
After a year spent traveling abroad, I’d been back in the US for only a day or two when I began excusing myself from group gatherings to cry in the bathroom. I felt both overwhelmed and listless, and everything – my friends, my family, simple tasks like grocery shopping – stressed me out. For a long time after I returned, I found myself pulling away from my friends, overwhelmed with negativity, and feeling disconnected from parts of my life that once made me happy. I was experiencing culture shock from my own native culture, and I didn’t know how to handle it.
It took me months to understand that my rocky landing back into ‘real’ life was something that many other travelers experience as well. Post travel depression – or the post-vacation blues as they are known to some – manifests differently in every person and can have different effects depending on where you went or how long you were away. For some, it’s that crippling dread of returning to work on Monday after two weeks spent on a beach in Mexico, and for others it’s a sense of lethargy and detachment that stalks you like a shadow for weeks or months after coming home.
However it hits you, the post travel blues are no joke, and finding ways to effectively deal with them is important for your mental health. Here are a few tips to help you ease back into your real life routine after your adventures are done.
Allow Yourself Some Time
It’s easy to get frustrated with your own emotions, particularly when you don’t fully understand where they are coming from or how to stop being upset, but it’s important to be kind to yourself when you’re feeling blue. When you schedule your trip – and your return – it can be tempting to come back at the very last minute so that you have as much vacation time as possible, but it might actually be a better idea to schedule a day of down time for yourself before heading back to work. You’ve just had an amazing trip, and coming back home can be quite a shock, so make the transition as easy as possible on yourself. A day or two of down time will give you an opportunity to unpack, shower, and settle in without feeling rushed, which will ease some of the shock of coming back to your daily routine.
Find Like-minded Travelers
One of the most frustrating things about coming home is that everyone asks, “How was your trip?” but they don’t really want to hear details about the people you met in Poland, or the incredible food you ate on a Tuscan terrace in Florence. They want you to say, “It was great!” and then forget about it. It can be really difficult for travelers to connect with people after they return, in part because talking about your amazing travel experiences means you run the risk of turning into that ever-bragging person who never shuts up about their trip in the eyes of your friends, and also because some of your friends and family who have never left home might just not understand what your trip means to you.
While you’re away, you’re surrounded by other people who love to travel. People who live full time in a van, out of a backpack, or have more airline miles on their credit cards than they know what to do with often share a lot of the same values and interests. So when you come back home, it’s important to find some friends like this so you have people with whom you can comfortably share your thoughts and experiences. Keep in touch with friends you met traveling, and use social websites like Meetup to find other people who love to travel and share your interests. Find people who care about the same things you do, and who inspire you to dream big and keep having adventures.
P.S. You can find them here: buddy.trovatrip.com
Be a Tourist in Your Own City
Many travelers love the sense of discovery they get when exploring a new place, whether that means learning about history and culture in a museum, or sampling local specialties at restaurants and from street vendors. But the thing is, our hometowns have all that stuff too, and many of us take it completely for granted. When you’re itching to go somewhere new but you’re still stuck at home, try to take on the mindset of a tourist on your own familiar ground. Visit that traveling art exhibit in one of your city’s museums, find a free walking tour or download an audio tour to learn about some of the architecture and history of your area, or try out a new restaurant on the other end of town. Visit some touristy attractions, go for a hike, take some photos, and try to recreate that feeling of adventure even though you’ll be sleeping in your own bed at night.
Create Mementos of Your Trip
Sometimes when life overwhelms you, it can be relaxing to remember some of the things you loved from your trip. If you kept a travel journal during your adventures, reread some of your entries, but if not, you can look at photos or mementos that you kept. Get your favorite photos framed or printed on canvas, and hang them in your home, or create a scrapbook using photos, maps, ticket stubs, and other little souvenirs. These things will make you smile every time you see them, and remind you of everything you love about traveling.
Start Planning Your Next Trip
When your trip is over, don’t think of it as an ending, but rather like you’re hitting pause on your travels. The knowledge that you didn’t just have a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip, but instead completed a single chapter in your epic travel story, can help frame your return in an entirely different light. So when settled life gets you down, and adventure and travel start calling your name, then by all means you should answer it, because more travel is the absolute best cure for the post travel blues (it’s also a total catch 22, but once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, there’s no getting rid of that thing!).
If cost is a factor, then take some weekend trips in your home country to nearby towns or cities you’ve never visited, or invite friends to come visit you so that you can have some touristy adventures in your hometown. For a more long term fix, start planning your next big trip, even if it won’t happen for a while. Designate a savings account or piggy bank for your travel funds, and start plotting out where you want to go next and for how long. Research locations, accommodations, and attractions, and maybe start learning some basics of the language where you’ll be traveling next. Sometimes just working toward that goal is a great way to remind ourselves that we’ll soon be on the road again, and that just might be enough to kick those blues away.
Build a Life That Doesn’t Require Escaping
Make a list of the things that you love about traveling, and find ways to incorporate those things into your daily life. Use the tips from this list and whatever else you come up with to build a life that doesn’t make you feel like you need to escape it. Do you dread going to work every single day? Look into getting a different job, possibly one that incorporates travel or lets you work remotely so you can take more trips. Do you feel like you and your friends have drifted since you returned from your travels? Look into strengthening those friendships with some quality time spent doing things you both love, or building relationships with people who share your new interests.
The post travel blues are not something that happens to everyone, and even if you do suffer from it, your experience might be completely different from someone else’s. But your mental health is incredibly important, especially as a traveler who regularly experiences drastic lifestyle changes, so creating a life you love – one filled with plenty of travel and new experiences, of course – is an important part of maintaining that state of happiness.