Today I saw a Tweet by a blogger I follow and admire. She just returned from a long – and judging by the photos she shared – mind blowing trip abroad. She stated she had trouble starting up her regular routine again, and that she had no idea what had gotten into her. “What do I really want with my life, and where do I start?”
As this feeling sounds all too familiar to me, I decided to return a couple of messages on Twitter in an attempt to hearten her up. Then I decided this topic deserved a designated article. Because truth be told, every single person I have spoken who traveled for a longer period of time, seems to have similar problems. What’s the post-travel blues, and how do you get rid of it?
The bliss of travel
I myself remember having the post-travel blues twice, at different occasions and intensities.
The first time was when we traveled to Bali. We had booked a beautiful hotel near Ubud, purposefully trying to avoid the beautiful but tourist-filled beaches. Although we did plan to visit some popular temples, we met a guide who was willing to show us his small home-town and some hidden gems where no tourists could be found.
Besides giving us an unforgettable trip, this man also showed us how he and his family lived a lovely and fulfilling life with a fraction of the material means “us Westerners” use. We soon realized that the extravagant luxuries we take for granted could buy us months, if not a year of cost and living on the island*.
* An appealing prospect when you know you’ll be returning home to Holland during a dreary winter!
The second time was after we spent three weeks roadtripping through Costa Rica. Once again we deliberately avoided mass-tourism, landing ourselves in the smallest and most secluded hotels and eco-lodges well hidden near the National Parks. This time we opted for an additional digital detox, only carrying an old mobile phone at the bottom of our bag in case of an emergency.
It was liberating. Just as liberating as focusing only on where you want to go, what you want to eat and where you want to sleep. We got up early to enjoy our day, and we went to bed early to enjoy our night. As our plane-tickets, hotel vouchers and rental car were already payed for, we simply didn’t have a care in the world.
And then you return home
After three weeks of absolute freedom in a wonderful environment, home simple seemed unwelcoming. As soon as the thrill of being reunited with the cats had passed, I started to feel swamped by daily life. It was nice to be home, but I felt blue nonetheless.
I didn’t quite know how to jump-start my regular life again. Doing regular chores – cooking, cleaning, doing laundry – were unappealing and seemed useless at the time. Because there were other things I had to do. Catching up with an enormous pile of e-mail, for example. Sorting through bills that had to be payed, phone-calls that had to be made, and tasks that had to be done. Things that were important before I left, but seemed redundant after my wonderful trip.
A couple of days later I found myself sobbing into my pillow, not knowing what was wrong with me, simply stating “I wish we were still there”.
The home I took so much pride in seemed derailed, and I couldn’t muster the courage to get it back on track again.
The post-travel blues
When you think about it, it isn’t that strange that a lot of people suffer from various stages of depression when they return from a holiday. After weeks of careful planning you’re finally allowed to submerge yourself into what you consider the ultimate leisure time, only to be pulled out again weeks – or even days later. You longed for a place to completely relax, and when you finally reach it you have to trade it back for the regular hustle and bustle of your daily life.
For anyone who feels strange or unique in this situation (despite my pillow-sobbing confession), it actually has a clinical name, with an abbreviation and all: Post-travel depression or PTD in short.
I myself suffered most from the post-travel blues after a significant trip. Although I vacationed at the most beautiful places, it was especially hard to put my life back into perspective after I reaped all the spiritual benefits from traveling. Simply because I felt I came back a changed person.
Some journeys have so much impact on your views on the world, that coming back home can be a bit of a shock. You might just find out that the way you lived your life, doesn’t suit your new found insights.
How to fight the post-travel blues
- Don’t fight your feelings; instead be kind to yourself and allow your mind the time to get used to it’s home environment again.
- Practice being grateful for the wonderful experiences you had, rather than tearing yourself up about the experiences you feel you’re missing out on by not being at your holiday destination right now.
- Write down what you learned so you’ll be able to clearly formulate what has changed since you’ve come home.
- Make the changes you feel are necessary to adapt your life to your new views and insights, or start a long-term plan to achieve them.
- Take one step at a time. This doesn’t only count on the matter of getting your work and household back in order, but also on making plans, following them through and your recovery in general.
Traveling gives us time to think. To prioritize our lives, and to determine what’s truly important to us. Although an epiphany about your life may seem scary at first, it’s your mind’s way of telling you it needs a change, whether it be significant or small.
After our trip to Costa Rica we decided we wanted to move out of the city into a more natural environment, starting a new life in a town completely new to us. It took us a couple of years to achieve this, but our lives have changed for the better from it!
Have you ever suffered from a case of post-travel blues?